Los Angeles pet lovers.
By Lori Golden
Next to Dick’s large office is a tiny one occupied by his wife Kari, who assists him in everything he does. It is here where the dogs usually hang out, amidst the commotion of the busy phones and constant stream of people. “I don’t think anybody even notices them,” says Kari. “Everybody sort of steps over them. They’re like part of the furniture.”
At first glance the dogs may go unnoticed, despite the telltale signs of chew toys, tennis balls, and doggie bones lying on the floor. And the shelves in the supply closet behind Kari’s desk are stocked with Snausages, Jerky Treats, Milk Bones, and other doggie delights. A closer look at the chairs in front of the window, however, reveals two large dogs resting comfortably. And under the desk, at Kari’s feet, is usually another one of her faithful companions.
One might think a busy executive who brings his dogs to work every day must have grown up with animals, but the only pets Dick had as a child in Mt. Vernon, New York were a hamster and a chameleon. He didn’t get his first dog until he graduated from college and got married, and the most dogs he’s had at any one time was five.
The names of the Clark dogs read like a Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits. Molly (Good Golly Miss Molly) was a companion for their beloved Mort. Maybelline came from a litter of Molly’s pups. Eleanor was a stray named for Eleanor Rigby.
Lucille, a Dalmatian, was a gift from Gloria and Emilio Estefan. “The Estefans, being Cuban,” Dick explained, “liked Ricky Ricardo and I Love Lucy, so they named their dogs Lucy and Ricky. We named our dog Lucille in honor of Lucille Ball, but it also happens to be another rock ‘n roll song.” Dick recalls picking Lucille up from the Estefan’s home in Florida: “Emilio drove us to the airport in a Rolls Royce. She had her mother’s blanket with her to keep her pacified. (She still has it, nine years later, in her “bed.”) We rode on a wide body jet in first class. We were picked up by a limousine. And she moved to Malibu. Now how bad off can a dog be?”
Bernardo, part Dachshund, is one of the only dogs they’ve had that’s NOT named for a song. He got his name because “we found him as a street dog in San Bernardino. We picked him up from the pound after we turned him in,” explains Dick. As a youngster Dick’s Uncle gave him a ceramic Dachshund, and he’s loved Dachshunds ever since. He’s had at least three of them during the years, and that’s one of the reasons he wanted to keep Bernardo.
“Most of our dogs were brought up here in the office so they have office manners,” Dick explains when talking about bringing the dogs to work. “We now have a new guy, a Weimaraner, who’s just a year old but quite tall. His name is Henry the 8th. He’s our 8th dog and it’s another rock and roll song.”
Surprised to hear there was an official Take Your Dog To Work Day, (June 22nd) Dick isn’t sure it’s something that would work for all companies. “We have the dogs with us every day, but I don’t know if that would work for everybody because we have a little building, we are the landlords, and we run our own business so we’re allowed to bring our dogs. I don’t know how practical it is for other businesses, but it certainly works for us in a small business atmosphere.”
Many of his employees agree. Marissa, an assistant office manager with the company for 8 months says, “I moved here from NY and I had to leave my dog behind. I miss my dog. It’s comforting to have the dogs around.”
The dogs have the run of the building, so it’s not unusual to find them wandering around the other floors. “Bernardo doesn’t like the stairs because he’s short and the 3 flights aren’t easy for him,” says Dick, “so he rides the elevator. Everybody knows who he is so they just punch the button and he goes on and off.”
Brian Pope, with the company for 3 years, occasionally brings his golden retriever, Brando, to work. He gets along fine with Dick’s dogs. “There was the initial getting to know each other stage but now they’ve been around each other long enough,” he explains. “The dogs come up here on their own. They don’t need a special invite. Any number of dogs could be up here. Bernardo is the biggest traveler followed by Henry. Bernardo may take the stairs, but I usually see him entering or exiting the elevator.”
As for funny incidences with the dogs at work, Dick recalls that “when Henry was first here, before he went off to the trainer to get a little more well-mannered, he would consume people’s lunches. He’s tall enough so he can put his chin on your desk. Or sometimes, if someone left half a sandwich lying out, he’d come back with it in his mouth to my wife’s office and we’d have to buy lunches and make apologies. Now he’s very good. He doesn’t do that.”
Or does he? Sue Heisler, a dog rescuer and Accounts Payable Supervisor on the second floor remembers the “birthday cake incident.” For birthday parties she usually makes 6 cakes at a time so everyone at the company can have some. “I always arrange them on my couch, 6 cakes, sometimes 7 or 8. We always watch the dogs because we have to be careful. We don’t want them to get sick. And we don’t want to give the dogs sweets, especially chocolate.”
During one birthday celebration Sue was out of her office for about 15 minutes, but her door was open, and there were still 1 ½ cakes on her couch. “When I came back to my office the two cake pans were completely clean, like somebody washed them in the dishwasher. Henry, who had been roaming the floor, had eaten them all. Thank god they were white cakes. Frosting, you name it. He ate everything.”
