LOS ANGELES –
You have to hand it to Ellen. She almost had us dog lovers crying with her last week about those meanies at the adoption agency who swooped in and took back her much-loved mutt just because she’d given him away to her hairdresser.
The lady at my local dog shelter wasn’t buying it for a minute. She’s done this before, she confided in me, as we chatted over new licenses for Judy Estrich and Molly Estrich. Ellen had another dog, the true dog-loving lady behind the counter told me, who she brought to the set every day, and treated like a long-lost child, until one day the dog stopped coming. Turns out that dog didn’t "fit in" either, whatever that means, and she gave it to one of her staff, like last year’s ball gown.
It’s OK to cry, Ellen has been telling her audiences, recounting the sad tale of the folks at Mutts and Moms who actually thought that contracts mean what they say, that when you agree to keep a dog for at least a year (only a year), you’re required to do just that, and not pawn him off on one of your staff members or your hairdresser.
I feel badly for Iggy, the dog. And I feel badly for the hairdresser and her family, who probably had no idea that the "gift" from Ellen was the equivalent of receiving stolen goods, a gift that wasn’t hers to give away.
But the last person to feel badly for is the spoiled celebrity who thinks animals are just another toy for stars to play with and pass along when they tire of them. Would they treat a child that way? The fact is, some of them do.
My children have grown up in the world of spoiled celebrities. The head of their elementary school used to say, only half in jest, that if we lived in Detroit, we’d have car kids; we live in Los Angeles, so we have Hollywood kids.
At first, I used to worry that my own children would be jealous of these kids who had all the fancy toys, traveled by private plane, went between mansions in the hills and beach houses in Malibu, got picked up by chauffeurs, fed filets for dinner every night, asssured that no matter how well or poorly they did, they’d be rich when they grew up.
At least that’s how their lives looked to us, at first. It didn’t take long for us to know better.
Rich kids turn out to be the ones most likely to be dumped by fickle parents, when the divorce is settled, or when they don’t kiss up to dad or mom’s newest boy or girl toy. Loyalty doesn’t mean much when you’re talking about people with a sense of entitlement the size of Dodger stadium.
Poor little rich kids, with few exceptions, often are just that, pawned off on a revolving circle of nannies and tutors and paid drivers, who never last very long either, doing the work that is the responsibility of any parent, rich or poor. Too many of them end up like Ellen’s dogs, but there is no agency to swoop in and protect passed-off kids the way there is to protect passed-off mutts.
And the saddest part is that the kids, instead of turning on their parents, which is what you might expect, just become more and more desperate for whatever crumbs of affection they’re willing to toss their way.
I cried last week, but I cried for Bear, my friends’ much loved Golden, one of the best dogs in the world, a fiercely loyal and affectionate boy of only six, who suffered a stroke for reasons no one can understand, and couldn’t be saved despite the desperate efforts of loving owners and talented and devoted doctors.
Pam was in Washington when Bear was felled, and she flew home immediately to Oklahoma City to be with him. I used to sleep with Bear when I visited my friends, and I shudder to think about how empty the house will be without him.
Maybe it was because of Ellen, or maybe because of Bear, or maybe it's just watching all those houses in flames and people and animals who are now homeless, but Judy and Molly now have a new brother. His name is Irving Estrich, in memory of my father, gone 30 years now.
The last thing I need, as more than one person has pointed out to me, is a third dog in my life, with my daughter headed for college next year, and my son only three years away from graduating high school, and too many jobs and too much work for the average bear.
But so what? We have plenty of love to go around, and a nice back yard to boot, and believe me, Irving isn’t going anywhere. Dogs are for keeps, or at least they should be. If you can’t get your head around that, you don’t deserve the love they give so unconditionally.
Bear is the fourth dog we’ve lost over the years, my friend Pam wrote to me, enclosing a picture of that golden man at his finest, out hiking with her husband David, high in the mountains. It doesn’t get easier, she wrote about losing a dog. Not unless you’re Ellen, that is. She’s turned it into a TV special. Shame on her.
Susan Estrich is the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California. She was Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and the first woman President of the Harvard Law Review. She is a columnist for Creators Syndicate and has written for USA Today and the Los Angeles Times.
Estrich's books include the just published “Soulless,” “The Case for Hillary Clinton,” “How to Get Into Law School,” “Sex & Power,” “Real Rape,” “Getting Away with Murder: How Politics Is Destroying the Criminal Justice System” and "Making the Case for Yourself: A Diet Book for Smart Women.”
She served as campaign manager for Michael Dukakis' presidential bid, becoming the first woman to head a U.S. presidential campaign. Estrich appears regularly on the FOX News Channel, in addition to writing the “Blue Streak” column for FOXNews.com.