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Q&A: Paul and Victoria Shaffer

The Late Show bandleader and his daughter talk about why pet adoption is good for the soul

All Animals magazine, November/December 2013

Paul Shaffer became a dog owner in the time-honored fashion: He gave in to his children’s pleas. Jonathan Rosenberry/The HSUS

Paul Shaffer, the actor, musician, and legendary bandleader for the Late Show with David Letterman, became a dog owner in the time-honored fashion: He gave in to his children’s pleas.

His daughter, Victoria, was 11 when she spotted a black Lab-beagle mix on petfinder.com. “Riley turned out to be a wonderful family pet,” Paul remembers. “And you know how kids are: They wanted another one.” The family soon expanded to include Jake, a Lab-pointer mix from a New York shelter.

Last year, as a college sophomore, Victoria adopted Rue, a Boston terrier-Chihuahua mix, and Echo, a rambunctious Australian shepherd mix.

Their four cherished rescue dogs make father and daughter a natural fit for the Shelter Pet Project, a nationwide PSA campaign of The HSUS, Maddie’s Fund, and the Ad Council. In this edited interview with The HSUS’s Jamie Linder, the stars of the first Meet My Shelter Pet video describe how dogs complete their family.

The Meet My Shelter Pet video series is funded by the Halo Pet Foundation to help promote shelter adoptions. View the four-video series at theshelterpetproject.org.

Two of your dogs were found in dumpsters before they were taken in by rescue organizations. Did you worry that their past mistreatment would affect how they relate to you?

Victoria: I think they are more attached to us and know that we saved them.
Paul: All four of these dogs have the sweetest personalities. I don’t know what it is. Maybe deep down they appreciate what our family has done for them. We certainly appreciate what they’ve done for our family.

Do you have any stories about the day you adopted one of your dogs?

Paul: I have a special place in my heart for Rue because I was there when Victoria got her. Rue was driven up from North Carolina in a van with a bunch of other dogs by the woman who fostered them. We met in a parking lot in Westport, Conn., where a lot of other potential dog parents were gathered. We all took possession of our dogs. It was very touching.

How do the dogs get along?

Paul: Riley has been a calming influence on Jake. They’ve influenced each other for the better. So Riley is a little more lively, and Jake has become more relaxed.
Victoria: Rue is the dominant one in the dog relationship, but Echo shows her the way when it comes to people interaction.

Have you considered bringing one of your dogs onto David Letterman’s talk show?

Paul: The Late Show is known for its stupid pet tricks, but I think you can see that these dogs are anything but stupid.
Victoria: But Rue has come to visit.
Paul: Oh sure, Rue likes the excitement of the Broadway theater, but she’d rather sit in the audience and watch the other dogs work.

What inspired you to volunteer for the Shelter Pet Project?

Victoria: I think everyone should get a shelter dog. I have fostered dogs in addition to adopting dogs, and I’ve influenced some of my friends to foster dogs.
Paul: Adopting these dogs has been nothing but a positive experience for us. I think you get the nicest dogs this way. Everybody should rescue an animal. It’s good for the soul.

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