On a tree-lined street in the cozy residential pocket of Studio City, I hear birds chirping and children’s laughter from the nearby elementary school. Leaves crunch under my feet as I approach a modest house with an iconic white picket fence. How family-picture-perfect is that?
Gazing above the house, I see solar panels. Yep, this is the house where Bernie lives. No, not your average three-member family home: Bernie is the adored pooch of the Begley family — Ed Jr., Rachelle, and their daughter, Hayden.
The Begleys are better known to millions as the environmentalists of Hollywood. The trio is constantly seen onscreen in television and film productions as well as their own reality shows Living With Ed, On Begley Street (recently launched on Evox); and My Green House (ByteSize Entertainment); promoting their natural sugar-free soda (Begley’s and Bill’s); as well as a slew of new projects Ed has been busy filming this year. If there’s ever a family with green tips for pets, it’s the Begleys!
As I place my hand on the gate to enter their front garden of fruit trees (drip water system), herbs, flowers, and assorted drought-tolerant landscape, I notice something feels very different. Wait a minute. That’s not wood, it’s plastic? I look at the fence that surrounds the house and follow it along to the side and feel again. It is plastic! Well, that will never need painting or use up trees, now will it?
So how did this adorable canine become part of such a family? It was his mommy, Rachelle, who sought him out. It had been a couple of years after their beloved dog, Molly (a rescue dog they had for 17 years) passed away, and the Begleys were thinking about getting another rescue.
Rachelle explains, “Molly was a Wheaten Terrier mix. She was the best dog ever. We wanted a loyal, smart dog that doesn’t bite.” Since many of the family’s friends are allergic, Rachelle also looked for a possible hypoallergenic breed like a Bichon or Poodle-terrier mix that would be “allergy friendly.”
Rachelle ventured to a Bichon rescue and found an adorable dog, but unfortunately she bit everyone except Rachelle, so she had to go back. Evidently, this particular dog was better with a single female owner.
It wasn’t long before a friend alerted Rachelle about another dog that needed rescuing. Her friend pre-screened the dog carefully (for interaction with people and other animals) and recommended he would be a great companion for the Begleys. Not much was known about the dog’s history except that he was about 2 years old and was turned in by a family to the pound.
Rachelle’s initial reaction to meeting “Charlie”? “He was so YUCK — matted! I just couldn’t take him home until he got groomed!” Getting past the initial visual shock, she could tell he was a sweetie.
Charlie transformed into Bernie and he was taken home to meet the rest of the family. “The first thing he did was pee in Hayden’s bed,” Rachelle recalls. “Every once in a while he pees … marks territory … still has a bit of an issue, but he is as sweet as he can be.”
Hayden chimes in, “It was love at first sight with Bernie. I love a dog that cuddles. I love to cuddle with Bernie. While doing my homework or rehearsing my music, he’s always right there next to me. He has to sleep with one of us, so he trades off, but naps on top of the couch pillows and his own bed in the den.”
And being eco-conscious, what do they use for practical problems to clean up after Bernie? Rachelle uses their own product, of course: biodegradable Begley’s Best earth-friendly products that include Pet Stain and Odor Remover. Ed, who has just come home from location working on Betas, a new comedy series for Amazon Studios, adds, “It’s all plant-based and natural, so it’s safe around people & pets. No harmful chemicals.” For daily poop pickup? Rachelle tells me they recycle plastic bags.
When asked why dog poop can’t be used as fertilizer, Ed informs me that because dogs are carnivores, you can’t do that! The waste is toxic. “Only herbivore waste is good for fertilizer,” he says. “Too many pathogens in carnivore scat.” So it’s important to know you should bag it versus washing it off a sidewalk (which goes into the drain system and out into the ocean).
How do the Begleys deal with fleas? They tried eco-friendly products, but they didn’t work very well. “Every so often, one or two months we do the traditional method. Cedar, lavender smells good, but didn’t work well. You have to keep repeating often got to get it to work.”
Bernie loves his daily walks in the neighborhood. “Bernie has to sniff everything,” Hayden says. “He could spend an hour sniffing just one bush!” And he is great with cats. “But if he’s on a leash he thinks he’s big and will get mouthy around other dogs. If a dog comes up to him he would never bite. He’s not a biter,” Rachelle explains.
