According to some of the finest minds in the field of veterinary science, Cutie is a mix between a Poodle and a Bichon Frise. In this seven-year-old pooch’s mind, though, he’s the world’s first and only lion dog.
Having transformed into Cutie the Lion Dog under the tutelage of his rescue parents, Geela and John Parish, he now spends his time strutting around the neighborhood, meeting fans, posing for snaps, and attending charity functions that support a pro-adoption message. Cutie has also bloomed into the official mascot of the One Spirit, One World Fur-ever Friends campaign, which, according to Cutie’s Facebook page, has the virtuous goal of ending “the horrors of abuse and homelessness suffered by millions of dogs.”
I recently checked in with Geela to get the scoop on Cutie’s origin story, his pro-rescue message, and how he maintains his most magnificent bouffant.
Phillip Mlynar for Dogster: When did Cutie come into your life?
Geela Parish: It was around two years ago. He’s about seven years old. He was a rescue. I found him in a trash bin. I went for a walk, and I heard some crying, and I go, “What is that?” Somebody had abandoned him in a trash can. I know sometimes people get dogs for Christmas and then they realize it’s too much work and then they dump them, which might be how he ended up there.
How did he look that day you found him in the trash?
He didn’t look anything like he did today. Eventually, we just turned him into the Lion Dog! That’s how he become a local celebrity: Everyone used to see him and react, “Oh, that’s a lion!” So now we call him Cutie the Lion Dog.
What was Cutie like when you first took him home?
He was very sweet and he was actually very mellow. He was obviously scared but we gave him a lot of love and we developed a trusting relationship with him. He’s been great since.
Was there any evidence that Cutie had been abused by his prior owner?
No, there were no signs of physical abuse — he was just abandoned. But we still don’t know the circumstances.
So when did he transform into a lion dog?
As he was growing older we decided to experiment with his looks. It was actually my daughter’s idea — she loves lions. She kept asking, “Mom, can we get a lion?” I’d say, “No, I don’t think so.” Then she said, “Well, can we train Cutie into a lion?” I was like, “Are you kidding me? He’s going to look ridiculous!” But she thought it would look cool so we gave it a shot and took her to the groomer and asked for a lion cut! As soon as he stepped outside everyone wanted to take a picture with him. Wherever we went people would stop us on the street and it took on a life of its own.
When did the idea to get Cutie involved in pro-rescue and dog adoption causes come about?
I’ve always been an activist, so I got involved with an animal shelter and we got to use Cutie to help spread their message. I became extremely passionate about the cause, especially when you go to the shelters you see all the dogs and you see all the eyes of the dogs and they’re hoping that you’re there to rescue them but I heard horror stories about some of them. It’s like millions of dogs are being subjected to the horrors of abuse and homelessness and I was really struck by that. I told my husband that I didn’t know what to do because we could donate all the money in the world but it’s not gonna make a difference that much if we can’t raise awareness. So with Cutie we want to be entertaining but in an informative way.
How does Cutie react to the attention people give him?
He loves it! He’s extremely mellow and he loves people and he loves cats! He loves performing — it’s almost as if he was a show-dog or something. He can sneeze on demand — if you ask him to sneeze he will do it three times on command. He can also communicate by licking his chops!
How do you maintain his luxurious hair?
I think he has a unique look because he’s a combination of Bichon and Poodle so his hair is like human hair and he doesn’t shed so it’s easy to groom him in a certain way. And now he thinks he’s a lion!
Has Cutie ever seen a real life lion?
Ha ha, that would be really interesting. I know he likes the cat family and he loves cats but I’ve never thought about big cats! We should experiment and see what happens.
Why is Cutie a good fit for the One Spirit, One World non-profit organization?
He’s the mascot because people can relate to animals so well and because they respond to him so well. So we’re using Cutie to bring attention to the cause and hopefully he’ll inspire people to adopt dogs.
Finally, if Cutie could speak what would his message be?
He wants to make the world a cutie-ful place!
Do you know of a rescue hero — dog, human, or group — we should profile on Dogster? Write us at email@example.com.
Read more about rescue dogs making a difference:
- We Catch Up With Oogy, a Former Bait Dog Who Became the Star of a Bestselling Book
- From Burn Victim to Law Maker, Susie the Dog Is a Hero
- The Positive Pit Bull Works to Change Perceptions About the Breed
About Phillip Mlynar: The self-appointed world’s foremost expert on rappers’ cats. When not penning posts on rap music, he can be found building DIY cat towers for his adopted domestic shorthair, Mimosa, and collecting Le Creuset cookware (in red). He has also invented cat sushi, but it’s not quite what you think it is.