Training guide dogs for the blind: Just the beginning...
Isabella Rossellini is a breed of her own. Incinerating the stereotype of the spoiled screen princess, the model/actress has taken to educating animals on the ways of human culture'and vice versa.
Braving the streets of New York City with guide dogs in-the-making, Rossellini faces the daunting task of teaching puppies to harness their instincts and pass by cats, birds and crowds of humans without batting an ear. She works with each young canine for about 10 months; dogs that pass muster move up to the next grade level, which involves six months with a professional trainer. Students who don't overcome distractions won't make it that far. The dogs who complete the full training program will live with blind people, helping them through life in a sight-centric world.
As Rossellini introduces dogs to society, she also fights to ensure that mankind does not forget the animal kingdom. In her 2008 Green Porno
series, the actress demonstrated "how wildlife gets down" by dressing up in goofy, brightly-hued cardboard costumes and visually demonstrating the mating habits of fish, insects and other creatures of the forests and oceans in a decidedly droll style.
After Green Porno
, Rossellini continued the absurdity with Seduce Me
, a prequel of sorts that demonstrates how animals lure in their sexual partners with beyond-bizarre rituals.
Serving on the board of directors of the Wildlife Conservation Network, the actress/activist fights to save endangered species such as elephants, African wild dogs, zebras and snow leopards. WCN operates an emergency response fund to send immediate relief to areas where animals face critical threat. They also provide solar panels for energy in African bush country, and award scholarships to youth with conservation-leadership potential.
Rosselini is also president and director of the Howard Gilman Foundation, which preserves wildlife and funds artistic endeavors in photography, dance and other arts. They run the White Oak Plantation nature preserve in Florida, home of Clinton Global Initiative Policy Planning Retreats. The foundation also operates the Howard Gilman Institute for Valvular Heart Disease, helping patients and educating physicians on the latest treatment options.
About her work with animals, Rosselini told the Orlando Sentinel
, "You have cats and dogs, and you start to wonder how the cats and dogs in the wild, tigers and wolves, were doing. You see your dog do something that seems instinctual, and you wonder where it comes from. Simple questions like that made me realize that we can't take animals for granted in the wild, anymore. We have to protect them."
To be clear, Rossellini is more than just a figurehead for these groups. In 2006, she was named Champion of the Environment by the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund, which awarded her a $100,000 grant to split between her causes.
With dozens of film and television credits to her name, Rossellini is famous for roles in Blue Velvet
, Death Becomes Her
and Immortal Beloved
. Yet at her current pace, her activist deeds may leave an even bigger legacy.