Archive for Pets

Jun
24

The Many Degrees of DVP

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Which Dick Van Patten would you like to remember and mourn today?

Is it the actor Van Patten, who most famously seeped into our consciousness as Tom Bradford, the patriarch of the TV family on ABC’s “Eight is Enough” from 1977-81?

Is it the tennis player Van Patten, whose sons got some of the old man’s genes and did pretty good on the court as well?

Is it the animal activist Van Patten, who worked tirelessly for our furried and feathered friends, including founding National Guide Dog Month in 2008?

Is it the entrepreneur Van Patten, who co-founded Natural Balance Pet Foods in 1989?

Take your pick—or take them all, if you’d like.

Van Patten passed away on Tuesday at age 86. Some reports blame the cause of death on complications related to diabetes.

There was some juice to the Van Patten name in the entertainment industry. There was Dick, of course, and there was his younger sister Joyce, a fellow actor. There were the Van Patten boys—Vincent, Nels and Jimmy—who were all actors.

It’s so fitting that Dick Van Patten made his most pop culture hay as family man Tom Bradford on “Eight is Enough” because his own family tree is pretty interesting and runs like an artery through show business.

In addition to the aforementioned, check this out.

Van Patten’s sister Joyce married actor Martin Balsam, and the couple had a child—actress Talia Balsam.

Talia Balsam’s first husband was George Clooney. You may have heard of him.

Talia Balsam is now married to “Mad Men” actor John Slattery.

Van Patten’s son Vince is married to soap star and current reality TV personality Eileen Davidson.

Dick’s other son Nels is married to former “Baywatch” regular Nancy Valen.

For some, it may seem like “Eight is Enough” lasted longer than just four seasons, but that’s a testament to the show’s impact. It hit the small screen four years after “The Brady Bunch” filmed its last episode, and American TV viewers were ready for a family show featuring a large brood that was a little more grown up.

With “EiE,” entire episodes weren’t spent on trying to find the family dog or teaching kids lessons about humility. The show was about (mostly) grown-up kids who had more convoluted issues.

Of course, by the end of the hour, all the loose ends were tied up, but not before some laughter, some crying and some reflection.

Real-life tragedy was dealt with, as well.

Actress Diana Hyland was originally cast as Tom Bradford’s wife but she succumbed to cancer four episodes into season two. Her untimely death wasn’t ignored, like the shows from the 1950s and 1960s would have done—replacing the passed away actor with someone else playing the same character.

Instead, the producers of “EiE” dealt with Hyland’s death head on, writing it into the show, and the cast’s mourning on the screen was real.

Betty Buckley was brought in to play Tom’s new love interest (and eventual second wife), Abby, for seasons two through four.

Leading it all was Dick Van Patten, whose character was based on real-life newspaper columnist Tom Braden, who chronicled his large family with an autobiographical book also titled Eight is Enough—a reference to Braden’s (and Bradford’s) eight children.

Dick Van Patten was hardly the leading man type—thin-haired, slightly paunchy and with a round face. He looked more like your neighbor—which was likely why Tom Bradford resonated on the screen. Van Pattenlooked like a guy who had eight kids and who worked for a newspaper.

Van Patten’s Tom Bradford was also unlike other TV dads in the sense that he wasn’t written as a buffoon who somehow got a pretty, smart girl to marry him. The kids didn’t zing witty one-liners at dad’s expense; rather, Tom Bradford was a true patriarch who had his kids’ respect.

Van Patten was acting on stage and screen for some 28 years before he got the “EiE” gig, but he was treated by many viewers as a virtual unknown until 1977. Such is the power of being a lead actor on a successful TV show.

Van Patten was also a favorite of comedian/director Mel Brooks, who cast Dick in a number of films.

Such was Dick Van Patten’s varied interests that he even served as a TV commentator for the World Series of Poker from 1993-95.

Trivia: Van Patten named his son Nels after the character that Dick played in his first TV job, a series called “Mama” (1949-57).

Dick Van Patten didn’t light up the screen. He wasn’t that type of actor. But you were always aware of his presence.

Unlike some of his brethren who felt typecast and button-holed by roles they played on television, Dick Van Patten embraced Tom Bradford.

“I appreciate ‘Eight is Enough’,” he once said. “It made me recognizable.”

But he was influential in so many other ways, and for that so many are grateful.

