Episode 142 – Larissa Wohl

Larissa Wohl Larissa Wohl Larissa Wohl works for the Hallmark Channel. She is a true pet rescue expert with extensive on-camera and production experience. She coordinates and showcases two adoptable animals every day, as well as produces and hosts numerous pet-parent segments on Hallmark Channel’s morning show, “Home & Family.” As a news anchor, field reporter, and journalist, Larissa became the local animal expert in every news market she resided in. Her life mission became clear… use her voice to help the voiceless. To date, Larissa Wohl has helped more than 1,500 animals find their forever home while at the same time expanding Hallmark Channel’s “Adoption Ever After” initiative.
Website: https://www.larissawohl.com/ Instagram: @larissawohl
“Welcome to the Animal Professionals podcast where our goal is to introduce you to amazing people helping animals and share how you can get involved. This podcast is proudly sponsored by Doobert.com.  Doobert is a free platform designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters, and the only place that automates local rides and transports.  Now, on with our show! Larissa Wohl works for the Hallmark Channel. She’s a true pet rescue expert with extensive on-camera and production experience. She coordinates and showcases two adoptable animals every day, as well as produces and hosts numerous pet-parent segments on Hallmark Channel’s morning show, “Home and Family.” As a news anchor, field reporter and journalist, Larissa became the local animal expert in every news market she resided in. Her life mission became clear, use her voice to help the voiceless. To date, Larissa Wohl has helped more than 1,500 animals find their forever home, while at the same time, expanding Hallmark Channel’s “Adoption Ever After” initiative.  Hey, Larissa, Thanks for coming on. Thank you for having me. I’m so excited. I’m excited to meet you and to learn about you so you get to start us off to tell us your journey and how you got to where you are now with animals. Wonderful. My journey is kind of a strange one, but I guess most people have a strange journey. I grew up with a mother who was obsessed with animals and was always finding a stray dog, a kitten, you know, loose in a yard. And we became the ones in the household, where everybody whoever found an animal, knew to call us and we would take them in. And, you know, it wasn’t abnormal for us to not have plans on a Saturday, and we go drive down to the nearest animal shelter and hang out out there and intercept animals, that were coming in, to take them home. I mean, I’m not sure many people would say that that was a normal Saturday, but that was a normal Saturday in my household. Mind you, my dad was not an animal lover, was totally allergic to cats, wasn’t a dog fan, and so it was a funny balance between the two of them. And I always say there was a story where I just remember hearing my parents starting a fight and my dad saying, “It’s me or the cat”! And my mom said, the cat!. That was kind of a funny dynamic in my household. The animals came first, at all times.  But so growing up in that, you know, I always kind of had a heart for the underdogs, for the ones that didn’t get adopted. The older, the seniors, the special needs. My mom wouldn’t let me take in the cute, fuzzy kitten because anybody would adopt that cat. We had to take in the grumpy, 10 year old cat that nobody wanted. And of course, at the time I was like, Wait a second, this stinks. But that gave me the appreciation to kind of do what I do now. And then, that was part of my life. And then I went to school for journalism. I wanted to be an on-camera or at the time, even radio personality and, you know, just kind of relate to people. And I got heavily involved in hard news, which was a total left turn for me. But I always worked morning shows, and if anybody out there knows the hours of a morning show reporter or anchor, are pretty horrendous. And I’d be in bed by 5 p.m and up for work at 1 a.m. And off work at 11 or noon, for about 4-6 hours. And so I started volunteering at shelters, everywhere I went for work because nobody else is off at that time. So it was hard to socialize.  So I started working at and volunteering at animal shelters. And some of them are pretty horrendous in terms of the intake numbers and the lack of caring staff and zero volunteers and not even having a volunteer program, at some of these, because, you know, it was unheard of. Nobody wanted to walk into those shelters. And so it really opened my eyes to the good, bad and ugly. And really, what wasn’t working for these animals, for these humans, was unity. And so I said that to my newsrooms and tried to create stories for television that would, you know, talk to people and would inform others, what was going on in their own little towns. And so that kind of started growing from there.  