Celebrities need someone to trust. Perhaps that’s why they’re zealous about their pets.
Stars are bent on catering to their domesticated animals’ every whim, to the point of hiring pet psychics, dialing up pet horoscopes and lavishing pricey gifts on their four-legged companions.
In a town built on perks, pets get plenty.
DreamWorks offers a play group for execs’ dogs. Dick Clark has reserved seats in his screening room for his three dogs. Julia Roberts often dispatches her limo to ferry her dog Diego to and from the Pet Spa in West Hollywood.
Pets have an uncanny way of resembling their owners — or is it the other way around? Action stars seem to favor ferocious breeds such as pit bulls or Dobermans, hiring high-priced trainers to instill discipline in their beasts. Sylvester Stallone owns a boxer named Gangster. Will Smith has Rottweilers named Indo and Zhaki.
“Celebrities feel isolated,” says one high-ranking, dog-owning studio exec. “They don’t trust their friends or their agents. But they trust their pet.”
The subculture of pet amenities has grown so large that pets now have their own lifestyle magazine, Animal Fair. It’s loaded with profiles on celebs and their pets, tips on the latest trends in pet fashion and health and even pet horoscopes (“The winter is an adventurous and thrilling time for Aries pets!”).
Drew Barrymore, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Renee Zellweger have graced the mag’s cover with their pets. Editor Wendy Diamond notes, “It’s actually very odd to find a celebrity who doesn’t have a pet, and they seem to be more open to talking about their pets than anything else.”
The levels of love and companionship pets provide may be priceless, but Hollywood’s elite has a remarkably good time spending thousands upon thousands of dollars on their furry friends.
Behavior is a major part of the pet paradigm. If Fido or Morris just won’t sit, stay or leave those drapes alone, whom do you call?
You might begin with Todd Webb, a licensed professional instructor, behavior consultant and show judge. A lean, ramrod-straight man with a vaguely aloof demeanor, Webb morphs instantly into an animated, stern but totally connected teacher and friend of his charges. There can never be enough “good boys” or “good girls” in his method.
Having trained under Frank M. Catania, author of the Army K-9 training manual, Webb has, in turn, educated instructors and dog handlers in every aspect of canine behavior, from basic obedience to protection to animal psychology, as well as hunting, tracking and scouting.
But if you wish to become more deeply involved in a pet’s heart and soul, you might consider a psychic.
Animal communicator Irene Lane Fetter lives in a French-style home on two wooded acres in Springfield, Pa. A lithe, blonde equestrian, she laughs softly at the notion of talking to animals.
“We all know,” she says, “that animals do not talk. However, they do think and they do feel.”
Animals can communicate in one or more of a number of “domains,” she says. “With images, feelings, colors, they can reveal what they like, what they don’t like, what they want, what they don’t want. They can convey happiness, sadness, fear, anger, pain.”
What Fetter does, she explains, is “thought-to-thought transference,” which she can then orally articulate to clients, who include producers, writers, directors and actors.
Private consultations are done via phone. She requires silence at home and no distractions on the other end. “Turn off the fax machine, cell phone and pagers, please,” she says.
Although pet psychics have become more visible since Sonya Fitzpatrick started her popular series “The Pet Psychic” on Animal Planet, Fetter notes there is still some resistance to the cause.
However, she says, “On the West Coast, people are much more receptive to using an animal communicator.”
Some of the more extreme behavioral conditions get referred to self-styled dog disciplinarian Cesar Millan. His Dog Psychology Center takes on wayward pit bulls, German shepherds and Rottweilers and promises owners they will come back reformed.
Millan’s philosophy involves grouping dogs into packs of about 30 and putting them through a boot camp of sorts. Would-be clients have formed packs of their own waiting for a free slot in Millan’s schedule. Callers to his center, even those bearing fresh teeth marks from an intractable mutt, are penciled in for several months down the road.
You won’t see celebrity pet owners at your friendly neighborhood vet. Hence, some stars summon “Dr. Sandy,” aka Sandra J. Jongeward.
A board-certified specialist in internal medicine, the willowy, fine-featured Dr. Sandy, with hair reaching down to her waist, is perfect casting for a modern-day medicine woman. Jeans and a crisp white lab coat perfectly complete the presentation.
In 1996, after years in group practice, as well as teaching veterinary interns, Dr. Sandy decided to become “totally house call.”
