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Actors Who Adopted Animals From Set

Being on set is more than just a job. For stars of hit shows and movies, it can become their entire lives, spending months — or, in the case of TV shows, years — rehearsing, training, and filming with their fellow actors, cast, and crew. Oftentimes during productions, lifelong friendships can be forged. And for some actors, their co-stars include not only people, but also any animals on set: dogs, cats, horses, and other animal performers. While actors can keep in touch with their human friends when a shoot wraps, they often must bid a sad farewell to their furry friends. 

But not always. Some actors have grown so attached to their animal co-stars that they adopted them. It makes a lot of sense that they want to bring them home, especially when Hollywood often uses adorable, well-trained, and/or sheltered pets as on-screen animals. Whether it's a rider buying their horse and taking them home to a sprawling ranch, an actor adopting a stray kitten found on set, or an actress who can't bear to part with their beloved sidekick, it's surprisingly common for actors to make their on-screen pets their real-life companions.

Sophie Turner's dog

Sophie Turner, the British actress who portrayed Sansa, the subdued but resolute Queen on HBO's "Game of Thrones," made her acting debut in the role at the age of 14. Over the course of filming the sweeping, epic series, Sophie — a dog lover all her life, who also has a pair of Alaskan Klee Kais — spent a great deal of time working with Zunni, the Northern Inuit hound who portrayed Sansa's pet direwolf, Lady. During filming of the show's first season, the young actress developed such an affection for Zunni that after the dog's character was killed off on the show (due to the machinations of Cersei Lannister), she decided to adopt the canine.  

In a 2013 interview, she told the Coventry Telegraph, "Growing up I always wanted a dog, but my parents never wanted one. We kind of fell in love with my character's direwolf, Lady, on set. We knew Lady died and they wanted to re-home [Zunni]. My mum persuaded them to let us adopt her." Not everyone on the set of the hit fantasy series was sad to see Zunni leave the production, with Turner telling Harper's Bazaar in 2019, "Zunni was a terrible actor, really bad on set, she wouldn't respond to any of my calls and everyone was ready to fire her." Thankfully, the pair were a good match, and Sophie gave the pup a good, loving home.

Brendan Fraser rides into the sunset

Brendan Fraser was the star of several '90s hits like "Encino Man" and "George of the Jungle." He's recently seen a career resurgence with parts in the DC Comics superhero drama "Doom Patrol" and the action series "The Professionals" alongside Tom Welling. In his long career, Fraser has ridden horses in a number of films, including memorable sequences in the action movie classic "The Mummy" and as the Canadian Mountie hero in the family comedy "Dudley Do-Right."  

In the 2015 historical Western drama miniseries "Texas Rising," set during the Texas Revolution of 1836, that he got to ride a horse for much of the shoot. During filming, Fraser — who played Texas Ranger Billy Anderson — made friends with more than just his human castmates, developing a deep, unbreakable bond with his trusty steed, Pecas. As he told The Star in a 2015 article to promote the 10-part History Channel series, "[Pecas] was my acting partner. It wasn't headed to the glue factory or anything horrible, but I thought, I want to do well by him, too." Fraser purchased the horse for himself when the film was complete and brought him back home where he shares riding Pecas with his three children. "He's part of our family now," Fraser said.

Robert Redford rides home on horseback

Hollywood legend Robert Redford's lifelong passion for horses is well-documented. The star of such films as "Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid" and, more recently, "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," spoke with People Magazine back in 1980. In the interview, he talked about the 40 acres he kept in Utah as his sprawling ranch, designed not just for riding but also breeding horses. By 2004, however, his investment in the ranch had dwindled, and he was the owner of just six horses. In 2017, it was reported that his Utah ranch had gone up for sale

But way back, while filming his 1979 movie "The Electric Horseman," Robert Redford's role as Sonny Steele saw him riding a mighty horse named Let's Merge, a five-year-old thoroughbred. "For me it was a chance to demonstrate my own particular affinity for horses, but the film is also about a way of life out West whose disappearance is sad but inevitable," said Redford in an interview with Horse Nation magazine around the time of the movie's release. Redford did all his own horseback riding in the film and fell in love with his equine co-star. Once filming was over, Redford bought the horse and kept him at his Utah ranch for nearly 20 years. 

