After accidentally rescuing a puppy 24 years ago, Diane Rose-Solomon became involved with animal rescue and served on the board of directors of a small animal rescue organization. She is a Certified Humane Education Specialist and the author of the award-winning books. Her latest project is sharing the power of the human-animal-bond and the myriad therapeutic ways animals help people in a series of documentary films. Find out more in my interview with her, and also watch her podcast interview with me. Both follow.
ALLISON: When did you get started in writing?
DIANE: I got started quite by accident in 2009. I had no intention of being a writer other than writing some stories in our local paper for fun. I knew that I wanted to make a difference to shelter animals, but I didn’t know how. I realized that if people knew what I knew (that adopting an animal is amazing) that maybe they would give it a try too. One day the Universe sat me down in a chair, handed me a piece of paper and a pen and said, “start writing out your story.” I looked at it at the end, unsure of what to do with it, and decided to turn it into a children’s book, which became a children’s book series.
ALLISON: Share a highlight or two from being a writer.
DIANE: Funny, I don’t consider myself a writer. To me, writers are people who get up and have to write. For me, if I have an idea that I want to share via writing, I write it out. I consider myself an author, but not really a writer. I suppose, the first time I saw my first book in print was super exciting.
ALLISON: When did you get started in humane education?
DIANE: Earlier in 2009 (before the book), I was reading Humane Society magazine and one of the stories was about a humane educator. I had no idea what a humane educator was, but I thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get certified in something that I was kind of planning on doing anyway.
ALLISON: Share a highlight or two from being a humane educator.
DIANE: Since I’m not a classroom educator, or a HE at a shelter, I haven’t really used the formal training, but it has connected me with amazing people, including a teacher who wrote a lesson plan for my first book, which was cool.
The favorite thing that I learned was to really think about the things that you say. For example: “Killing two birds with one stone.” Our words have power and that is quite visual. Do we really want to be killing birds with anything? Not really. So, let’s not say things like that because people are impressionable.
ALLISON: When did you get started in creating documentary films?
DIANE: Oof, this is a long story. The short version is that I attended a conference in 2014 where the folks from Human Animal Bond Research Institute were presenting. It was there that I began learning about the science about the Human-Animal Bond. My initial thought was, “Wow, if more people knew how amazing animals were, maybe we would treat them better.” I came back from the conference really excited, shared what I had learned, and a colleague said, “You should make a documentary film.” My thought was: “Ugh, I just learned how to make books, and now I have to learn how to make movies?” But I was up for it. I live in Los Angeles and have a ton of friends in the film industry (including my husband who produced movie trailers for a living), and it was easy to start making connections and take some baby steps. The project was shelved for a few years until 2018, and then I filmed my first short in 2019.
ALLISON: Share a highlight from being a film producer.
DIANE: My favorite part is the filming. I love being with the people I am interviewing, ideally when the people are having a healing experience with an animal. It brings me joy to watch their joy and healing.
ALLISON: What have you learned about people in these different fields?
DIANE: Do you mean writing vs. filming? If so, while the news would lead us to believe otherwise, there are a lot of really good people out there. Actually, if you mean humane education vs. human-animal bond, I guess it’s the same answer.
ALLISON: What have you learned about animals in these different fields?
DIANE: I’ve learned that animals have incredible healing powers, just by being who they are. So, it behooves us to teach kids to be kind at a young age. They have much to gain from relationships with animals, and the world is ready for more kindness all around. Animals deserve even more than proper treatment. They deserve our love and attention and the best lives we can give them. I’ve also learned that being kind to animals doesn’t end with companion animals. All animals (farm, wild) deserve the best treatment possible. For a long time, I could separate my love for my companion animals from the food on my plate. Not anymore.
ALLISON: How have you personally changed from your involvement in these different fields?
DIANE: Riffing off the end of the last question, I no longer eat any animal products.
And if you were asking me how I’ve professionally changed, I’m learning how to ask for help. I used to want to do everything myself. But I can’t. So, I’m learning.
ALLISON: How have animals changed your life?
DIANE: I found my passion, not just for dogs, but for all animals. They were the gateway, particularly my first dog, JJ. It’s not just a passion for animals, but for the relationship we have with them. I think everything is connected. When we care about animals, we care about people, our environment, etc. It helps us be better people.
My first life changing/improving experience with an animal wasn’t a dog. My cat, Kougle, quite possibly saved my life when I was a kid. I was bullied pretty badly but he was there every day for me to come home and cry to. Loved that cat!
Oh, and I also experienced a therapy dog visit while I was in the hospital in 2009. At the time, it was just a cool experience. In retrospect, it was profound.
(Read more of how animals have changed Diane’s life at: The Extraordinary True Story That Inspired Animal Magic Films.)
ALLISON: What interests you about the human-animal bond?
DIANE: The practical ways that animals help people. Pets, therapy animals, service dogs. There are SO many ways that animals help people, and the list keeps on growing. We also need to make sure that it’s not one sided and that the welfare and wellbeing of the animals is a high priority too.
ALLISON: What research exists on this topic?
DIANE: I just learned that there are 29,000 (and growing) entries at the Purdue research center. The research includes studies about animals helping people challenged with cancer, grief, autism spectrum diagnoses, trauma, crisis, seizures, loneliness, depression, PTSD, domestic violence, and more. It also includes studies on animals helping students in many scenarios, senior citizens, our general health…. I could go on.
ALLISON: Why do you consider the human-animal bond so important?
DIANE: For some, the bond is literally lifesaving. For others, it can mean the difference between feeling lonely or not. And there are millions of stories in between. Animals touch our lives in so many ways and this bond enables us to be better humans. I also believe, going back to my very first thought when I learned about the human-animal bond, that there’s an opportunity not just for animals to help people, but for humans to learn to respect and care for animals more wholly, not just in North America, but around the world.