What do you do when you've won five Grammys and graced the cover of Vogue and are about to kick off a major world tour? If you're Billie Eilish, you play with puppies.
Before her performance this past Monday at the American Airlines Arena — the first stop on her Where Do We Go? World Tour — the musician attended a meet-and-greet with adoptable puppies from Miami-Dade Animal Services (MDAS). The private event was organized by the arena and was open to Eilish and her team, as well as staff from the Miami Heat and the arena.
"We had heard that Billie was a huge dog lover, and she's a really big animal advocate," says MDAS social media specialist Noel Gonzalez, who attended the event with one of the shelter's adoption counselors. "So when we heard there was an opportunity to bring some of our shelter dogs for her to meet and play with before her show, we jumped at the opportunity. Anything that can promote our pets for adoption, we're all for."
MDAS set up a playpen inside the arena before the concert from about 1 to 5 p.m., allowing Eilish to hang out with the dogs between rehearsals and concert prep. "She was so excited to meet the puppies," Gonzalez says. "[I believe] she didn't know there were going to be puppies until the day of, so it was kind of a surprise."
The shelter brought five puppies, including two black-and-white terrier-mix sisters Starburst and Eye Patch, as well as the long-legged, energetic Lady, thought to a Chihuahua/miniature pinscher mix. Eilish was particularly attached to Eve, a stocky American bulldog mix. "Obviously, she was on tour, so she wasn't really in a position to be able to adopt a puppy that day," Gonzalez says, "but she really took to Eve. She said that Eve reminded her of her own dog that she has at home, which was really sweet."
Though Eilish didn't adopt a puppy herself, she was happy to use her fame to help them. "When we asked her if it was all right to take some photos of the puppies, she seemed really game to do anything that would help them find homes," Gonzalez says. The shelter's resulting posts on Facebook and Instagram garnered nearly 2,500 likes and more than 7,500 likes, respectively.
One puppy found a home at the event itself and wound up going home with a Miami Heat staffer. Eve, Starburst, and Eye Patch were all adopted by the next morning. Gonzalez says the social media posts definitely generated interest in the puppies and drew new people to the shelter. "I was giving out our address to people — these are new adopters who have never visited us before," she says.
The exposure is encouraging for the open-intake shelter, which accepts 27,000 to 30,000 dogs and cats of all ages, shapes, and sizes a year. MDAS is always looking for ways to match pets with forever homes: This year so far, the shelter participated in Puppy Bowl, attended Carnaval on the Mile, and has maintained partnerships with several local pet stores to hold events on weekends. "We always ask that people come in with an open mind about what you're looking for in a pet so that you can fall in love and connect with one of the pets we have here," Gonzalez says.
As for Lady, she is back at the shelter and still available for adoption. Asked how she felt about meeting a celebrity, the puppy licked this writer's hand enthusiastically before scampering away to play with a squeaky toy that had caught her attention.
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"I'm curious to see if Billie meets some dogs on her future tour stops because I think that would be a really fun tradition, visiting the local shelter or having them bring you a couple dogs or cats," Gonzalez says. "It's an awesome way to use your platform for good, and we're just excited to have been a part of it."
For now, Eilish's love of dogs is already having a broader impact in Miami. The day after the concert, a young woman named Gabriela visited the shelter to finalize her adoption of a 4-year-old Labrador mix. She had traveled two hours to attend Eilish's concert the night before and showed this writer a video of the superstar performing the song "8" on the ukulele while video footage of running puppies played behind her. Gabriela had already planned to adopt a dog, but she didn't know she would be so inspired by the performance.
She named her new pet Billie Eilish.
Miami-Dade Animal Services. 3599 NW 79th Ave., Doral; 305-468-5900; animals.miamidade.gov.