LOUISIANA: Ellen DeGeneres believes animals are ‘’the closest things to God’’. The talk show host was planning to become a veterinarian before embarking on her TV career and says animals provided her with some important lessons when growing up. She said: ‘’The compassion I have for animals comes from my earliest memories. The first bird I saved was a mockingbird when I was around seven years. It had fallen out of its nest and I took it home and it grew up to be a full, grown-up mockingbird. I took it back to that same tree and released it.’’–ES