And then when I ended up moving back to L.A and landing a job over at Hallmark Channel, I was solely behind the scenes. I was a producer. I was looking for my next on-camera news gig, but I figured it wouldn’t be in L.A. And as luck would have it, after producing for a few years and just deciding, I kind of liked it and I would put the news on the back burner, they wanted to increase their animal content. They wanted to start focusing on clearing shelters and spreading the rescue mission. And so I talked to them just about the fact that, you know, let me show you what I can do in terms of contacts. I wasn’t even asking to be on camera. I just wanted to help out in any capacity. And they said, Great! Have at it, goodbye. And I kind of started growing it, not solely me, you know. There were a bunch of people and, you know, that encompasses the whole network. But it just took off from there, and it’s been absolutely fantastic. And I am very lucky and consider myself just super appreciative to do something that I call a job. But it’s my passion as well.  Yeah, I was gonna say it’s like the perfect marriage of what you went to school for, of what you wanted to do. And now it’s like what you’ve always had this other passion, the animals. Yes, and I mean, it’s I still don’t even believe it’s real sometimes, and you know, we call it Adoption Ever After. That is Hallmark Channel’s kind of umbrella term. It covers anything that has to do with animal rescue. So we have the, you know, American Rescue Dog Show. We have Hero Dog awards. We have Cat Bowling Kitten Bowl. We have our efforts Every Down Home and Family, the morning show on Hallmark Channel. So it’s not just me, by any means. It’s a whole bunch of people and teams that are working to just bring in a very positive and happy light, the importance of rescuing and saving animals across the country. And we showcase two animals a day, every day on Home and Family and do it via Facetime and Skype and local, if they’re in L.A. And it’s just reminding everybody that no matter where they live, that I want them to know the animals need them. And they don’t need to buy. They don’t need to give money breeders or, you know, continue going down that route because there are so many animals already born. Yeah.  So you are still doing a morning show now, right? So you didn’t get away from those early mornings, did you? Very true, but we’re live to take, so I don’t need to get up quite as early. Okay, you save a couple of extra hours. With best news, Yes. And unfortunately, during this time, you know this kind of quarantine time. We are not filming our Daily Show, but we’re still doing web videos. And I’m still working my, you know, behind off, trying to do anything and everything I can to keep the message going and connect and help with anybody that I can right now. Because, as you know, rescue was not a 9 to 5. It doesn’t take breaks or vacations. And I wouldn’t be happy with myself if I just sat back and didn’t do anything. So this is, you know, it’s a lifestyle. So, it’s like doing a diet where they say it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle. This isn’t a job. It’s a lifestyle. Yes, yes. If we give you more time and more hours in your day, you’re just gonna keep doing more. Yes, it’s a little crazy sometimes.  So tell me more about the Home and Family show and kind of like what you guys are doing because you said you’re picking two different animals every day to showcase. It is so cool. I mean, our show, as a whole, is something you don’t find anywhere else. It’s two hours a day. It’s not based on news, it’s topical. But it’s not about the day to day, the headlines. It’s about happy stuff. It’s about inclusivity. It’s about love. It’s about cooking and what to do with your kids on summer break. And you know how best to keep track of your finances and animal and pet tips. So it’s all the good news that you don’t often see, unfortunately. And we like to keep it that way. Of course, we’re not in the dark about what’s going on in the world, but we really try to be kind of that little respite from all the rest of the stuff going on. And so, as I said, for two hours at the top of each hour, we showcase an animal that’s up for adoption. So if it’s a local Los Angeles rescue, they actually bring the animal to set. Usually, a cat or dog is what we focus on. Or we try to target wonderful rescues and shelters across the country. So we’ll do it via Facetime or Skype. As my dogs start going crazy. And we want to see the animal in action. We ask them to send us some fun videos that really showcase the personality of the animals because we want people who are watching to think about what that animal is gonna look like in their home. And then we also do pet parent topics. The best ways to keep your pets busy. The best ways to keep your pets safe during the summer months or the winter months. Great heartwarming stories of people who have been forever changed by a rescue animal. You know, we try to cover everything and just make people aware of being a responsible pet owner because it’s not always hearts and rainbows. You know, you adopt an animal and you suddenly realize, it’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of energy. It can sometimes be money. It needs training, you know, whatever it is. So we try to really be a source or resource for people who have adopted and also go, Okay, now what? Yeah.  