Los Angeles pet lovers.
By Lori Golden
Prior to her current role, Lake portrayed Victoria, the no-nonsense best friend of Alicia Silverstone’s Kate, on last season’s Miss Match. While that show dealt with an attorney who dabbled at being a matchmaker, Lake Bell was finding her own perfect match… a Blue-Nosed Pit Bull named Margaret.
Dogs were always a part of Lake’s life growing up… specifically, Dachshunds. “They were my mother’s Dachshunds. There were Thumper and Schnitzel, my mom’s main dogs, who still exist. And we also had Tip and Ginger. They were always miniature Dachshunds. My mom works with Dachshund rescue, so the whole rescue mentality was instilled in me at an early age.”
It wasn’t until two years ago, however, that Lake decided the time was right to get her own canine companion. Enter Ruthanne Secunda, one of Lake’s agents who is also one of the heads of Much Love Animal Rescue. “She’s the one who got me involved and suggested I should consider fostering one of their rescued dogs.”
“The first thing Ruthanne said,” Lake continues, “was that I should check out their website, www.muchlove.org. That’s where I saw Margaret’s picture, and I knew, just by looking at her on the internet, that she was the one for me. That was about two years ago. I think she’s about 4 years old now, but of course, I don’t know. I ask her all the time but she doesn’t respond.”
“Margaret is actually a Blue-Nosed Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Supposedly when she was found, she looked as if she had just had puppies. The doctors thought that she had been overbred, because her color is sort of rare. She was probably in some kind of weird breeding situation and overused, and then either escaped or was tossed away. She looks like a Pit Bull, but she’s smaller. The breed is essentially a little more compact and physically smaller than the Pit Bull, which has a bigger head and bigger, broader shoulders.”
Prior to getting Margaret, Lake was pretty much oblivious to all the hoopla about Pit Bulls. “My getting Margaret was based on pure connection. I had no idea that Pit Bulls were notorious or that there was any bad press about them. It’s weird. I just thought she kind of looked like the dog that was in The Little Rascals. I didn’t think of her as looking mean. She looked beautiful, and so kind and sweet, and she was a little timid when I first got her. She was just special.”
“It was amazing,” continues Lake, “that when I started walking Margaret around the neighborhood people would walk across the street or not want their dogs to be near her. I was so confused about that. I had just come from New York and I just didn’t know. Now I’m much more aware of things. I absolutely understand that there are certain dogs in general that have been trained to do awful things. It’s horrible. If a Jack Russell bites you, it hurts, and it’s horrible, but it’s not as effective as if a Pit Bull bites you. They are more efficient fighting machines. But only if they’re trained to do so. I feel that innately Pit Bulls don’t come out wanting to be mean.”
Whereas many trainers will tell people to never take their Pit Bulls to an off-leash dog park, Lake takes Margaret to one all the time. “She’s unbelievably friendly and so social it’s kind of amazing. I am cautious to a certain point. But I want her to play and to have a good time, and if there’s another dog that’s acting a little bit crazy we just go to another area.”
A few days before we spoke an unfortunate situation had occurred with Margaret. “She was walking with my friend at her house while I was at a benefit. But Margaret got spooked by another dog, backed out of her collar and ran away, out into the darkness of the Valley. I basically went into shock and had a complete nervous breakdown because she’s like my daughter. We found her two days later by putting up a thousand signs, getting it mentioned on the radio, checking all the shelters, and through the kindness of the people around that area who were into it enough to help us get her back. It happens to be a very dog-friendly and hike-friendly neighborhood. I also offered a $5,000.00 reward for her, but no one ever seemed interested in the reward, which was kind of amazing.”
“In the end, Margaret was at the bottom of a canyon where people like to hike. She had sort of given up and was just sitting there, crying. Someone found her and called me. I’m just happy it’s over.”
Based on advice that Ruthanne gave her as to what kind of poster would be most effective to get people involved, Lake offers these tips to anyone who has lost their beloved pet:
Make a color poster, (it’s a little more money but it IS worth it)
Use 2 color pictures
Include a healthy reward
Give 2 phone numbers for people to contact
List where she was last seen
Add a personal plea
“We had quite a few phone calls from people with suggestions,” Lake says, “but only one that had an actual sighting.”
