While Josh Duhamel may share some similarities (like sheer physical prowess) with the tough, combat-ready character he plays in movies like Transformers, the hard persona he adopts for such roles belies one big truth: Duhamel has a serious soft side.
Sure, he is over the moon for his wife, whom he sweetly calls "Fergs." And yes, he's crazy about the couple's 4-month-old son, Axl Jack. But there's another love in Duhamel's life, too: his dachshund, Zoe.
It is the actor's love for pups — thanks to Zoe and his rescue mutt Meatloaf — that inspired him to join forces with Pedigree to debut a series of documentary shorts at the Sundance Film Festival in support of the brand's "See what good food can do" campaign.
We caught up with the dog-lovin' new dad for a little Q-and-A about his pet-friendly philanthropy with David Ortiz (Go Sox!), his mind-blowing meeting with the "Dog Whisperer" and his future plans.
Josh Duhamel: I'm in Utah today. I was expecting freezing cold weather and it's actually... actually, I could put on my thong bikini and go out by the pool. It's that nice.
JD: Well, it's something that Pedigree's been doing for years — I think they've donated something like 20 million pounds of dog food since 2008 — so what they're doing now is they're just sort of documenting what exactly good food can do. And it's amazing when you see some of these dogs come to these shelters.
I've spent time over the last year or so visiting certain shelters, and you see some of these transport trucks bring in dogs from various parts of the country... these dogs that otherwise who knows what would have happened to them, but they're given a second chance.
A lot of them are so underfed that in order to get them healthy enough to become adoptable — you know, that's part of the whole initiative — they have to make sure that they're fed really well. That's where I think Pedigree's really stepped up, and it's a big reason why I joined forces with them.
JD: Uh, he's a huge fan of my work, David Ortiz is. (laughs) No, I doubt David Ortiz knows who I am — but I know who he is. When I heard he was doing it, I didn't realize he was a dog lover, too. So it was Pedigree's doing getting us together... I'll meet him later today.
JD: That's the whole reason. The first dog that I ever had, I think I got it my second year on Las Vegas. A friend of mine had a dachshund, and I loved that little dude! I wanted one right then, so I found out how to get one and I went out and I bought it.
Shortly after that, some friends of mine who were rescue advocates said, "What are you doing? Do you realize that there are millions of dogs out there that you can adopt?" So when we [Duhamel and his wife, Fergie] decided to get a friend for Zoe, we went and found Meatloaf at a dachshund rescue. And that's when I first sort of really understood what they were talking about because he turned out to be just the coolest little guy.
He was this little dachshund mix, and he was just the best companion. He truly appreciated that he had a place and had a home, and he didn't feel like he was going to be left out to fend for himself. And so because he was such a great little companion, I've always sort of advocated people to adopt ever since then.
JD: Yeah, we still think about him all the time. You know, he was that big of an impact on our family. He was the one everyone just sort of was drawn to when they came into the house, because he was such a little lover... so cute.
So when he passed, we knew that it wasn't going to be long — we didn't even know how old he was when we got him, and he was a little bit slow from the beginning. We just thought he moved slow, but then it progressively got worse and one morning he just never woke up. (pauses briefly) And you know, he left a big mark on our family. So yeah, I would highly recommend anybody who's in the market for a dog to adopt.
JD: Yeah, absolutely. We're definitely going to get another one. Um, they're trying to talk me into one today — I've already got my eye on one! (laughs) But I don't know, I just can't come home with a dog… I don't know if wifey would appreciate that without meeting him first.
And we're still sort of in the craziness of figuring out what to do with our 4-month-old baby boy. He's been a huge addition to the house. But when we get back into a house, we'll probably do it again.
JD: Yeah, we did. It was actually really helpful! Even now we're able to use some of the stuff he taught. Fergs is a huge fan of Dog Whisperer, and she was concerned about how Zoe would acclimate to a baby in the house — whether or not she'd be jealous and would she understand, especially when he starts playing with her toys — and so when he was here, he taught us the basics about how to settle her down.
She gets very excited, especially when there's a ball. When there's a tennis ball around, she freaks out, and all she wants to do is chase it all day long. So it's hard to get her to settle down once she's on it, and he taught us basic things about what's hers and where she can go and where she can't, and how to speak to a dog.
I think a big mistake a lot of people make is speaking like a human to them, when they really just react to your energy. What we learned from him is that there are three different kind of dogs: There are leaders, there are happy-go-lucky and then there are followers or submissives. And Zoe is definitely a submissive, so we learned how to sort of just communicate with her, really. Have you ever met Cesar Millan?
JD: (laughs) You do — he's just one of the coolest dudes. And it's funny because every time there's a doorbell ring, Zoe barks like crazy, goes to the door, greets them and then as soon as you pet her she settles down. Well, he walked in and she didn't bark. It's like she felt whatever he did... I don't even know what he did! But she just, like, stopped and looked at him and followed him into the room. There's some expression that he always uses and he did it, and it was kind of amazing because he then immediately had sort of control over her. So we learned a lot from that.
JD: Yeah, that's pretty much it! He brought three of his dogs with him: He had two Chihuahuas and a pit, and all three of them were the different types I talked about. One was the alpha, like the leader, and it was a little Chihuahua. The submissive was another Chihuahua and the happy-go-lucky was the pit.
And they all had really distinct personalities, and he brought them all in just to sort of show how to communicate with each one of them, 'cause they all communicate differently. You know, it was one of those moments you don't forget, because it was really amazing how he was able to sort of control any kind of animal. Like Crocodile Dundee.
JD: I never had a pet growing up! Mom never let us have a dog, a cat, anything! I always loved animals, but we just never had one. So Zoe was the first dog that I had, and that's why I said I didn't know anything about pet adoption until after I'd already purchased Zoe. So I've learned a lot — I think she's 8 years old now — over the last eight years we've had a dog.
JD: The main thing I think that Pedigree would like to do is spread the word about adoption and rescuing, rather than buying from a puppy mill or something. And what I think part of the initiative is is that these dogs are healthy. These dogs are good companions. They're not sickly and they don't have behavioral issues or anything like that — they really are good, healthy, loving pets. And that's part of the whole initiative... that they're able to take dogs that aren't necessarily healthy, make them healthy, and make them good companions to take into your house and make 'em part of the family.
JD: Well, I have a movie called You're Not You that we shot last year with Hilary Swank — it's a drama about a couple dealing with Lou Gehrig's disease. He is diagnosed with ALS early in the movie, and you sort of see the progression of how everything just sort of falls apart and they end up coming together. It's a really beautiful story.
The other one is a movie called Strings, where I play a guidance counselor with post-traumatic stress and mentor this kid — this troubled kid out of New York — in this little town. It's another really good movie.
And I start one in two weeks in Austin, Texas, called Lost in the Sun, where I play kind of a dirtbag who kidnaps his kid when he's on the way to his grandparents house, and they sort of go on a mini-crime spree, I'm afraid. (laughs) So, I'm really looking forward to playing that.
JD: Thank you! (laughs) All right, I will!
Are you as inspired as we are by Josh's story? Join him in helping out by sharing your own tale of what your dog means to you, using the hashtag #DogTales. Every time the hashtag (#DogTales) is used on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, Pedigree will donate a bowl of food to a shelter in need! It's a small, yet impactful way to give back to shelter dogs.
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