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Tuesday, 27 April 2010

In Memory of Maddie

A miniature schnauzer inspires a huge investment in animal welfare

Her name was Maddie, and David Duffield '62, MBA '64, will tell you she was just about the ideal dog. "She embodied the spirit that you'd want in your own child—highly intelligent, affectionate when she wanted to be, spunky, confident in herself but still loving home, a real personality that you could be proud of," he says. "If this were a human child, you'd say it was perfection."

David Duffield
A man and his dog: David Duffield '62, MBA '64

In the lean years when Duffield was working to get his software firm, People-Soft, off the ground, the gray, floppy-eared miniature schnauzer was his boon companion. "She was a good friend and listener, somebody who could sense your feelings and aggravations and desires," he recalls. "During a particular walk that she and I were on, I promised her that if we ever made any money, I would give a lot of it back to SPCA-type organizations to help save the lives of her compatriots, both dogs and cats."

David Duffield's beloved pet, Maddie, who died in 1997.

Maddie passed away in 1997 at the age of ten. And when PeopleSoft made him a very rich man, Duffield kept his promise. In 1999, with a gift of more than $300 million, he and his family established Maddie's Fund, dedicated to eliminating euthanasia of healthy, adoptable companion animals. At the time, the family came under fire from some editorial writers, who slammed them for not aiming their philanthropy toward human causes or the arts—and who called their goal a pipe dream. A decade later, Maddie's Fund president and CEO Rich Avanzino says that making America a "no-kill nation" by 2015 is not just possible, but probable. The organization estimates that if each of the 4,000 shelters in the U.S. adopted out two more animals per day—five rather than three—every dog and cat would find a home.

To that end, Maddie's Fund has provided more than $70 million in grants to collect comprehensive data, support efforts by animal welfare organizations to eliminate euthanasia, and establish shelter medicine programs at veterinary colleges. Last fall, Maddie's Fund teamed up with the Ad Council—the creator of such icons as Smokey Bear—to launch an extensive multimedia campaign promoting adoption of shelter pets, from online banner ads to inserts in Disney's Santa Buddies DVD to billboards depicting a mixed-breed dog looking in the mirror and asking, "Are my legs too short?" Avanzino estimates that the nonprofit campaign—the first in America to promote shelter adoption—will provide more than $120 million in free advertising over three years. "That kind of marketing, that kind of behavior modification, makes saving the 3 million dogs and cats very doable over a short window," he says.

A former director of the San Francisco SPCA and a leading figure in the no-kill movement, Avanzino notes that a decade and a half ago, foundations gave just $2 million a year to animal welfare causes. Maddie's Fund expects that number to hit $30 million this year—and grow to $70 million in 2015. "Maddie's Fund is the largest dog and cat charity in the world," he says. "We have set the national agenda about the saving of companion animals and created the models for charities to use in trying to end the killing of our best friends. If we fail, the pets die. We can't let the animals down."

These days, Duffield and his wife, Cheryl, have three dogs—a miniature schnauzer, a German shepherd, and a Havanese. After selling PeopleSoft to Oracle in 2005, he started a new company called Workday, a cloud-based provider of business solutions. The foundation remains a family affair; he and his wife and children sit on the board (daughter Amy Duffield Zeifang serves as chair). Daughter Laurie Duffield Peek—a 1996 graduate of the Vet college whose family has "a rescued collie, four cats, three parakeets, and an adopted frog"—also directs the fund's veterinary programs. Last fall, Barron's magazine named David and Cheryl Duffield to its list of the world's twenty-five most effective philanthropists—putting them in heady company with Bill and Melinda Gates, George Soros, Richard Branson, Jimmy Carter, Brad Pitt, and Bill and Hillary Clinton.

"Euthanasia used to be a subject that was brushed under the rug—no one talked about it," Duffield says. "It was like cancer. When I grew up, that was something horrible that you kept within your family; now people are open to discussing cancer, treatments, why you get it. So if nothing else, Maddie's Fund has helped generate publicity to openly talk about the euthanasia problem and what we can do about it."

Maddie (1:06)

Comments (5)Add Comment
written by Ethel Dick, April 28, 2010
These articles from the VetMed school really caught my eye. I don't usually follow the Alum magazine as I'm so far away from my undergrad days but reading this was worth my time. I intend to forward it to family and friends who are also concerned about neglected or abandoned pets.
written by Tal Day, April 28, 2010
A wonderful story; have forwarded to non-Cornell shelter volunteers. Very moving; I know whY it was like to lose Maddie.
DVM 2001
written by Christy Shoup, DVM, April 29, 2010
I don't usually read much of the alumni magazine, but since I volunteer every week at a no-kill local shelter doing low-cost spays/neuters and vaccine clinics, this article caught my eye. My own dog, Hayley, came from the Ithaca SPCA in October of 1998--as part of an animal control seizure from a home, along with her parents and the rest of her litter (according to the SPCA employees). She's 11 1/2 yrs old now--she was a "Cornell Companion" dog when I was in school, and down here in Maryland she's a therapy dog with FIDOS FOR FREEDOM ( She's my "Maddie". It is amazing what this family has done for these animals. I think it is very unlikely I'll ever be in the financial situation to do what they have done (since I'll be paying off those Cornell student loans until I'm in my late 50's), but if I ever do, they are my role models. Thank you, Maddie, and your wonderful family for making such a huge difference! Dr. Leslie Appel made a big difference when I was in school working with the shelters to get us spaying and neutering, and I hope all the students REALLY APPRECIATE what Dr. Scarlett is doing with this program to provide such a fantastic experience with the shelters! I wish we had been able to do that! I hope that this curriculum inspires these students to go out and continue to volunteer and give back to the community.
BSME '84
written by Kathy Lin Yang, May 02, 2010
What a wonderful story! We adopted our lab mix from a shelter about a year ago. It was very difficult to walk through the place and see the sad, scared faces. It's a small comfort that we're able to provide a loving home to at least one. Thanks to the Duffields that we can look forward to a day when all adoptable pets will find a home.
Hotel '58
written by Ted Thelander, May 07, 2010
Almost four years ago I had to 'put down' my Weimaraner Alex FREEDOM!, my companion of almost a decade. The grief was almost unbearable. That week I joined the This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it . Almost every weekend I join other humans across ths great nation saving RESCUES from euthanasia... when all the RESCUE needs is a ride! to a shelter, foster home, or forever home.

Now I have photos on the fridge of every kind and shape of dogs and cats of my rescue family. Each photo reminds me of those loves that joined me on a unique railroad to FREEDOM! "In the process of rescuing... I am rescued." TedT, MidNite FREEDOM! & HEY!Zeus [my two Great Dane/Black Lab rescues]

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Last Updated ( Tuesday, 27 April 2010 )