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Women's Health

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Isabella Rossellini Brings Animal Love to the Big Screen

When she's not training guide dogs, this accomplished actress turns her lens on the courting rituals of wild animals.

Rossellini's Guide Dogs continued...

Rounding out her busy schedule is a role she's taken in recent years, away from the limelight: training Labrador puppies for the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind.

Rossellini and her friend, actress Linda Larkin (best known as the voice of Princess Jasmine in Aladdin), live with and train one pup per year. They split custody between their Manhattan apartments and Rossellini's Long Island home. This exposes the dogs to noise and traffic in the city (where they encounter crosswalks and taxis) and wildlife in the country (where they learn not to chase birds and fight with cats). To date, they have raised eight guide dogs. Bau, a 6-month-old black Lab, is Rossellini's newest puppy in training, since Sweety finished her schooling last year.

Rossellini's Pet Dogs

Rossellini has had dogs all her life, and nearly every dog she's encountered has a fascinating story. "My mama gave me my first dog, a white Maltese called Yupee," Rossellini says. "She ran off and came back pregnant. We gave away the puppies, and she was so desperate that night, searching for her babies. The night after, we found a little black cat meowing for its mother in the street. We rescued the cat. The dog nursed the cat and was convinced it was her baby. She was so proud her baby could climb trees and do things other dogs couldn't do."

Rossellini's next dog was a dachshund named Nando who was with her for nearly 20 years. After meeting the Jack Russell terrier of director (and one-time boyfriend) David Lynch while filming Blue Velvet, she got her own Jack Russell named Macaroni, who died a few years ago. "After that, I thought, I can't go through another death," she says. But now, she says, working with guide dogs connects her to the entire life cycle -- including helping whelp puppies every summer. "It is the drama of life," she says. "It's inevitable that they die, but it's so painful."

But if she can help it, drama-free is how Rossellini likes to keep her daily activities, including playtime with the pups. "I don't think life is as fun without a dog," she says. "I cannot say that they cure my flu or my headaches, but for sure they give me a great sense of companionship, and they're entertaining. [When they're not there] you miss the little circus they always bring."

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Reviewed on March 25, 2011

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