September 14, 2015 | Posted in Breeds and Stars
No matter what else she’s done in her life (and she’s had an active career), actress Susan Olsen will no doubt always be remembered as young Cindy Brady in the classic television series “The Brady Bunch.”
She practically grew up on the Paramount Studios lot filming the show over several years, and the studio would play an important role years later with another of her passions – animal rescue.
Her mother and father were always watching nature programs and both loved animals, so Susan says, “I was probably born loving animals. I remember trying to learn how to walk by holding on to the family dog.”
She says she also remembers when she began understanding human language that she was frustrated that she couldn’t understand the dog. She asked her mother why this was the case and her mom said the dog didn’t speak like humans do.
“Dr. Doolittle was an obvious movie I loved,” she says, “and I was determined to prove her wrong.”
Whether or not she figured out a way to talk to them, she certainly had a love for them over the years. She had a huge Bernese Mountain dog named Cortez whom she adored. He was, she recalls, her first “bottle baby.” She’d rescued him from Mexico. Sadly, Cortez passed away a week before Christmas one year and the loss was a shock to Susan.
By then, she was a single mom to a young son, Mike, who’d been diagnosed with mild autism.
A couple of months after Cortez passed, it occurred to her that, “I probably wasn’t quite ready for another dog, but I just couldn’t stand being dogless.” She’d felt safer with a dog in her life – without one, she felt vulnerable. But in her words, the new addition to the family would have “some very big paw prints to fill.”
Because of her son’s condition, Susan needed to find a dog she could trust. Mike was 5 years old at the time, so she needed a gentle dog. “I researched and knew that just about the best dog with kids is a Golden Retriever,” she says. So she and Mike visited a litter of Goldens. Susan let Mike do the choosing.
“I’m a sucker for the runts,” she admits, but she tried to remain objective. At first, Mike picked a puppy who was very excitable. But he was then drawn to, and chose, a quieter one.
On the way home, they discussed names. “Mike’s first suggestion, ‘Doorknob’, was immediately rejected by me,” she laughs. “Since I was a child I always thought that to give a pet a name you wouldn’t give a human child was insulting. Of course it seems as if the current trend with celebrities is to give their human children pet names,” she observes.
Then, Mike said he liked the name “Trevor.” “He was a big fan of ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’”, she explains, and Trevor was one of the characters in the series.
“Oh, you mean like in Thomas?” she asked her son. He said “Yes, and because he’s a retriever – it sounds like Trevor.” It made sense to Susan.
Susan, by her own admission, “had a bit of a hard time bonding with him at first. Cortez had been my constant companion and I was still grieving,” she says.
Then, she took Trevor to obedience school. “He showed me what a great dog he was,” she says. “He graduated top of his class!” He earned the praise of his trainer, who showered him with treats, saying how wonderful he was. Susan felt guilty she hadn’t noticed at first.
“That’s when I snapped out of my grieving period and appreciated our new family member,” she recalls.
Trevor will be 12 years old this Christmas Eve (2013). Susan and Mike have held birthday parties for him in the past and some of them doubled as Christmas parties as well.
During these years, Susan began fostering animals from shelters. Her former TV “brother”, Chris Knight (Peter Brady) knew of her fostering and introduced her to Georgyne Lalone, founder of a rescue group named Precious Paws. “George”, as Susan calls her, had been rescuing cats from the Paramount Studios lot.
“I regularly fed the feral cats that lived there,” Susan recalls of her earlier days. “Her rescues were the descendants of my friends.” They hit it off and George asked Susan if she wouldn’t rather rescue animals, foster them and then follow through with adopting them to loving homes where she could meet the people, instead of returning them to the shelter. Thus began her volunteering with Precious Paws, which continues to this day.
Even though she fosters cats and kittens, Trevor handles the situation well, particularly because of his gentle nature, she feels. She’s only heard him growl three times, and that’s when one of the cats tried to steal a very special treat.
She thinks he’s afraid of the very young kittens. “One day I heard him crying in the kitchen,” she remembers. “I went in to see what was wrong and he was surrounded by six little kittens and was afraid to step on them.
Not every kitten gets adopted right away, so when they get a little older and larger, Trevor plays with them because he knows he won’t hurt them.
In addition to fostering, Susan lends her celebrity status and talent as an artist to fundraising for Precious Paws. Her friend Georgyne drags her to celebrity memorabilia events to sign autographs and other items. She also sells a line of artwork, with a portion of the proceeds going to animal rescue (visit http://www.facebook.com/TheArtOfRescueBySusanOlsen for details).
As if this doesn’t keep her busy enough, Susan co-hosts a radio show on Monday nights with radio personality Sheena Metal, on L.A. Talk Radio, and she is in the cast of a new web series called “Child of the Seventies.”
This “child of the seventies” has big talent and an even bigger heart.