International Women’s Day

There are women we look up to and aspire to be like; women who profoundly impact peoples’ lives for the better; women who tirelessly strive for equality and fairness in the workplace; those who dedicate themselves to philanthropic ventures; those whose professional influence reaches far and wide. There is one woman who seems to embody all of these accolades simultaneously: Oprah. She’s so fabulous that she doesn’t even need a surname.

The opening paragraph on Oprah’s Wikipedia page reads like this:

Oprah Gail Winfrey is an American media executive, actress, talk show host, television producer, and philanthropist. She is best known for her talk show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, broadcast from Chicago, which was the highest-rated television program of its kind in history and ran in national syndication for 25 years from 1986 to 2011. Dubbed the “Queen of All Media”, she was the richest African American of the 20th century and North America’s first black multi-billionaire, and she has been ranked the greatest black philanthropist in American history. By 2007, she was sometimes ranked as the most influential woman in the world.

Wow. Just, wow! But while Oprah’s fame and celebrity is both impressive and global, it is her humanity that makes her so likeable and watchable. Nothing demonstrates this humanity like her love for her pets. Oprah is a woman who famously dotes on her dogs. She’s had 21 pups in her adult life — at one time she apparently had 11. “Nothing makes me happier than being with my dogs,” she says. “Over the years I have felt the truest, purest love — the love of God, really, I imagine that’s what God’s love feels like — is the love that comes from your dog,”

Though she loved them all, fans of Oprah will remember that Sophie, her cocker spaniel, was the one who rarely left Oprah’s side. The one with whom she seemed to form the very closest bond. She has said of Sophie, “One of my greatest teachers is my dog, Sophie. Sophie lived for 13 years and came to work with me every day. She was there for every show, was backstage at the Oscars, the Emmys, was waiting in the car if I went to the gynaecologist.”

Once we have overcome our envy of Sophie for having been backstage at the Oscars and the Emmys (to be honest, even being in the car while Oprah visits the gynaecologist sounds pretty glamorous) we realise that this profound love of a cocker spaniel reveals so clearly to us this vulnerable and relatable side to her owner, the side that makes us feel close to her, that means that, after all the celebrity is peeled away, Oprah is just a woman like any other: a woman who lives for her dogs.

This love is plain for all to see. There are editions of the Oprah magazine which feature all her canine pals on the cover; there are websites dedicated to each and every one of her adopted four-legged friends; the internet is full of photos AND videos (we aren’t kidding – check them out!) of dedications to the various well-loved and well-cared-for creatures in Oprah’s dog menagerie. But it is the final sentence of the video dedicated to Sophie that has touched us the most. Of Sophie’s death, Oprah says, “When I lost Sophie is when I realized that nobody on earth had ever loved me like that little dog.”

This International Women’s Day we celebrate all the famous and powerful women. All those who work hard and are on the front line. All those who smash the glass ceiling for a better, brighter, more equal world. But we especially celebrate those game-changing women, like Oprah, who also love and celebrate their dogs.

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