When celebrities are serious dog lovers, pet-food companies want a sprinkling of stardust on their kibble. IAMS signed up Hilary Swank as its “Home for the Holidays” spokesperson, and today, PurinaONErolled out the red carpet for anotherA-lister: Josh Lucas. To celebratenext month’s launch of itsnew beyOnd brand of pet food, packaged in 92% renewable materials and made with solar energy, PurinaONE sent Lucas out to approach his fellow New Yorkers in theTime Warner Centerthis morning, giving them the opportunity to donate $5,000 of Purina’s money – $1 million in all – to the featured nonprofit organization of their choice. The list of nonprofits slated to benefit from PurinaONE’s million-dollar, one-daygiveaway included national organizations such as Delta Society and American Humane, as well as localheroes North Shore Animal League America and the Humane Society of New York.(Meanwhile, members of the PurinaONE team were busy approaching people in Denver, New Orleans, and Miami.)
By Lucas’s side was his beloved dog Loki, adopted from Animal Care and Control of New York City. Thebeautiful black mutt, equally as charismatic as his owner, is a mix of German Shepherd, Chow, Akita, and Irish Setter. That combination is not justan educated guess, by the way; to learn more about his best friend, Lucas had his vet run a Wisdom Panel DNA test, and those were the four breeds revealed.
The two hunks – human and canine – make quite a handsome couple, don’t they? PurinaONE couldn’t have picked a bigger dog lover as its capable new spokesperson than the blue-eyed actor who’s my generation’s answer toPaul Newman. He’s one in, well,one million! When the pet-food giant approached Lucas about the beyOndproject, the actortold the media attendingthis morning’s press conference, “I spoke to Loki and he said, ‘Let’s do it!'” Listen in as Lucas reveals more about Loki, his K9 co-conspirator and favorite traveling companion.
What inspired you to name your dog after a figure in Norse mythology?
Loki was so shy and scared and sweet when I first got him; his name atthe shelterwas “Hercules,” which sure didn’t fit. He really was almost too low-key,so I wanted to give him a name that was a play on that, and I had the hope that naming him after the God of Mischief might inspire some attitude. Well it worked, he’s a punk now.
You mentioned that Loki is very sensitive to people’s feelings. Can you give us some evidence?
Afriend who doesn’t like dogs was going through a very rough breakup and he was sitting on the couch really suffering; Loki, who always kept his distance before, came up and literally put his paws on my friend’s shoulders and leaned into him and seemed to give him a long hug. They have been great friends every since. I had a dreamthat I was learning sign language, and I signed to Loki “I LOVE YOU.” In my dream, he lay watching me intently, and then slowly with his paws signed it back to me. I woke up pretty astonished. And as the punk sleeps in my bed, he was lying next to me with his eyes open, just looking at me with this funny look on his face like he knew exactly what I’d dreamed.
Loki is not your first adopted dog; please tellus about the other “unwanted” dogs in your life that have found their way to you.
My first dogOzzy (named after Ozzy Osbourne) I found when he was a white ball of fluff about 6 weeks old and abandoned in the parking lot of a Washington State Ferry terminal. I was 13 years old and he and I slept outside on my family’s porch (even in the pouring rain) every single night for a year. We wereunder an awning during the rain and snow, but we did 365 days and then we moved back inside!
My mother now has the dog I rescued while working on Sweet Home Alabama. Amazingly,this wasduring the scene in the movie in the Coon Dog Cemetery (a real thing in the South) where Reese Witherspoon and I discuss our characters’ old dog”Bear.” While filming the scene, a crew memberfound, hiding under a coon dog gravestone, a very sick Lab mix and her 9 emaciated andequally sick puppies. The entire crew rallied around the dogs, paid for their vet bills, got them healthy, and found homes for all of them. I took the runt and named herBear; she lives with my mother, and is one of the great dogs of all time.
Are shelter dogs, rescues,and strays extra-special in some way?
I am totally convinced that all rescue dogs know they have been given a second chance and they seem to have something magical about them. They know they’ve been given a gift and they are blessed, and they seem to connect in a deeper way with their human. That’s been my experience. And at the same time, they end up being as big a gift to those who save them, sothat it seems to be this perfect circle. Every rescue I’ve had and know seems more connected, and brings more joy, than I can adequately explain. It feels mystical.
Somepolitical animals feel that the mixed-breed dog is the All-American Dog:E pluribus unum, one dog out of many. What do you think?
To me that is what this country is about. We Americans are mostly all mutts ourselves, in the best way. That’s what makes New York City so great: All these cultures mixed together, falling in love, breeding and blending. And every mutt I know is a little bit easier to handle (in both humans and dogs!) than purebreds.
How would you describe Loki’s personality? And how is it similar toor differentfrom your own?
I sometimes wish I were more like Loki. I have friends and ex-girlfriends call me to hang out with Loki and not me. He is a bit of a dog/human whisperer, in that people who don’t like dogs love him, and dogs that don’t like other dogs seem to be totally disarmed by him. He is so excited to see a human or a dog he knows. He loves to wrap his mouth gently around my friends’ arms when they say hello. It’s his way of saying, “I’m so happy to see you.” He wants to be outside exploring the city and he lets out these long, deep sighs if he’s in too long, or he just wants you to know he’s dissatisfied by life. Mostly he is a very happy dude.
Please describe some fun activities you like to do with your dog.
I totally love the Dog Parks of New York City: Sitting under the beautiful skyline watching dozens of wacky dogs and people mix and run and bark and talk …I haven’t found anything quite like it in other cities. Basically we wander around. Loki is super agile, so I’m thinking of doing some agility training. He loves running full speed into the ocean and scaring himself as the waves crash, then running out like he’s being attacked. He seems to play lots of games with himself and other dogs.
Might Loki ever score a part in one of your films?
Yeah, I can’t wait to work with him. He’s been a bit picky so far about making his movie debut.
Has Loki ever accompanied you to rehearsal/set?
He is a total set dog, and particularly loves makeup trailers and all the girls that work in them. I’ll head in to shoot leaving him in the trailer, and when I come back he’ll be gone; thenI’ll find out the transportation department has taken him on a drive, or the lead actress has taken him on a hike (both true stories). He totally steals all the attention no matter where we are. When I rehearse lines and he’s around, he seems to know that I’m acting weird and he gives me these very skeptical looks, like, “Really, you’re gonna play it that way?!?”
If Loki were a Hollywood legend, who would he be?
Loki is smooth. He’s got a real Cary Grant essence about him: Loves the ladies but is also a guy’s guy. And if need be, he can get tough. But mostly he’s just a Lover.
All photographs courtesy of Josh Lucas