Los Angeles pet lovers.
By Lori Golden
Even the least show-biz savvy person probably knows that Tori’s dad is Aaron Spelling, the producer of such hit TV shows as Dynasty, Love Boat, Charlie’s Angels, Melrose Place and Beverly Hills, 90210. In fact, the prolific producer had so many shows on ABC in the ‘70s, people joked that ABC stood for “Aaron's Broadcasting Company”. While it’s true that Tori’s first acting jobs were bit parts on some of dad’s TV shows, her real breakthrough came when she won the role of Donna Martin on Beverly Hills, 90210.It matters not if dad had a hand in her being cast in his show; what’s important is she worked hard and was with the hit show through it’s final episode, ten years later.
When I asked Tori what she thought was the biggest misconception people have about her, she replied, “oh, god. How many hours do you have? Where do you want me to start? Someone would have to have never seen an article, never seen TV, and just think, ‘oh, Tori Spelling. She must be some stuck up rich girl because of who her father is.’ I guess that is the ultimate misconception. That if you come from money, you can’t be nice. I don’t know where that started, that money makes you nice or not nice.”
“The way children end up is completely based on their parents,” she continues. “It’s the upbringing and it’s the love. It doesn’t matter if you have two cents or if you have millions of dollars. If you give them love and you teach them to respect others and to appreciate things then that’s how they turn out. Why should I be any different just because I was brought up with money? My parents totally grounded us, and taught us morals. My brother is the same way. People meet both of us and say, ‘oh, my god. You guys are great. You’re so humble. You’re so nice.’ Well, why shouldn’t we be?”
Another huge misconception is that Tori grew up in the infamous 123-room mansion that supposedly is the largest single-family home in the state of California. “We didn’t move in there until I was 18, and I moved out when I was 19, so I only lived there one year, which people are surprised to know. I have never actually really spent that much time there. Isn’t that funny?
“We lived in a very normal house. It was big, but it wasn’t a mansion. And we always had lots of animals. I grew up with the little dogs - poodles and bichons. My first dog was Angel, a white poodle. She was my best friend growing up. She lived a long life. I got her when I was four, and she lived to about twelve.”
Since it had already been established that there were always dogs in Tori’s family, I was dying to know what life is like for the Spelling pets in the mansion. (I figured in a hoity-toity home like that, the dogs probably had some fancy doggie mansion outside to which they were usually relegated, and that they had limited access when allowed indoors. Talk about misconceptions!)
“My parents’ dogs are treated very well,” Tori explained. “People have been known to say that when they come back in another life they’d love to come back as a Spelling dog. My family loves dogs. They get free reign of the house. They have a great lawn, and they sleep on the beds. They live in the lap of luxury. It’s very nice for them. They’re allowed in all the rooms. And they pee, just like every other dog, on carpets.”
Whereas cats were never part of the Spelling home because of severe allergies suffered by Tori and her mom, “we did have fish, turtles, and rabbits. They came and went. We tried out all those kinds of animals. But nothing was really permanent like the dogs.”
“We did have a parakeet named Rosie, who died just this year. She had a heart attack from one of the dogs barking at her. She was around 14. When I moved out I didn’t take her with me. She was in love with my father. She’d whistle every time he walked by until he would come over. Then she’d reach out and kiss him through the cage.”
Living in her own place, Tori continues to have animals. Her first medium-sized dog was a homeless mutt she rescued when she was doing a movie. “She had been wandering the streets for about 6 months and she wouldn’t come to anyone. So I rescued her and named her Gracie, after Gracie Allen. She passed away about 2 ½ years ago.”
Tori also rescued a one-eyed cat and a bunny that she found in a Reseda junkyard during the filming of 90210. “I ended up keeping the cat and I gave the bunny to Jennie Garth. She took the bunny to her ranch, but it was really sick, and unfortunately died. The cat’s name is Maggie and she’s still with me, and I can’t touch her to this day. The vet explained that she was a feral cat, not to worry, that she’d get used to me. Well, it’s been like five years and she’s never gotten used to me. She had to have a lot of medicine and I fed her and had to clean out her eye for a long time. She let me touch her then. But as soon as she was well and she could come out to the rest of the apartment, she wouldn’t let me get near her. Literally, when she sees me, she freezes and runs, like I’m going to kill her. I keep telling her, ‘Maggie. You’re my family.’ I feel bad because she watches me pet my two other cats, but she stays her distance.”
“After Gracie I got two cats. Unfortunately they were cats I bought. (At the pet store in The Beverly Center. Where else?). This was before I was involved in rescue. This guy I was dating had a cat I really liked. It was the first cat I really spent time with. We had just broken up and I was kind of sad, so I went with my roommate, who was buying a dog for his girlfriend. That’s when I saw the two cats. I wasn’t gonna get two cats. But here’s the animal lover I am. There’s this gorgeous cat. He’s just perfect. And he’s sitting in the front of the cage, knowing he’s gorgeous. Behind him I see this other female cat, who was almost full grown. She was six months old. They couldn’t sell her. She’d been marked down four times. She was just sitting in the back with no self-confidence, thinking, ‘nobody wants me.’ I just couldn’t leave her there, so I ended up taking both of them home. Madison, the gorgeous male, sleeps with me. Laurel is the discounted female. Both cats are now about seven years old.”