Now, curious here, so you guys have got a pretty big viewership. So what do people tell you about this? I mean, are they gravitating towards it? Do they like what this is about? It has been more than I could have ever imagined. We have so many amazing viewers that write to me, write to us as a show, send us mail. It has created such a wonderful community where I get so many emails and messages of people who either have animals and want to tell me about them or have an animal that’s passed on. And they were gonna go to a breeder. But because of watching our show, realized the importance of rescuing, so they went that route instead. I have people that have rescued and say, “Oh, my goodness, my dog means everything. But it won’t stop peeing in the corner. What can I do?” You know, it completely changes, but we have so many people reaching out to us. I really think it has helped this network tremendously. I mean, we’ve really made a name for ourselves, I believe, and it’s because of, you know, it’s yes, it’s because I’ve helped with these efforts, but it’s because of the network deciding that this is something that was important to them. I mean, I solely could never have done this and to work for a network that feels such importance and saw the need and wanted to really carve themselves out as an entity to help is just unbelievable and so appreciative of it.  Now tell me about, cause you mentioned some of these national things that you guys do every year’s different events and stuff like that. What goes into some of those? Oh, they’re so fun. So Kitten Bowl and Cat Bowl are created or were created, to kind of coincide with Super Bowl, obviously.  So Kitten Bowl has been on for years where they have, you know, all adoptable kittens from North Shore Animal League America in New York, which is a wonderful and huge organization. So they provide all the kittens and those kittens get adopted so fast. By the time that the show actually airs, they are all in their amazing homes. We started Cat Bowl, a few years ago because we can’t forget about adult cats and special needs cats and the fact that, as we know in the rescue world, kittens get scooped up immediately. I mean, they have no problems. But once a kitten is passed, even a few months old, 5-6 months old and they look more like a cat, they have a much harder time getting adopted. So Cat Bowl is a way to celebrate the older cats. And not only does the show, you know, create adoptions on its own, what happens is that around the country there are about, any given year, 500 to 800 shelters that throw Kitten and Cat Bowl parties, watch parties. And that creates an amazing turnout, where thousands and I’m talking tens and hundreds of thousands of animals, get adopted through those watch parties. So all in all, it is just such a fantastic way to celebrate animals.  And then the American Rescue Dog Show, which I helped host, which is really, really fun. It’s been three years now, and it is one of the best experiences. It’s basically a take on, you know, Westminster Dog Show. But instead of worrying about how perfect the animals are, if they’re hair is a certain length or if their snout stands up the right way. We have best in wiggle, we have best in couch potato. We have best in snoring. I mean, these are funny categories that we as rescue lovers know make our animals special, but it’s just celebrating those kinds of perfect imperfections on a much bigger, grander scale. And it’s been fantastic. We started with a one-night event. It’s gone to two nights, the last couple of years. Probably gets a lot of animals adopted. The shelters and the rescues that are featured in it, get tremendous free publicity for them and their efforts. It’s a feel-good TV event and, of course, being there for the few days when it’s filming, it’s just non stop laughing. Nice.  It sounds like a really good time and a lot of fun like you said. And it’s doing so much to raise awareness to people that there are these rescue animals across the country that might be the best in wiggle but are couch potatoes like, you said, as opposed to being perfect, purebred animals from a breeder. Yeah, and I just think it’s helping to move the needle. And wake people up to the fact that these animals, whether you’re looking for a purebred or total mutt, you can find them in rescues. There are purebred rescues. There are a lot of purebreds that sit in shelters, especially rural shelters that nobody knows about for months on end. I mean, you can find the dog of your dreams. It might take a little bit longer than going to a breeder and saying OK, in eight weeks, your puppy’s gonna be ready. Come pick it up. It might take a little bit longer. It might be more of a process, but I tell you, when you finally find that animal that you connect with and let’s be honest, oftentimes it’s not what you think you’re gonna go in for.  It is such a happy feeling. It is such an exciting time. But when you see an animal that maybe hasn’t had the best past, come into your home and maybe they’re timid, maybe they’re worried. Maybe certain noises scare them. And then, over the course of a few weeks, sometimes even a few months, they start to relax and feel safe. It does something to your soul that nothing else can do, in my opinion. And that’s why I love rescues. Yes, sometimes it’s not easy. Sometimes they do pee in a corner a few times or a few times too many. But it’s all part of the process, and the payoff is just tremendous.  