A dog story for the ages and the big screen

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This photo was taken in the early '80s and it still looks like the height of the luxury of affection. I was dog-sitting for a friend who traveled frequently and who also had a great fondness for Jack Russells. The guy on the left with his left paw on my reclined shoulder was Sparky, who was the leader of his pack, a tough little guy who was an excellent ratter in the landscape of Beverly Hills where the vermin population rivals NYC. The little one under my left arm is Sweet Pea, who was every bit as tough as Mr. Sparky but demure in gait and gentleness when not playing with the boys. The Shih Tzu on my lap was Polo (whom I nicknamed Po Po), who showed up at my door one rainy day in Los Angeles complete with collar and identity. When I finally got in touch with his master (who lived around the corner from me) and took him to his home, the “master” — a talent agent — met me at the door still in his bathrobe, and said to me: “You wanna dog?” And that was that. Polo was 8 years old at the time. And underneath my right foot was the shy and sweet little Rum Rum who was Sweet Pea’s boyfriend and constant companion and came to live with me and Polo after his mistress had been away long enough.

Monday, March 10, 2024. The Sun came out yesterday morning, the first day of Daylight Savings Time. It hit briefly and then the Sun went In and the temps dropped into the 40s. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful day. I slept in about an hour later than usual, marking the day. Checking my email I found the following message from Gigi Benson who is currently in PB with Harry. It was a long one always provoking curiosity for this reader. Here it is:

… Wanted you to know about a new film “Arthur The King” opening in theaters everywhere on March 15 … produced by our daughter Tessa and husband Tucker Tooley (whom you have met at Sette Mezzo) and starring Mark Wahlberg and the rescue dog, Arthur.

We are very proud as here is how it evolved: Tessa read and loved the remarkable true story of Mikael Lindnord who is on a competitive team endurance race in Ecuador … and a stray dog named Arthur begins to tag along … focusing on how Arthur brings the team together through the extremely difficult parts of the adventure.

Mikael Lindnord with his his wife Helena, children Philippa and Thor, and the amazing Arthur.

Tessa flew to London, found Mikael, bought the rights to his true story, flew back to Los Angeles, and talked Mark Wahlberg into starring. (Mark and Tessa are both doing daily Instagram posts to promote the film and save rescue dogs).

Tessa along with her husband Tucker, who has produced over 50 films, were instrumental in guiding the film from the beginning into reality, even filming in the Dominican Republic in the middle of Covid.

Tessa, Tucker, and their son Tucker, with the dog star of the picture.
Mark Wahlberg with Tucker, Tessa, and young Tucker, with the cast and crew of Arthur The King.

Both the film and my story are true stories. We are so proud and are going to see the film on opening day, Friday, March 15!

Xxxx Gigi

Seven of Tessa’s nine (!) rescue pugs: Jasper, Babe, Missy, Charlie, Angelai, Chemmie, Sam Cookies, Willy, and Puppy. Nine dogs in the house; geez that’s a lotta dogs. EXCEPT, I’d do it.

My three canines are known as “rescues.” I’ve had dogs (and cats) most of my life from childhood on. They are a very important addition to any family with children. Children get them in a way that we adults often don’t. Although it is really important that children are “introduced” to animals in terms of their behavior toward the animal.  When you have had them from childhood, you recognize the different personalities.

It’s also often a hard road for a lot of these creatures. And we humanoids are often clueless and insensitive about the animals’ lives. I often think of them as closer to us than we might think. Then I watched the preview of the film and you see this is a real story about a man and his dog. Or rather a dog and his man. And you’re re-acquainted with what these animals have to put up with and/or deal with among the humanity surrounding him/her/them.

Rex and me, North Stamford, CT, 1976.

Many years ago, back in the 1970s, I had a retail business in Pound Ridge, New York, with a small staff. One morning, one of the women on staff came in an hour late. She explained that a stray dog had come through the woods and was clearly looking for food, so she fed him. She described him as a beauty but dirty and messed up. She called the SPCA to come pick him up, but after an hour and they hadn’t shown she felt she had to come to work.

So I volunteered to go and wait for the SPCA. When I arrived at her house, she had locked the dog in the garage. He was standing on his hind legs looking out from one of the windows when I arrived; a big red collie like-mutt.

And when I saw him, I said to myself: “That’s my father and I’ve got to take him.” I don’t know why I thought that; it just came to me as if a matter of fact long inside my head. And so I did. I named him Rex, and after a trip to the vet I learned he was about a year and a half old and had wounds around his neck — which probably meant he was a junkyard dog, and had escaped.

My father had died a couple of years earlier after what in summation was a very hard and difficult life that came to him at the beginning.  Never ever having mistaken an animal as having the “being” of a departed friend or relative, my reaction seemed like Common Sense.

Rex in Brentwood, 1979. On the lower left is little Tiger, my first adopted shih-tzu. Tiger was 8.

Many years later, long after Rexy had passed and other canines had entered my life and eventually departed, I was in the process of a adopting a new pup to fill the loss of Missy another beloved Shih Tzu. I called an animal shelter here in New York and asked if they had any Shih Tzus. I was told that they had two at this particular shelter. I decided to take both, sight unseen.

When I drove to the animal hospital to pick them up, they were waiting outside by the roadside for me.  They were not Shih-tzu, not even remotely. The other, a female a year and a half, looked like a small mutt, tan coat. She seemed least interested. Because I couldn’t pronounce their names. So I named the little guy Willie, and reeling off female names for her to myself aloud, I happened to think of Rosemary Kennedy, the eldest sister of JFK and RFK, who had a lobotomy as treatment for “seizures” she had been having. It left her a partial invalid and living in an institution for the rest of her life.

I don’t know why she came up when thinking of names for the new dog, but Rosemary, I repeated aloud, and the new pup standing behind me jumped up almost to my waist. Rosemary. Rosemary Dog. She is the power in the house and all the boys go along with it. Even Big Dave goes along with it.

The current troupe: Tobey, Willie and Rosemary.

Meanwhile, back to the new movie about Arthur The King! Every kid in America is going to want to see this picture, not to mention all the male dog-fans out there everywhere.

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