For actor Stockard Channing, variety is the spice of life when it comes to her canine companions. “They’re like Felix and scar in The Odd Couple,” she says affectionately about her two rescued dogs, Bishop and Louie. The dogs may be polar opposites but before they met Stockard, they had one thing in common – they were both homeless.

Bishop, a seven-and-a-half-year-old German shorthaired pointer, Rhodesian ridgeback and border collie mix, came from a pound in Vancouver, B.C. “He was trained to be an actor but he would not take directions,” says Stockard, “so he was dropped off at the pound. He didn’t even know how to play with toys.” She describes him as a sensitive kind of guy – so sensitive in fact that she didn’t change his name because she thought it might upset him.

Louie, on the other hand, was found on the street by a neighbor when he was eleven months old. Stockard decided to take the part mastiff mix in. “He looks like a prize fighter and he’s an escape artist but he’s so sweet and playful.”

Currently starring as first Lady Abby Bartlet in The West Wing the Emmy award-winning actor says she’s ready to get another puppy from a rescue center. “I am soft-hearted for pounds there’s something different about the animals themselves. They’re wonderful to be around and they do great things for children and people.”

Stockard stresses, however, that animals are a commitment and she gets frustrated by the number of animals who end up homeless because of spay-neuter issues and irresponsible guardians. “People need to know what they’re taking on. It is the worst side of a human being to abandon an animal.”

That responsibility carries over to the animal’s care as well. The actor has done P.S.A.s to promote microchipping and is very open to natural health care for her creatures. She credits holistic vet Marty Goldstein for saving her last dog and giving him a few more years. “The natural way worked. I celebrate the approach of these doctors.”  She also wishes there was more education out there about the dangers of some prescription drugs for animals. Her dog, Louie, almost died from kidney failure after chewing through a bottle of Advil and ingesting some tablets.

Through it all, Stockard says that the dogs have brought so much to her life, adopting and caring for them is the least she could do. “We are so separated from natural life but we have to remember that animals and people – we are all living here together. It’s our responsibility to help them.”

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