It’s really exciting to see because I can see your passion for this. I mean, you love being on camera. You love being a journalist, and now you’ve got this platform with this very supportive company. Where do you see this going? What’s your dream with this? I mean my dream and I say this all the time, I will hang onto this job, for as long as humanly possible. Because again, it’s great for me and my personality, but more importantly, the amount of rescues that write to me and are so thankful, the amount of animals we’ve helped save, now are in thousands through our show. And then all the other efforts. I mean, I would love for us to continue growing Adoption Ever After. I think these specials are doing amazing and every year the viewership only increases. But I’d also love to be able to do more like half-hour shows, you know, maybe once a month, once a quarter, that kind of showcase what other companies and humans are doing for animals because there are some amazing, amazing creative things that people are doing, and they just have more attention than they get. So I would love to be able to grow this into its own, its own thing that takes off. So hopefully one day, yeah, no, I definitely see the opportunity there because, like, I was telling you before, I started this podcast wanting to find these people that are doing amazing things for animals and you can certainly volunteer at a shelter. But there’s so many other things you could do. You could be a transport. It could be a foster, you can. There’s 1,000,000 different things, and it’s really inspiring to me when I find different people, from different walks of life, and then they are using their talents and they are applying it towards helping animals.  And I also love that so many shelters are coming up with really creative things to do. Whether It’s having treats at the kennels, you know, so that people can actually give the animals treats. Some of them require you to make the dog sit before you give a treat. So it’s teaching them while they’re sitting in the shelter, what to do when they finally get into their forever home. Whether it’s kind of these dog day out programs that some shelters have, where you can kind of rent a dog, take it out for a day of adventure, and then it helps you learn about them. It helps the animal get out. I mean, there are so many creative things that are going on that I want to be able to share with other shelters and rescues. I think there’s so much good in creating that community so that they can take what’s working and maybe ditch what’s not working. And in the end, obviously, find more animals homes.   So how has this evolved for you? I mean, you started in the news, right? And you said now you’re obviously working at Hallmark and during the Daily Show, I mean, what was that journey like? Did you get any advice? Anybody help you along the way to say, Hey, take it, spin it this way? It’s so weird because when I think back to this journey it all, I mean, I don’t want to say it fell in my lap because it was a ton of work. So I don’t want to downplay that, but in one respect it did, the animal aspect, did kind of fall into my lap because there was a need and I was in the right place at the right time. That said, doing live news, for as long as I did, that will teach you a few things about you. A lot of things. And I, there were days looking back that I cried, Yeah, going into work or leaving work because you make mistakes and it’s alive and forgiving and. But I wouldn’t change it for a second because all those trials and tribulations that I had to go through, ended up making me so much more prepared for what I do now. And for the animal world in general, because in any world there are nice people, there are not so nice people. You have to go with a thick skin, and you have to learn to stick to your values. And so on the television front and the rescue front, I would absolutely never change it for anything. But man, there were some tough days.  One other piece of advice, well, I got a lot of advice, but one was when I first started interning in L.A at KABC News, the local ABC affiliate. I was holding on for dear life. I did not want to leave L.A. I just came back from college. I missed my family. I had a boyfriend here. I didn’t want to go. And my news director said, If you ever think you have a chance of being on TV, you cannot stay here, you have to go somewhere small. LA is just a huge market. It’s not that you’re not good, but you’re not gonna get your start here. And I kicked and screamed and said, No way! And of course, I did leave. Where do you go? I went to Tucson. That was my first job. I was in Tucson for two years. Then I went to Bakersfield. Then I went to San Diego. So I did, you know, I paid my dues. And again, some days I hated it. Some days I loved it, but it ended up being the best piece of advice, even though I didn’t want to hear it.   