“What could be more life/family,” she asks, “than going into homes and taking care of pets in their own environment?”
Though she declines to name-drop, her client list is a Hollywood who’s-who. (She insists that she has almost as many “non-pro” patients as pro.)
Eschewing advertising, Dr. Sandy built Dr. Sandy’s Home Veterinary Care, based in Tarzana, entirely by referrals. Even her sparkling white van, which carries her and an assistant from the Valley to the Westside to Hancock Park and beyond, is unmarked.
The interior of the van is a marvel of organization and efficiency. Custom-built cabinets hold patient charts, drawers protect medical instruments, cupboards contain all sorts of vaccines, antibiotics and myriad other medications.
There are scales for small pets and also for large animals, and anesthesia-free dental hygiene can be performed.
In fact, Dr. Sandy provides full veterinary care with the exception of X-rays and surgery. She is currently adding to her long list of credentials by studying acupuncture in order to blend Western medicine with traditional Chinese medicine.
Once animals have been conditioned on the inside, it’s time to plunge them into pet fashion, an underworld that is equal parts disturbing and adorable.
“Dogs like fashion, too,” dog lover Joan Rivers has said. “They know when they’re looking good. Since they don’t have credit cards, it’s up to us to help them accessorize.”
If you think pet fashion simply means a smart leash and stylish collar, you’re so last season. These days, if it’s available for humans, it’s available for pets: Hats, sweaters, bathrobes, slippers, jewelry … there’s truly no end.
Don’t want your dog getting wet in the rain? Pick up that oh-so-cute hooded rain slicker from Fifi & Romeo on L.A.’s Beverly Boulevard.
The overwhelming quantity of dog fashion offered at the store appeals to such celebs as Meg Ryan, Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu and Robert Downey Jr. Fifi & Romeo’s collection also is available at Barney’s in New York and Beverly Hills as well as several other stores nationwide.
Oprah Winfrey, Madonna, Sigourney Weaver and Kid Rock all have canine couture from designer Corey Gelman’s line, Chic Doggie by Corey. Gelman’s silver heart pendant proudly adorned the neck of Reese Witherspoon’s Chihuahua in “Legally Blonde” (a more realistic depiction of pet pampering than many moviegoers realized).
Big-name designers know the value of pet fashion as well. Ralph Lauren offers a $95 cashmere sweater available in ruby or navy for dogs up to 18 inches. Coach also offers pet clothing, while Prada and Louis Vuitton stick to that must-have accessory for every true dog-loving celeb: the doggie bag.
Louis Vuitton’s $1,000 “Sac Chien” was a thoughtful gift from Leonardo DiCaprio to supermodel Gisele when they were a couple. Even more lavish is the $1,500 Hermes bag spotted with Oscar winners Elizabeth Taylor and Halle Berry. The relatively modest PuchiBags, favored by Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears, top out around $400.
Famous faces are always on the move, and any pet-smart celeb knows just which hotels throw open the doors for their beloved pals.
Few are more welcoming than L’Ermitage in Beverly Hills. The hotel boasts top-of-the-line food and water bowls, an assortment of toys and plenty of delicious snacks (including caviar, just for pets, priced at $98), all designed to please the discriminating tastes of Ricky Martin, Eddie Murphy and Julia Roberts — their pets, that is.
The Beverly Hills Hotel offers personalized greetings and escorts for pet guests and its own product line, including such items as dog and cat bowls, a dog biscuit canister and a $165 pet bed, all in the hotel’s signature pink. The biscuit canister is emblazoned with the phrase “I Stayed at the Beverly Hills Hotel,” just in case the pooch wishes to impress its friends.
Celebs are so fond of their pets that they often bring them to work, occasionally turning pets into mini-celebs themselves.
The dogs owned by the Osbournes and Anna Nicole Smith were immortalized on reality TV. Madonna spotlighted her Chihuahua in her “Human Nature” video, while Renee Zellweger got her pooch a role as a seeing-eye dog in “Nurse Betty” and Revolution’s Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas cast her dog opposite Jennifer Lopez and Ralph Fiennes in “Maid in Manhattan.”
Bringing pets to work isn’t just for stars — studio execs are in on the action, too. DreamWorks provides an entire doggy daycare service for employee pets, which marketing chief Terry Press calls “a great perk” for both her and her dog Archie.
Hmm. Perhaps he greenlit “The Tuxedo.”