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Dec
14

Dog Spelled Backwards is…

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Today is the boss’s birthday. I think I’ll get him a new chewy.

The boss is six years old today, weighs 19 pounds, and rules with an iron paw.

He’s our Jack Russell Terrier, Scamp, and I’ve resisted writing about him until today because his head is big enough as it is. But it’s Scamp’s sixth birthday today, so why not toss him a bone—pun intended.

Scamp rules the house because whatever he wants, he gets. This includes walks when he wants a walk, treats when he wants a treat, food when he wants food, play fetch when he wants to play fetch, and even our bed, when he wants that—which is nightly.

He also helps himself to towels off the rack to roll around in, and guards our yard zealously against squirrels and birds. He packs, pound for little pound, more of a wallop than a Great Dane.

But he rules because we let him, and we let him because he’s so damn cute. And somehow, he must know it, for he uses his cuteness against us, like some sort of force field.

Scamp has one brown eye and one blue eye and they both look at you with equal amounts of profundity and love.

I walk him four or five times a day because, well, that’s what he wants. He has the gait of a cartoon dog—on his tip toes with his head moving from left to right. I half expect the scenery around us to repeat every six seconds, like a Hannah-Barbera short.

If humans could move objects per his strength that Scamp can move human beings with his 19 pounds, then you’d see a man shove over a Redwood tree—without nary one swipe of a saw.

I know this to be true because if you were to divide our bed into thirds, vertically, Scamp would end up with his body overlapping a portion of each third. While we, meanwhile, are slowly but surely nudged closer and closer to the edge. He, with his 19 pounds, can move over 300 pounds of human beings out of his way.

Scamp also has seizures, which we’re trying to control. Another way he keeps us on our toes.

Yep, Scamp’s the boss. But if you’re going to have a boss, it may as well be a snuggly, lovable, adorable dog with a heart the size of Texas.

Besides, I know he’ll never fire us. As long as he gets what he wants.

Categories : Enotes, Pets, society
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Aug
12

A Dog-gone/Dog-back Tale

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If you’ve ever wondered what goes through a dog’s mind while it’s being walked—besides, “Where’s the nearest fire hydrant or tree?”—the following story might lend a clue.

If the dog is Jarvis, a six-year-old Jack Russell Terrier in the UK, he obviously was memorizing his path.

Seems Jarvis got lost recently while in a park with his owner. He got distracted by a rabbit and gave chase.

After about an hour of looking for Jarvis to no avail, owner Vivienne Oxley gave up hope.

She had no choice but to go home, Jarvis-less.

But this was no ordinary jaunt to the park. In order to get there from Oxley’s home near Plymouth Sound, one has to board a ferry and traverse the Sound.

The need to hop a boat no doubt made Oxley feel even more despondent and pessimistic about ever seeing little Jarvis again.

But Jarvis, as indicated, pays good attention.

Some time after growing bored with trying to catch rabbits, Jarvis found himself in a quandary.

No owner, no way home.

Time to channel his built-in, canine GPS system.

Jarvis made his way through the park and to the ferry dock. Then he did what was expected of him: he boarded the next ferry; what else?

The park warden, who’d been alerted to the dog’s disappearance, phoned Oxley to let her know that Jarvis had been spotted on the ferry.

Before Oxley could get to the docks to search for him, her phone rang again. This time, it was her husband calling to tell her Jarvis had made it home, with tail a-wagging. The dog had walked another half-mile from the ferry, crossed three main roads, and returned to his house no worse for wear.


Vivienne Oxley and her very direction-conscious Jack Russell Terrier, Jarvis


Stories of domestic animals finding their way home are nothing new, of course. In some reported instances, the distance traveled has been hundreds of miles.

But to have the presence of mind to find the ferry dock and get on a boat, then get off the boat and make your way home?

That’s pretty special.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” Oxley said. “I was so relieved. When I got home he was just (sitting) in the window as if nothing had happened!”

The funny thing is, in Jarvis’s mind, nothing had happened. He had no clue that he had done something amazing. To him, it was just instinct.

We own a Jack Russell, and I can tell you that they are very smart dogs. Sometimes too smart. I remember during our first vet visit with him, one of the girls at the office said of Jacks, “They’re brainiacs.”

And also, apparently, pretty good navigators.

I wonder if Jarvis, being a male, would ever paws to ask for directions?

Categories : Enotes, Pets, society
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