It is with great sadness that we report that Sam Simon, co-creator of The Simpsons and a dedicated animal welfare advocate, has finally succumbed to his battle with colon cancer. Upon learning of his diagnosis, Simon announced his intention to donate all of his money to charity, with an overwhelming amount going towards animal causes. In 2002 he founded the Sam Simon Foundation, which rescues dogs from shelters and trains them to assist the disabled.
Below is a reprint of a 2008 article Tails did on Simon. That he continued to help and serve up until the very end of his life is a testament to what an incredible man he was. Though he has passed, his legacy will live on.
Lending An Ear, originally published December 1, 2008
By Janice Brown
When you think about the creator of The Simpsons, World Boxing, Organization Manager of the Year, and World Series of Poker winner, the first thing that comes to mind may not be animal hero. But Sam Simon is all of these things and more.
Due to a lucrative deal Simon negotiated when he left the Emmy-winning television show The Simpsons, along with a multitude of other revenue-generating achievements, Simon is able to make virtually all his dreams come true—for himself as well as the dogs and humans he devotes himself to through his foundation.
Arguably his most humane brainchild, the Sam Simon Charitable Foundation (SSCF) rescues homeless dogs and trains them to become loving ears for people who are hearing impaired. SSCF also works to reduce pet overpopulation, providing free spay and neuter surgeries through its mobile clinic to dogs and cats belonging to low-income families in Los Angeles, in addition to providing free vaccines and basic medical attention for animals in need. Simon personally funds every aspect of the organization, which does not accept any public donations.
Standing on the lawn of his guesthouse in Los Angeles, Simon shares stories of the dogs in his life, past and present. He is thoughtful as he speaks, carefully conjuring up the events in his mind before the words escape his mouth. It is clear his canine companions have been good friends, not just animals who have lived in his home.
When Simon was hired as a guest writer and producer on The Drew Carey Show, he chose to donate his paycheck to a charitable organization. He would ask his fellow writers for ideas on where to donate the money. “Pet lovers would suggest animal charities, but some people would get upset and argue that helping people is more important,” he recalls. He found Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), an organization that rescued and then trained dogs to be service animals. “Everyone was happy because it was a win-win for both people and animals.”
When CCI changed its policy and no longer adopted the animals it was placing in homes, creating a breeding program instead, Simon was disappointed. “I didn’t understand the change, and thought there had to be a better way,” he says. He took matters into his own hands, and purchased more than 6 acres in the Malibu, complete with fruit trees, rolling hills, and a view that takes your breath away. It is here that good energy begins flowing.
Simon brought in Assistance Dog Program trainers Barb Velasquez and Lori Ramey, with the help of a small but dedicated staff, to work with shelters to find ideal candidates. These lucky canines are dropped into the lap of luxury, and pampered in an environment that sets them up for success from the minute they get there. These dogs live in a unique home setting outfitted to help them prepare for a life of service. Performing tasks such as waking up a parent in the middle of the night when a child is crying can be life changing.
While in training, the dogs not only get lots of love, but they dole it out, too. Through the pet visitation program, they regularly put smiles on the faces of the residents in assisted living communities, one of many public appearances these dogs make during their training. Testing their temperaments in a variety of situations is critical to predicting success. According to Ramey, “Only about 25 percent of the dogs we adopt end up being able to make it as hearing dogs.” The other 75 percent are adopted out to good homes.
Few words can describe the wonderful gift Simon provides for the animals and people touched by his dream of making a difference. It has been said that you should pay attention to what people do, not what they say. Simon says that his weekly visits with the dogs make it all worthwhile, and his extraordinary actions speak this truth even more clearly.