David Dastmalchian loves Bubblegum

Perhaps the most memorable part of 2021's "The Suicide Squad," David Dastmalchian stole the show as Polka Dot Man, a tortured sorta-hero troubled by visions of his abusive mother. But when it comes to being a good pet parent, Dastmalchian gets the win. While filming the James Gunn-directed DC superhero sequel in Panama, Dastmalchian was approached by a stray cat between takes. He quickly fell in head over heels for the lovable lost feline. On his Instagram page, the actor shared photos with his followers and relayed to them the story of how he found and befriended the kitten, saying, "With the help of my [film] family and some generous animal lovers in Panama, I was able to rescue Bubblegum."

Meanwhile, "The Suicide Squad" costume designer, Juliana Markovsky (who also worked on such hits as the "Harry Potter" and "The Hunger Games" series), went so far as to design and create a miniature, cat-sized Polka Dot Man superhero suit for Bubblegum. He told Instagram that his new furry friend has helped him through challenging times, saying, "She has been a blessing to our family and was instrumental in helping us through the pandemic." He also announced that his new cat's full name is Abner Bubblegum Polka Dot Cat. He  urged fans to "adopt, don't shop, and spay/neuter your pets."

Roy Rogers is easy on the trigger

Today, Roy Rogers is best known for his chain of restaurants, but he was once famous for being one of Hollywood's first and greatest horseback cowboys. Known as the "King of the Cowboys," he appeared in over a hundred films, plus countless episodes of "The Roy Rogers Show" on TV and even more on radio. In many of his movies and TV appearances, he appeared alongside his wife, Dale Evans; his German Shepherd, Bullet; and, of course, his famous horse, Trigger.

On "The Roy Rogers Show," Trigger was practically as big a star as Rogers himself. Children all across the country played with Trigger toys, rode Trigger wooden horses, and went to school with Trigger lunchboxes, in what was an early pop culture phenomenon. But Trigger was no ordinary stage horse. In 1938, Rogers starred in the film "Under Western Stars," and one of the horses used in the film, named Golden Cloud, was Roy's favorite. He was so quick, he got a new name: Trigger. When the movie finished shooting, Rogers was so enamored with the speedy stallion that he paid an incredible $2,500 (nearly $50,000 in 2021) for him to return home with him. The rest is history, as Trigger went on to become the most famous horse in Hollywood. A fiberglass sculpture of Trigger was on display at the Roy Rogers-Dale Evans Museum from his death in 1965 until the museum's closing in 2009.

Viggo Mortensen, lord of the ranch

Viggo Mortensen, best known as the actor who played Aragorn in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, has been on several movie sets that saw him riding horses, from the 1990 sequel "Young Guns II" to the 2008 western "Apaloosa." But it was on the set of "The Lord of the Rings" films that Mortensen befriended an equine pal, telling IGN in 2004, "I bought the one in "Lord of the Rings" 'cause I ... just developed a real good friendship with him. His name is Eurayus. He kind of came into the movie similar to the way I did." The actor said he felt a special kinship because, like Eurayus, he "didn't have much preparation and was just thrown in and had to swim, basically."

That wasn't the last horse he purchased from a movie set. In the 2004 Joe Johnston-directed epic "Hidalgo," Mortensen invested considerable time training and riding on a horse, almost more than he spent during the filming of all three "Lord of the Rings" films combined. The movie's eponymous steed, Hidalgo, needed as many as five different horses on set to play the part, but it was the main horse, T.J., of whom Mortensen grew fond. The relationship was so important to him that he purchased T.J. at the conclusion of production. 

Tiffany Haddish adopted a kitten

The 2016 film "Keanu" centers on a man named Rell (Jordan Peele), a down-on-his-luck slacker whose girlfriend has just left him. His fortunes change when he discovers a stray kitten — the titular Keanu — on his doorstep. Sadly, Keanu gets cat-napped. Rell seeks the help of his cousin Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key) to get him back from a local thug named Cheddar (Method Man). The movie is a madcap twist on the classic revenge story. Keanu (named in homage to the "John Wick"-style premise the movie lampoons) was played by a variety of different felines in the movie, all adopted from nearby animal shelters. 

Once the film's production was all over, actress Tiffany Haddish, who co-starred in the movie, kept one of the on-screen cats, changing its name from Clementine to Catonic. Before long, Catonic grew into a full-sized tabby. If Haddish's Instagram is anything to go by, the pair are the best of friends.

Elizabeth Taylor keeps the King

Another old Hollywood star with a deep love of horses, Elizabeth Taylor was known to share a close bond with her horse, King Charles. The pair's friendship has been chronicled through their time together. She came to own him thanks to their work together on the film "National Velvet," one of her first films (made when she was just 13). The young actress met the show horse at the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles, where the horse's owner gave Taylor the chance to ride him. Her affection for the horse convinced MGM to use King Charles for the upcoming film.

