In television, they say you can't go wrong with kids and animals. And this week, led as usual by chance, Hartman got both, courtesy of Betty Gray's Petting Zoo.
Parading her pony before a bunch of children, Gray tells the smiling young faces, "His name is Wee-Haw, because every time he neighs it's like, wee-haw."
Gray never charges for her petting zoo.
She just loves introducing kids to the sights and sounds of animals. And though a pig gave out a smell, for which kids had to cover their noses, it is mostly sights and sounds.
"That's all part of having a pet," Gray notes.
She tells Hartman, "I've just always loved animals. I was always bringing home pets. I'm sure my mother told you."
Her parents, in unison, say, "Oh yeah, the whole place would be covered." Her mother adds, "That's no joke. She wouldn't leave anything on the highway or in town. She'd bring it home."
And apparently, she still does. She has seven dogs, plus seven cats.
"They are just all over," she says.
And one albino ferret, which she says is a Humane Society reject.
At this point she really can't take in any more animals without crossing that fine line between pet lover and crazy dog lady. So Gray helps in other ways. She just started a local chapter at the Humane Society. She does fund raisers to help spay and neuter.
Basically, she'll do anything in her power to help make a difference in the lives of animals. And this is at least partly because they made such a difference in her life.
Showing pictures of her as a little girl, she says, "They didn't judge, no matter what I cried over."
What did she have to cry over, when she was 7 or 8?
Gray says that, for a good chunk of her childhood, she was molested by a relative.
Her mother says, "I didn't know anything about it. She never told me."
In fact, the abuser made Mary swear not to tell, a promise she kept except for her animals. She says they basically saved her.
And Gray has been saving them ever since. She wanted to share this story in hopes that others might adopt. She says pets don't pass for therapy, but if you just need someone to listen, they're all ears.