“Then there’s Mimi Larue, my pug. My boyfriend at the time wanted a pug, so we did a lot of research. He was getting a boy. And there was this little tiny runt of the litter, a girl pug. I held her and that was it. This was, again, at the pet store in The Beverly Center. I would NEVER buy one at a pet store now, but I didn’t know. I wasn’t aware. Anyway, the doctor told me Mimi was retarded when she was 8 weeks old. The truth is, she’s really smart. She also understands Spanish. They did tell me that retardation in animals is completely different than humans. All it means is they’re really sensitive and really sweet, and most of the time are just lap dogs. They just like to cuddle. And that’s completely her. She’s actually very bright. But poor Mimi has had nothing but problems. She had hip problems since she was six months old. And she was born without a bone in her neck. We thought she was going to have to have major life- threatening surgery about nine months ago. We got three different opinions, all agreeing that she had to have this rare spine fusion surgery, and that we’d have to find a specialist to do it. Fortunately, I found out about Limehouse Veterinary Clinic in the Valley, a holistic vet who does acupuncture. Mimi’s been going there for nine months now and she’s almost completely cured. She runs around and plays again and is so happy. And she just had her fifth birthday.”
Like so many other animal lovers who have fattened up the coffers of pet shops in upscale malls with purchases of expensive puppies and kittens, Tori Spelling never realized the ramifications these shopping sprees had on the local animal population. For her, enlightenment came in the guise of her new television agent, Ruthanne Secunda.
“I happened to mention that I love animals, so Ruthanne started telling me about Much Love, an animal rescue foundation she helps run. I got involved with them and ended up really loving what they did, and I’ve been involved ever since.”
Another visit to Ruthanne’s office for a meeting resulted in the addition of Leah, a new canine companion for Tori’s family. Leah was a new rescue who was with Ruthanne at the office while she tried to place her in a foster home. In walked Tori who took one look at the wire-haired terrier mix and immediately volunteered to foster her for the weekend. “But there was no fostering,” Tori admitted. “She was mine. She never left.”
Because Much Love has no shelter of its own, animals that they rescue either stay at one of the boarding facilities they work with, which can be costly, or they go home with a volunteer. One of their most innovative solutions is their foster program, which introduces their rescued animals into a family environment while giving them the love they so desperately need. This program is also a great way for potential adoptive parents to try one of their animals, to see if it’s a good match for their family.
Tori wasn’t sure how Mimi or the cats would react to Leah, and vice verse. “Mimi was very excited to see Leah, and Leah was this perfect little angel for about two days. Long enough for me to say I wanted to adopt her and not just foster her.”
Tori decided to go out for a couple of hours, and had a big surprise waiting for her when she returned. “Leah had literally taken the toilet paper from each bathroom and pulled it throughout the apartment. Then I have a little bench in front of my bed with all of my stuffed animals since childhood… she had destroyed like five stuffed animals and had the stuffing all over the apartment. She ripped up every magazine and newspaper I had. And she had peed like four times in one hour. But the funniest part was when I opened the door, she was sitting by the door wagging her tail. And I see Mimi in the background shaking, as if to say, ‘I didn’t do it. I didn’t do it.’ And she has this look like, ‘oh, my god. You’re totally going to think it was me.’”
Only someone with a great sense of humor would be willing to share a story like that one. Tori Spelling loves comedy and is really looking forward to participating in the 2ndAnnual Much Love Animal Rescue Celebrity Comedy Benefit on Tuesday, July 29th, 6:30pm, at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood. Performers scheduled to appear include Kevin Nealon, Andy Richter, Kathy Griffin, Bob Saget, Hal Sparks and Jonathan Silverman. In addition to hors d’oeuvres, desserts and cocktails, an awesome silent auction will be held prior to the evening’s entertainment to raise money for the animals. Tickets are tax-deductible and cost $150 for VIP seating and $75 for general admission. For more information, to donate items for the silent auction and to purchase tickets, call Nikki Ferraro at (310) 234-5409.
Tori, who loves doing crafts and making jewelry and gifts with rhinestones, is making a bunch of things for the Silent Auction at the event. “I’m making a lot of rhinestone stuff, including a special purse, a little cosmetic bag, and a decorative pair of Dr. Scholl’s.”
Much Love is the primary organization that Tori works with and supports. “I’m very involved with them and try to do as much as I can to build awareness of the work they do. How can you not love people who love animals so much that they make them a top priority in their lives? These are some hard-working women. And all of them are completely devoted to helping animals. Their goal is to raise enough money to have a little sanctuary of their own where they can house foster animals. Then they could rescue more animals because they would have more room. When the public sees how dedicated these people are and what they do for these animals, hopefully the word about Much Love Animal Rescue will spread.”
(Look for Tori Spelling in the Independent film, 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover, that she hopes will be shown at festivals such as Sundance.)
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