Before her death, via her spokesperson, Taylor told Cowboys & Indians Magazine, "The relationship between King Charles, the horse's real name, and me was so special, he was given to me on the last day of shooting and it is a memory that I cherish. There never was a sweeter, more noble animal, and caring for him was a great source of responsibility and happiness. We trusted each other. We loved each other. He lived at stables in Pacific Palisades, California, and I rode and visited him whenever I could. Every little girl deserves the kind of miracle experience that I enjoyed while doing 'National Velvet' and bonding with that magnificent soul. My heart still swells whenever I think of him, and I still do — often."

Sylvester Stallone kept the turtles from Rocky

To this day, "Rocky," Sylvester Stallone's first turn as Rocky Balboa, remains his most famous on-screen performance. Oft quoted and imitated, "Rocky" is one of Hollywood's most legendary and recognized films and characters. And at one point in the 1976 film, Rocky invites his best friend's sister, pet shop clerk Adrian, over to his apartment. When she comes inside, he makes a point to introduce her to his turtles, named Cuff and Link, while she stands awkwardly near the doorway. "These are the exotic animals I was telling you about. These are my friends," Rocky says in a cute scene that illustrates how excited and nervous Rocky is to have her over, as he stumbles to introduce his pets, despite her being the one who sold them to him.

Fast forward 44 years: In 2019, the 72-year-old actor shared images on his Instagram page of the same long-lived turtles, revealing that he has been with his "original buddies" since the first "Rocky" movie after he adopted them from the set.

Orlando Bloom finds a dog in 'Heaven'

While production was underway in Morocco on the 2005 epic fantasy film "Kingdom of Heaven," Orlando Bloom — best known for his role as Legolas in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy — came across a stray dog between takes and took him in. Before long, the dog, named Sidi, became — as Bloom described on social media – his best friend. The feature film was considered a flop with poor marks for its inaccurate depictions of historical figures, but the experience had a happy ending for Bloom, introducing him to his canine companion. 

In 2019, Bloom confessed that after Sidi's passing a few years prior, he had his best friend's skeleton preserved and mounted in his home. According to Bloom, "He was a great companion and I was very upset when he died. I had his skeleton mounted so that he stays with me. I know that sounds a little odd to some people, but it is quite tastefully done and I still get to say goodnight to him." A serious dog lover and supporter of pet adoption and rescue, he regularly posts pics of his pup pals on his Instagram.

Yvette Nicole Brown adopts a dog

It's always a challenge for an actor to play a character that is unlike their real personality, whether it's a kind person playing a cruel villain or a laid-back actress playing a high-strung diva. But of all the entries on this list, Yvette Nicole Brown stands out. On the set of her movie "The Lady & The Tramp," the usually caring dog-lover had to play the irredeemable Aunt Sarah, a nasty villain who hates dogs. She felt absolutely awful yelling at the lovable pups on the set of the live-action Disney film.

In a press interview with That Shelf, Brown said she developed a special friendship with one of the canine doubles on set, Carly, whom she adopted through what she called the Disney adoption service. Brown also felt it was important to use the film, and her experience with Carly, to encourage others to adopt and rescue their pets instead of boutique shopping, saying, "The scenes where we show what a pound is like, what they go through, when they are picked up and [when] they don't have somewhere to live, how heartbreaking it is, and I hope that's another reason [that people will rescue a dog]." 

To learn more about pet adoption, visit the Animal Humane Society website at https://www.animalhumanesociety.org/adoption/how-adoption-works, contact by phone at 952-435-7738 or send them an email.

Honorable Mention: Will Smith was denied a legend

Will Smith is a rapper and a legendary Hollywood tough guy. But he once lost a dog, and, like any of us would be, was traumatized. In an interview with Today, he said, "When I was little, I was probably 9, and I had a dog that got hit by a car." He decided then to never get another dog, saying, "I'm not doing it. I'm not doing that whole, fall in love with dogs thing no more."  

But love finds a way. For the blockbuster 2007 vampire film "I Am Legend," Will Smith was paired with a dog for the story — a pooch performer named Abbey — and had to get to know her before shooting so that she would take instruction from him on the set. The pair met often to practice, with Smith telling Today, "The trainer set it up. He was calling it 'dates'! So I was having a play date with the dog." After the film completed, Smith didn't want to part with his new canine companion, and he asked the on-set trainer to let him adopt the dog, only to be denied. "I was begging him, I was like, 'Please let me have Abbey. Please, please, please let me have her.' But you know, she has her own family now so it was just another one of those fleeting Hollywood romances."