Betty White deeply appreciates what animals 'have to teach us'

Betty White scoffs at the notion of being the most trusted person in America.

"That's so silly," she says. White laughs when being compared to the late news anchor Walter Cronkite, who once held that same throne for years.

"I'm just an old broad who's been around the block," White says. "People can't get rid of me; it's ridiculous."

In a telephone interview, White continues, "At 91, you'd think I'd disappear and not bother people anymore. But then, I say, 'If you don't want me, don't ask me.'"

TV producers keep asking because it seems America can't get enough of the actress/comedienne, who began her TV career when television began about 65 years ago. Today, she's a co-star on TV Land's "Hot in Cleveland" (with Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves, Wendy Malick and former "Mary Tyler Moore" sidekick Georgia Engel). Simultaneously, White stars in "Off Their Rockers" on NBC. She released two books in 2012, "If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't)" and "Betty and Friends: My Life at the Zoo." White also wrote introductions to a pair of ebooks that I wrote, "Good Dog!" and "Good Cat!"

Famously an animal lover, White says, "We've come a long way in the animal world; I've been around it from the womb. My parents (took in stray animals), and I've been loving animals and appreciating what they have to teach us my entire life. The consciousness about animals has risen. They're a part of our families. It's more than that, of course. Take these awful disasters that happen from time to time. You once heard only about displaced people; now you hear about the animals, too. And we're only starting to learn what animals can do for us."

White says she's familiar with the International Association of Human Animal Interaction Organizations (IAHAIO), the group of scientists from around the globe who study the relationships humans have with animals. For the first time, IAHAIO will convene in the U.S. (this July, at the convention of the American Veterinary Medical Association in Chicago).

"It's wonderful. We're learning so much now what the animals have known all along," White says.

The actress is aware that dogs can detect cancers and warn patients of impending seizures and diabetic highs and lows.

"Our pets are constantly telling us things, with a purr, a bark, a tail-wag, a smile, a paw in our lap," she says. "We're not always so good at paying attention to them, but they're sure good at paying attention to us. We should talk to our pets, too! What else can we do? We don't have a tail to wag."

Instead of counting sheep or puppies, White says, "I sometimes put myself to sleep going back to the beginning, thinking about how that first relationship between dogs and people happened; I think it's fascinating."

Experts have determined that dogs pretty much evolved with Cro-Magnon man. These early ancestors of modern man welcomed progenitors of today's dogs (a relative of the wolf) into their society to guard their camps, clean up trash and assist in hunts. Neanderthals, while similar to Cro-Magnon man, did not live with canines. Is it too big a stretch to credit dogs for our very existence?

If White could be reincarnated as any animal -- not counting a dog or a cat -- what would she choose?

"A moose," she says instantly. "I know, everyone laughs, but I'm not joking." Moose are known for their nasty tempers, charging first and asking questions later, which doesn't sound like the amiable Betty White America loves.

"Well, you haven't caught me on my bad days," she says.

White adds that there's one more message she wants everyone to hear: "We need to learn a little more kindness. Kindness is getting lost in the shuffle. I get appalled at what people are doing to people, the violence in our own communities. I'm worried about that -- and it has to change," she says.

No one wants White to change after more than six decades on 'the tube.' How does someone survive so long in the tough show biz world? Perhaps, White is an example of the cream rising to the top -- and staying there.

"Not me," she responds. "The cream goes to the hips."

(Steve Dale's EBOOKS, "Good Dog!" and "Good Cat!", are available on all major eReader devices and platforms. The basic version of each book is $2.99. An enhanced version of "Good Dog!" with embedded videos is available at iTunes for $4.99. Write to Steve at Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207. Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is http://www.stevedalepetworld.com)

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