Dick feels the dogs have a very good affect on his 80-plus employees. “There are a few people that don’t like dogs, so they don’t pay any attention to them. But for the most part people pet them, feed them, bring them presents, and talk to them. It has a nice effect on a place that tends to have a lot of tension.”
High-level meetings usually take place in the conference room with a door that doesn’t have a latch. It happens all the time that Dick is meeting with someone who is unaware of the dogs until one or two of them tries to join the meeting. “They’ll wander into a room full of 20 or 30 people going over a budget or heavy into a legal conversation. It’s a nice little change of pace. The interesting part is that in a business atmosphere, especially if you’re in negotiations, things can get stressful. When the dogs enter, it breaks the ice. I’ll say sorry, we’re in a meeting, and they’ll turn around and leave. But everybody sort of laughs and it loosens up the meeting.”
As far as warning the employees about feeding the dogs Dick says, “Lucille, who recently turned 9, is on a diet because her mother was a little chunky. A couple of people have a tendency to have bags full of goodies at their desks, but we’ve asked them to give the dogs carrots or don’t give them anything. They like those just as well. We’re trying to get Lucille on a diet, but it’s a little hard.”
Mark Carter, from the Restaurant Division of the company must have missed the carrot memo. Although he has no pets of his own, he confided that he usually keeps doggie biscuits in his desk. He thinks it’s great having the dogs around, although they don’t visit his part of the building too often.
If you think going to the office keeps the Clark dogs from getting exercise, think again. “They run on the beach twice a day,” Dick explains. “Kari does the Monday through Friday walk at 6:30 in the morning, and we both go out on the weekends. Kari is now, by the way, the official dog walker of the beach. 14-20 of the neighbors’ dogs join her every morning between 6:30 and 7:30. They sit around patiently and she gives them all little treats. Then they walk up and down the beach and then walk her back to her door where she gives them their last treat. And that’s it.”
Proud that the dogs are non-threatening and very clean, Dick describes their unique bathing ritual: “It’s a two-man operation. When we built our house, we built a shower big enough to accommodate dogs. I’m the dryer; Kari’s the bather. I’m usually at my computer when I hear, ‘all right, we’re getting ready.’ Kari gets in there with all three of them at one time and washes and rinses them, even using conditioner. Then she sends them out one at a time, and I dry them and turn them out on the porch to be in the sun.”
As a busy executive, Dick does a lot of traveling, usually once a month, but his stays are limited to the length of time Kari can stand to be away from the dogs. “Five or six days and that’s about her limit. Then she wants to get back.” And Kari adds that because they’re gone a lot, “when we’re here we give them 100% of our time.” This includes birthday parties where the birthday dog gets as many homemade meatballs as she is old, on a paper plate with a candle in each one. Party hats are sometimes worn and photos are always taken, which include Lucille’s recent 9thbirthday celebration.
Dick Clark celebrating his dog’s birthdays? “He knows it’s part of the routine,” Kari laughs. “He’s in charge of taking the photos, but he does draw the line when I try to get him to wear a party hat and sing to the dogs.”
The dogs don’t sleep with Dick and Kari overnight because Dick needs to get a good night’s sleep. Instead they sleep outside in a specially built heated doghouse. And on cold nights Bernardo sleeps in a child’s nightshirt while the big ones sleep in sweatshirts with cut-off sleeves that were formerly worn by Dick and Kari.
The dogs definitely add another dimension to this cultural icon, who will always be thought of as “America’s oldest teenager.” Despite not looking close to his actual 71 years, Dick Clark is always aware of the role the dogs play in his life. “I have to be very careful that Henry doesn’t clip me from behind. I’m not as agile as I used to be. I don’t want him to knock me down. He’s a little on the clumsy side and has virtually no respect for anything in the world other than his desire to get from here to there. So if you’re in his way, you’d better watch out, especially when he’s running on the beach. He’ll brush up against the side of you. It’s like clipping in football. You get penalized for that. But by the time you penalize Henry, he’s half a mile away. So I’m a little careful about that. On the positive side they’re just nice to have around. The kids are gone. The dogs are here. The children are grown and we’ve got grandchildren, but the dogs are still filling the house.”
“One of the things that I’ve learned from animals, and everybody who’s been in their company, is that they just return your love and they don’t ask for a lot. And that’s probably something we can learn as human beings. Be very open and be as loving as possible, and it comes back. And in as civilized an area as we live in, we should be very, very cognizant of the fact that overpopulation of dogs and cats is not a great idea. I don’t want to sound like Bob Barker, but he’s right. Take the steps to have your animals taken care of.”
Dick Clark says what he is most proud of in his 50-year career is “being able to continue to do what I started out to do.” That includes producing The American Music Awards, The Golden Globes, The Daytime Emmy Awards, The Academy of Country Music Awards, Your Big Break, and Beyond Belief. And beginning in September he will be co-hosting The Other Half, a male version of The View for syndication. As the rock ‘n roll song says, “Let the good times roll.”
First published in August of 1999, The Pet Press has become THE only local resource for
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