Animals are very tuned in to their owners and Bernie is no exception. Hayden comments, “He knows my thoughts … when I’m upset or don’t want to be bothered, he sits on my bed and I can see by how he acts, he knows. We get each other. See?” She points to him making eye contact with her.
“He wants to talk. And he really listens to me when I play my music. When I sing. Bernie is so smart he’s keenly aware of things. If we get upset with him, he immediately knows and hides under the couch.” Bernie was even uncomfortable while we were just talking about it and scooted under the sofa!
There’s a doggy door to the backyard where Bernie loves to use the section of faux grass that’s just for him! Ed comments, “It’s made of recycled plastic and tire crumb.” The ecological pros of having this in a yard for a pet? “I don’t want to have a real lawn in L.A., where water comes at such great environmental cost. In that sense, it is a green choice.”
“The urine drains and is washed and filtered through. It always looks nice,” Rachelle chimes in. “Real grass is too difficult to keep up with dogs using it, especially with female dogs, the urine can be more acidic.”
Oh, what about the picket fence? Ed says it’s made from recycled milk jugs! “Thousands of them! It lasts forever and it promotes recycling.”
Surrounded by an entire family of actors, I ask how Bernie is to work with on their TV shows? Ed beams. “He loves people, so he by extension he loves camera-people, sound-people. … He’s fun on the set.” Hayden laughs, “We’d be in the middle of a take and all of a sudden a fly would go by and he’d start growling. He thinks he can catch a fly by jumping three feet into the air. There’s a lot of shots of that!”
As I’m writing down some notes, Bernie bounds over to me offering his favorite toy — a deflated toy squirrel he tore the stuffing out of, but still carries around. Awwww. They all coo over Bernie. What is it about him they love the most?
Ed starts, “The fact that he is so affectionate. He is the most loving creature I’ve ever met.”
“He’s just a lover boy. How unbelievably sweet and loving,” Rachelle says, puckering her lips. Hayden smooches Bernie’s face, “He’s so kind. Even after he’s eaten part of my lip-gloss or pees in the house. Bernie also loves to eat cashews.” Rachelle interjects, “But if you give him a biscuit treat, he’ll hide it behind a pillow.It’s a little delayed gratification. He’ll save the biscuit for later.”
The Begleys support many animal organizations including Mercy For Animals, Farm Sanctuary, and Actors & Others For Animals. It’s clear they are true animal lovers. As Rachelle cuddles Bernie, she says, “I want to put in a plug for not buying purebreds. There are too many dogs out there who need homes … to be rescued.”
Commenting on my remembering many years ago when Ed did a lot of feral cat rescues, he responds, “It took me nearly five years to trap and spay/neuter the feral cats living on my property. But I finally did it! I’ve never had any dogs on my property or in my care that were not already spay/neutered, so that was never an issue.”
Does Bernie know any tricks? “He can sit!” Rachelle laughs. Ed chuckles, “He’s so playful and energetic, I haven’t felt the need to teach him anything. I find myself learning from him.” Well, Bernie might not know many tricks, but he sure knows how to wrap the Begleys around his paw!
About Marina Anderson: Marina is an established actress, professional freelance writer, best-selling author (David Carradine, The Eye Of My Tornado), jewelry designer (The Flying Goddess) and publicist (The Media Hound PR) for clients such as Robby Benson, Ed Begley Jr., and music icon Alan Parsons and Gary U.S. Bonds, to name a few. She is also a personal manager and career and spiritual consultant.
Her film/TV credits include Dexter (opposite Jennifer Carpenter); co-lead in the Emmy-nominated web series Sophie Chase, Law & Order LA, and Desperate Housewives; supporting and guest star roles in Dangerous Curves, Sex & Mrs X (opposite Linda Hamilton), Forever Knight, and Kung Fu: The Legend Continues (opposite David Carradine); the Genie Award-winning film 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould; and many other productions, national commercials, and voiceovers.
Marina’s passion is helping animal rescue organizations. Look for her next book, The Adventures Of Lulu The Collie, which stars her beloved dog, Lulu, daughter to Lassie VIII, and keep up with her work by following her on Facebook.
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