I’m not sure if Vanessa Marcil (Las Vegas, General Hospital) has ever even been to the track, but she definitely hit the trifecta in life — she is talented, beautiful, and above all extremely nice — not to mention the fact that she is a huge dog lover. I had a chat with her about growing up with animals and her rescue dogs.
When did your love affair with dogs begin?
It started when I was a kid, as we had a lot of pets. We had a garden and my parents would make our clothes — which wasn’t necessarily the coolest childhood, although it does seem to be a lot cooler these days.
We would also take in all kinds of stray animals. I was taught early on that you were supposed to treat other people and animals good. So I guess I took those lessons as a kid and just kept taking pets in.
I think I am even highly allergic to dogs, as I am always tearing up and constantly washing my hands, but my son is also so in love with animals that not having them isn’t an option! We have rescue cats and a dog. My allergies might never make me cool, but it’s all worth it for my son.
I heard that you recently lost your longtime dog. How are you coping?
We had Benigni for 18 years. He was named after the director Roberto Benigni. He was a rescue and had lost one of his eyes 11 years ago when he was attacked by a coyote.
My father and I hadn’t spoken in 10 years, and Benigni got attacked by another coyote, which rallied my whole family together as we sat in the hospital waiting for Benigni to get better. That was a year ago, and Benigni recovered from the attack to live a wonderful final year.
My son, Kassius, who is now 12, was out of town when Benigni took a turn for the worse. I said to Benigni. “It’s okay to go, I know you are in a lot of pain,” but amazingly Benigni hung on for another two days until Kassius could get back to say his goodbyes.
Do you have any advice for someone who loses a dog?
I’m by no means any kind of expert, but what worked for us is we got another rescue. Some people might think it’s to soon, but it doesn’t mean you loved your previous dog any less.
We got Cowboy when he was four weeks old. It’s funny as he does a lot of little things that remind me of Benigni. The way I look at it, we rescued a little guy who needs our help.
Why did you decide to name your new dog Cowboy?
I’m a fan of cowboys and farms. My father is a total cowboy — it’s a family thing. Everything has really come full circle for me as I have gotten really close with my father again. My father just came and built a gate for us, as we were having a problem with Cowboy getting out into the neighbors’ yard.
How is Cowboy with Kassius?
My son is luckily more of a badass than me. He’s really good with Cowboy, as he is very kind and more direct with him.
My son also has a rescue cat, and right now everything for him is cats. If he has to do a book report, it is about cats; he draws them and is always thinking and talking about them. He thinks he was either an animal in his past life or wants to be one in his next life.
Have you ever shared the stage or screen with a dog?
My character Sam Marquez on Las Vegas had a Pit Bull, but they didn’t make a big thing of it. They only showed him on a few episodes. Sam was a badass so I guess they thought having a Pit Bull fit her. I loved playing that character.
I’ve actually worked with a lot of dogs and they’re like kids — they are so pure. And it’s funny, because like kids, dogs only want to be on set if there’s a treat involved.
Why are dogs better than people?
They have less ego. Many people are so out of control with their egos. It’s exhausting!
What’s the best part about having dogs in your life?
I think I am happiest when I am of service to them. Pets just force you to be that way — you have to feed them and be there for them. It’s easier to like yourself when you are with them. I hope that what people get from this interview that it’s wonderful to rescue pets, even if you can’t be with them 24/7.
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About the author: Brian Fischler is a standup comedian and writer. He has been seen on The Today Show, published in Maxim Magazine as the Comedian of the Month, and on Top Gear USA on The History Channel. Along with writing for Dogster, Brian also writes for Cesar Milan’s website and magazine. Brian also runs Laugh For Sight, a bicoastal comedy benefit featuring the biggest names in comedy that come together to raise money and awareness for retinal degenerative eye disease research. You can connect with Brian on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @Blindgator.