BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER IS always coming to the rescue. Not only in the struggle against creatures of the night that she so famously combats in her series, but also against animal cruelty. Valiantly, this teen heroine works off screen to better the lives of animalkind—starting with her two rescued darlings at home, Tyson, her Akita and Thor, her Maltese.
She calls Thor, a teacup Maltese, her ‘little dog with a big attitude.’ Sarah Michelle Gellar at 5’2” and 100 pounds on a rainy day is the human equivalent. Best known as a teenage slayer of vampires, Sarah is larger than life, going on her 7th season of Buffy battling the forces of evil.
The softer side of Sarah can be seen at home, with her two “amazing gifts” in her life, Thor, her Maltese god of Thunderous barking (she’s a mythology Buff) and Tyson, her loyal and docile Akita.
Sarah ‘rescued’ the Maltese from a bad breeder, who had an unsanitary pen of dogs in his living room. Conditions were so bad, she says, “the dog wasn’t even white.” Only 5 weeks old, little Thor captured Sarah’s heart, and she knew she couldn’t leave the breeder’s house without the dog. The breeder insisted “Cash only” and Sarah and her friend ran off to an ATM to get the bills needed to release this precious puppy from his dirty pen. She says, “people tell you all the time don’t get your dog from pet stores, but let me tell you, sometimes breeders aren’t much better.”
The minute Sarah took Thor into her home, neither of their lives were the same. Now Thor often spends his days peeking out of Sarah’s purse while visiting the set of her series. Thor had one big peculiarity, though. Sarah says, “When I first got him, he only would walk backwards.” To get this pup on the right track they had to “put food in front of him and call him.” She says, “it was a good two weeks before he really started walking forward.”
These days, when Sarah turns her back, Thor might be sniffing out the nearest tomato soup. Recently when she was distracted by the doorbell, he got into her soup bowl and she returned to find a “little red Maltese” who had seemingly taken a bath in the stuff.
Thor’s partner in crime Tyson actually came on the scene by surprise while she was filming Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She got a call— “there is a man with a big dog looking for you, and the dog just made his mark on the sound stage.” Sarah, who had agreed to consider getting a big dog, was end-run by her friend who had taken it upon himself to do the deed for her. Unable to resist the gentle giant Tyson, she quickly learned the ins and outs of big dog ownership, although despite her vampire slaying expertise, she found she was a novice at controlling the 120+ pound pet on a leash.
Tyson and Thor made fast friends, although according to Sarah, Thor occasionally will bite Tyson, in an attempt to get as much attention as possible. The Akita is not phased, though. She says, “the big one just shrugs it off and walks away.” She calls Tyson “the most beautiful, the most tender, the most gentle.” “Unless you meet him, I can’t explain to you about this dog. Kids he doesn’t know-they come, pull his tail, put their hands in his mouth and he just licks their faces. My little dog would get annoyed and start biting ankles, but not Tyson.”
It’s certainly a funny scene to imagine: Buffy the Vampire Slayer walking down the street with these two pups that could not be any more physically different—a tiny white blip of a dog next to his strapping dark playmate.
But she’s no stranger to making a spectacle with her pets. When Sarah grew up in New York City, she would frequently be spotted strolling down First Avenue with her hopping companion, Harley Davidson, her black Dwarf rabbit. (We tried to find photographs of this scene but there were none to be found.) “It was actually a pretty good pet for New York because you can let them free in your apartment, and you can train them” she recalls. As a child, she had always wanted a dog, but couldn’t because of her traveling schedule and hectic life. She remembers fondly Stockard Channing’s dog Nabby, while the two were working on a production in San Diego. “The dog was my only friend in the production because he was closest to my age.” Stockard let her walk the “amazing Golden retriever” (alongside Harley) around the theater district. Having parted ways from Nabby, Harley is now a resident ‘stud’-a master of procreation—in a rabbit farm.
Sarah also shared her home with a cat named Kujo, a former stray, who still lives with her mother in Los Angeles. Because Kujo has put on some pounds in recent times, Sarah’s boyfriend, Freddie Prinze Jr., has affectionately renamed it “Hujo.” Thor and Tyson have now filled her dog-void, and the two pups have a great time visiting Sarah’s mom and Kujo. Tyson even gets tips from the family feline, as Sarah claims, “he thinks he too is a cat.” With such a history of pets, it’s hard to believe that she suffers from allergies; but as any pet owner would attest to, the joy they give makes it all worth it.
Sarah has always been athletic, and prior to getting the role of Buffy, she says she studied Tae Kwon Do in New York City. She doesn’t know if it helped her land the part but says, “I’m sure it didn’t hurt that I wasn’t a total clod.” At the very least, it saved some sweat when filming the roundhouse kicks, and the like required for the fight scenes so common on the action-packed show.
This summer you’ll also see Sarah Michelle Gellar in thebig-screen version of Scooby Doo with her beau Freddie costarring. Based on the classic cartoon featuring a mystery-solving clique of kids anchored by a goofy Great Dane, the show was so popular, says Sarah, because, “it wasn’t gender specific, it wasn’t age specific.” But she had one disappointment with the big screen adaptation. “We left for Australia for seven months to do the movie and wanted to bring our dogs. We kept thinking this is great, because they’ll have to bring a Great Dane to shoot—to be able to film, they’d have to have a dog-reference,” she reasoned. “We thought we could just sneak our dogs in with them.” But, alas, she says, “they had a mannequin.” So to date, Thor and Tyson have not been able to frolic with the kangaroos and koalas in the land down under.
Sarah will also be seen soon in an upcoming indie satire called Harvard Men. She will be playing a manipulative vixen, reminiscent of her role in Cruel Intentions.
Although she shouldn’t have an extra hour in her day, with all of the films and TV shows she’s involved in, Sarah always leaves time for special charities. A hands-on volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, she even got hers dirty laying floors and putting in windows in Santa Domingo. We don’t know if she will use her new skill in building her own house, but it is certain that many people appreciate her talent in the trades.
Always looking to find good homes for homeless animals, Sarah and her friends periodically host special events. “We’ll have these parties and we’ll just invite anyone we can think of who might fall in love with an LA shelter dog.” She says that although they get adopted, it’s “just one out of so many.” She vows “one day I’m going to have thirty dogs.”
But for now, she just has the two. Sarah and Freddie share the responsibility of pet ownership at home—she walks Thor while he walks Tyson-but things get a little sticky towards dinnertime. She jokingly complains, “Sometimes Freddie thinks Tyson is his dog,” and leaves her vying for attention from her own pooch. Insisting that they have to set some boundaries, she sighs, “We argue about who will give them leftover table food first.” It’s always a race to finish their meal and win favor with their leading pups.