What did you learn about yourself along the way? Oh, my goodness.  A lot! I learned, gosh, I’m trying to think. I learned, in terms of work, that it is true what they say. You have to be the first one in and the last one out. You have to put in the work. And it is so easy not to. And especially if you work somewhere, like one of my jobs was actually pretty lax  and I could have kind of skirted by, but that just isn’t me. And so I was putting in that extra work. And so I will say doing that really paid off. And I learned that I have the ability to do that. Even when I think I want to quit, I can push myself and I will get where I need to be. And then the other thing was kind of a social aspect. You know, all these places that I move to. I didn’t know anybody. And that’s really hard. And especially as I said, working hours where it doesn’t exactly set you up to meet people unless we work with great people on the morning show, which I did, thankfully. But nobody’s out at the bar at noon. Nobody wants to make friends. So it doesn’t exactly set you up for the best social circle. And, you know, I had to really dig deep to find things that I cared about, to keep me fulfilled because your job can’t be everything. And so, volunteering at the shelters, picking up new hobbies, you know, connecting with my friends and family back here in L A. You know, those were all things I tried to still feed and helped, in turn, feed me. And I guess I also learned how much I missed being close to my family. You know, I’ve always been kind of a Mom and Dad girl and more so now, after you know, being gone for the many years, I love it, my family. And so I’m very happy to be back here and again. I’ll stay here as long as I can. But if something opens up somewhere, then maybe there’s a new adventure waiting for me. Yeah, exactly. Who knows someone is going to open up the Pet Rescue Channel or something like that and ask you, right? I mean, you’ve got both the hosting and the producing experience.   I should note, in terms of the animal world, what I learned, kind of being in all those different cities is that there is a ginormous problem in this country and world. When it comes to shelters and lack of resources and abundance of unwanted animals between backyard breeding, accidental litters, you know the culture is not understanding the importance of spaying and neutering. I mean, every city I went to have the same problem. And I guess I always assumed that people who worked in shelters all had a love like I do for animals. Unfortunately, a big wake up call was that they don’t. For a lot of them, it’s a job. For some of them, it’s not, and they do have that passion. But for a lot of them, it’s a 9-5 or 9-8 job. They get a paycheck, they get benefits and they do their job. I’m not saying they don’t do what they’re supposed to do, but their love and their heart and their passion isn’t into it. And that was something that totally blindsided me. And that was also something that created that fire because it’s oftentimes the volunteers that have that. And so seeing these shelters that didn’t have volunteers, didn’t even know how to ask for volunteers. I mean, there’s just such a need for places all over the country. And on the flip side, I also learned that everywhere I was, there were also amazing people. There was always an amazing community of animal lovers that were going above and beyond that we’re taking every last dollar out of their paycheck to help. That were, you know, filling their house with animals that didn’t have homes just because no one would take them, you know? So I saw the good and the bad, and it just kind of kept me wanting to stay in this and help in any capacity. Yeah, well, I’m really excited. It sounds like you found, like you said, the perfect job. Your passions unite. I mean, you’re back where you want to be.  So what’s next for you? What’s the best way for people to get a hold of you?  What else do you want to tell them? Well, I think you know, right now, there’s so much going on with fostering and adopting, and I want to be a resource for people. I try to respond to everybody when I can, so I always encourage people to reach out to me. My website is savedbytheL.com or larissawohl.com. It goes to the same place. I’m on Instagram and you know I can’t get back to everyone, but I try. I just want to help people understand the process because it can be a little daunting. It could be a little confusing, working with shelters and rescues and anything I can do to kind of, you know, make it a little more clear, I will try to do. Great! Well, Larissa, it’s been so nice talking to you. I really appreciate you coming on today. Thank you. I really appreciate it. Anytime you need somebody, I’ll be there. Thanks for tuning into today’s podcast.  Make sure to subscribe on your favorite podcast platform, and be sure to give us a review so we can help even more animals.  And don’t forget to sign-up with Doobert.com to join the tens of thousands of Dooberteers across the country and around the world helping animals and the organizations working to save them.”
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