So what is Lake doing to avoid a repeat escape in the future?
“Margaret is getting a new, safer collar. And I’m making sure that her microchip is updated and registered to me, because that’s really important if she turns up in a shelter. I was completely beside myself when Margaret was lost and have not been that hysterical ever in my life! I learned that it’s important not to give up, because I never felt so out of control and unable to do anything. But at the end of the day putting up posters is not a lost cause. It completely and utterly helps. You just have to be extremely proactive about it. Tell people in the streets and have them tell their friends.”
“I realized when I lost Margaret that we’re sort of two peas in a pod. It’s like my soul is attached to her. She changed my life. I call her my ‘dogter.’ She really is my best friend.”
Margaret is a part of almost everything Lake does, which includes accompanying her to work at the Manhattan Beach studio whereBoston Legal films. “I’m with her pretty much every day and I bring her to the set every day. We don’t ever really do anything separately, except when I travel, and then she stays with someone that I trust. I have a dressing room, but it’s really her dressing room. It’s completely catered to her. She has a bed there, toys everywhere and they don’t mind at the studio at all. Margaret just needs to be on a leash when she’s around the studio. And Rhona Mitra, (Lake’s co-star) has two beautiful dogs, Dudley and Oscar, that often come to work as well, and sometimes they all play together in the hallways.”
Whereas Lake loves to give Margaret opportunities to play with other dogs, she has no immediate plans to get her a companion. “I have a one-bedroom apartment and I feel that right now, the great thing about having only one dog is that I can bring her to the set every day. I would only get another dog if I felt that I had a big enough space, like when I get my house or something like that. But right now it’s just us two ladies.”
“You sometimes don’t realize how important animals are in our lives until something that drastic happens where you might lose your animal. Truly Margaret has become like my best friend and also like my daughter. She comes with me everywhere I go and she is someone to literally cry with in the worse times, but she’s there in the happiest times too. She’s privy to more than anyone else is privy to. In a way she’s the closest thing to having a teddy bear that you bring around. I grew up with a Teddy Bear, Sammy, that I slept with. And I used to think, ‘I wish Sammy would come to life.’ Sammy still lives in the house, in his own drawer with the proper fixins’, but I have to keep him there because Margaret might think he’s a toy. But Margaret is basically like that Teddy Bear that came to life. I’m just waiting for the day that she’s going to speak.”
Picking up on that cue, it was only natural for me to ask Lake what she’d most want Margaret to tell her?
“The first thing I’d want to know is how old she is, because a lady never tells her age and she’s been very shy about that. I want to know where she went and what happened to her when she disappeared. But I also want to know where she was born and what she went through. I want to know what the scars are on her nose. I want to know if she really likes the food I’m feeding her, why she doesn’t play with toys more and what kind of toys she really likes.”
“Quite simply I’m just so happy to have her back. I can’t explain it in words. Margaret means an enormous amount to me and I was very serious about getting her back. When I had the $5000 reward out there I was hoping that I would have to pay it, because it would have meant that I found her.”
It’s obvious that Lake Bell and Margaret are a match made in heaven. And it’s also great to see how the love of a special companion can have such a positive affect on one individual, so much so, that she is quite willing to spread the word.
“I’d like to help out as much as possible,” says Lake, “and I’m happy to do articles to make people aware about rescuing. I’m sort of pro-active about being on my set and getting everyone from the extras to the crew guys to check out the Much Love rescue website. It’s also so important to spread the word about spaying and neutering your dogs. It’s your responsibility. There are so many dogs out there that need rescuing and this is the way to try to keep less of them on the street.”
“The bottom line is how amazing it is that you can get a dog, really, essentially for free. I can’t believe people buy dogs. You can rescue a dog and I feel so strongly about that. There are so many good guys and gals in dogs out there that are just waiting to be rescued and loved. It’s just so simple!”
Indeed it is!!
(Lake Bell can be seen every Sunday on Boston Legal, airing at 10:00PM on ABC.)
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