Cybill Shepherd: Movie Star "Moonlights" as an Animal Rescue Advocate

A Canine Connection

For many years, as she was building her career, Cybill lived without pets. But one day, after putting in the long hours required to both star in and produce the Cybill show, a longtime friend suggested she needed the support of a puppy.

“My friend said, ‘Get a puppy. A puppy will always be happy to see you when you come home. You’ll always have someone waiting for you.’”

Cybill’s enthrallment with canines returned in full force when she heard about German Shepherds being trained as protection dogs in a style called Schutzhund — the German word for protection dog. Developed in Germany in the 1900s, Schutzhund was a sport that helped develop and evaluate such characteristics as courage, intelligence, trainability and work ethic. These dogs are often ideal for police, military and rescue work.

Cybill had a friend who was a former LAPD K9 handler who agreed to help Cybill find a German Shepherd trained in Schutzhund — as long as she was willing to travel as far as The Netherlands or Austria to find one. Cybill agreed. And luck was on her side, because soon she got the call that two dogs were coming to Marysville, California, from Austria.

Cybill took her two youngest children — twins Ariel and Zach — to meet the Shepherds. “And so the first dog came out, and I watched my children run with the dog in the meadow, and the dog didn’t look happy,” Cybill says. “But the second dog came out of the crate, and he looked thrilled that the little kids were running. He just lit up.

“And it’s so funny because my daughter Clementine was a teenager at the time, and when we got the dog, she said, ‘Mom, I can’t believe you’ve done something right.’”

The dog, named Kim, went with her to the Cybill show, where he had a yard and a dog house. As her children grew up, they also shared their lives with a cat and a black Pug named Petunia.

“We ended up developing a language that we still talk called Pug Latin. We have funny little words,” she says.

The cat — the king of all cats, as Cybill describes him — was a great orange tabby who came into their lives after a birthday promise. “I did something really foolish as a parent. For one of the twins’ birthdays, I had people bring animals to play with, all kinds of animals. And of course Ariel said she wanted that cat. And I said, ‘Well, you have to take care of him.’ She said, ‘I will.’ And she did for 2 weeks,” Cybill says.

The cat was named Rufus Pickles Thomas Jefferson, or Roofy, and he performed tricks, including sitting up, rolling over, and lying down like a dog. In his senior years, Roofy went blind. And he would navigate favorite areas, like the kitchen, by feeling along the kitchen stools with his body. He lived nearly 20 years, and today the family has the Roofy memorial fountain in their home to honor their kitty.

Puppy Love

For the past year, Cybill has shared her life with two rescue pups she adopted from Lucky Puppy Retail and Rescue, a not-for-profit retail store dedicated to the shelter animals of Los Angeles. When she went to Lucky Puppy to meet her next potential pooch, she went into a visiting room “and Dolce stood up and licked my hand,” Cybill says. “So she chose me, and then I chose her.”

Cybill couldn’t leave without taking home Dolce’s canine friend she shared a bed with, a precious pup named Jinx.

“I had to learn about them, because they have different personalities, and they’ve had different experiences. Dolce always goes right for her food when I put it down for her, and Jinx always walks very gingerly toward his bowl, as if he’s afraid somebody’s going to attack him.” For pet owners who love specific breeds, Cybill recommends looking to rescue groups first. “Any kind of purebred you want, there will be a rescue available. That’s the truth. So if you want a certain purebred, why don’t you check out the rescues first?”

Join the Conversation

Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!