If you’re one of Amanda Hearst’s many Twitter followers, chances are good you’re already familiar with the number-one man in her life: a Chiweenie (that’s a Dachshund-Chihuahua hybrid, for those not up on canine-husbandry trends) named Finn.
Like any doting pet owner, Hearst spoils her pup and is quick to share pictures—Finn in a tiny Jets jersey, Finn curled up under the covers, Finn posing with an editor friend of Hearst’s—both online and in person at the Soho café where I meet her for lunch.For Hearst, though, Finn is more than just a pet and a pal: he’s a symbol. Literally. “Did you see the invitation?” she asks, referring to the invite for the third annual Humane Society gala and after party, which, as the founder of the organization’s committee to end puppy mills, she is co-chairing. “We have a new logo now,” she continues.
“The silhouette of the dog is Finn.” He’s even lent his name to the committee, which is called Friends of Finn.
“My two main philanthropic interests—or just two passions in my life—are that I would consider myself to be someone who cares about the environment, and also someone who cares about animals,” Hearst says. Back in 2010, the year she bought Finn, Hearst had been looking for an animal-rights organization to support, to supplement her day job as associate market editor at Marie Claire and the work she was already doing for the clean-water charity Riverkeeper. She hadn’t yet decided on one—until, by sheer coincidence, the Humane Society contacted her. “I do believe sometimes that when you’re thinking about something, it comes to you,” she says. “It was very serendipitous and perfect.”
That year, for its first big Manhattan gala, the Humane Society planned to focus on the exploitation of dogs at the brutal large-scale breeding operations known as puppy mills; in the spirit of the event, they wanted to find a mother-daughter pair to be its chairs. Hearst and her mother, Anne, fit the bill. Anne is a famous animal lover, with a farm in the Hamptons that’s home to quite a menagerie. Amanda lists it nonchalantly: “Tons of chickens, ducks, geese, alpacas, miniature goats, all sorts of crazy animals.”
Growing up in the city, Hearst’s exposure to animals started early. Her parents separated before she was born and when she was very young, before Anne remarried (to writer Jay McInerney), it was just Anne and Amanda—along with so many pets, through the years, that Amanda has trouble remembering which came first. (Was it Lizzie the Pomeranian, or a gray cat named Clara?)
In the mid-’90s, they even had a hedgehog named Speedy. “We were told sometimes hedgehogs can be friendly,” Hearst remembers. “Ours was not friendly. At all.” She bursts into laughter. “Every time you’d try and touch it, it would roll up in a ball and hiss.”
Hearst clarifies, though, that Finn is the first pet she really considers hers—the first one she’s taken care of independently—and working with the Humane Society on that first benefit in 2010 inspired her to take a closer look at Finn’s lineage. The pet store from which she’d bought him had assured her that he’d come from a reputable breeder: “Like, ‘Here’s his genealogy,’ they gave me all the papers and everything,” she remembers. But thanks to what she’d learned from the Humane Society, she grew suspicious.
“Long story short, they looked into it, and yeah—he was from a horrible puppy mill that, at one time, had 900 dogs,” she says. “A factory-style puppy mill.” The revelation inspired her to start Friends of Finn, a committee under the Humane Society umbrella dedicated to the eradication of puppy mills and made up of what Hearst calls “a group of my friends, all of whom own pets—most rescues, actually.”
She lists some of these pals: women like Kick Kennedy, Dylan Lauren, and Georgina Bloomberg.
“It was doubly great that these people are well-connected friends of mine who are passionate, but that they also really care about the issue,” she says.
* This is an edited version of “Humane Society Girl” in AVENUE’s December issue. To read the full article, please see our electronic issue here.