Actor Michael Vartan's In Love…With a Dog Named Millie

The 'Alias' star talks about his love of his chocolate Labrador and his devotion to dog-related causes.

Medically Reviewed by Katherine Scott, DVM, DACVIM on February 15, 2010
3 min read

The love of his life is a real bitch, and Michael Vartan couldn't behappier. When Vartan, then co-star of the hit ABC series Alias, metMillie, a chocolate Lab puppy, six years ago, it was love at first sight. Shewas the cutest thing he'd ever seen.

"She looked like a college football with legs," says Vartan,41. "There's nothing I wouldn't do for her." That includes getting her nametattooed on his forearm. "I have many tattoos, and that's the one I will neverregret."

Although Vartan likes to steer conversations away from hisrelationships with females of his own species, he's quick to gush about Millie.Often, she's all he wants to talk about. "My agent and my manager, they tellme, 'Stop talking about your dog; we want to get your career going.'"

They needn't worry. His career is doing just fine. Starting in2001, Vartan spent five seasons playing a spook opposite on-screen -- and, fora while, off-screen -- love interest Jennifer Garner in Alias. Now, he'swearing a white coat and stethoscope in the TNT hospital drama,HawthoRNe, with Jada Pinkett Smith. And, for better or worse, Vartandidn't get much attention from the tabloids until Millie turned up. "We were inInStyle; it was such a trip."

Vartan has always been a dog person. And dogs, it seems, havealways taken to him. Callie, his family's German shepherd, never left hiscrib-side when he was an infant. He's a sucker for all animals and othercreatures as well: "I was the weird kid who would rescue a fly out of thetoilet." But if he were on a desert island, he'd want a dog. PreferablyMillie.

So, what's the big deal about his dog? For Vartan, it's lessabout the love he gets from Millie than it is about the love he's able to giveher. "We love our dogs, our pets, so much because we can love them the way wewant to love someone else, without constraint or being judged." He sighs. "Ijust wish I was half the man my dog thinks I am."

Vartan believes that dogs -- and pets in general -- bring outpeople's softer sides. He points to prison programs, in which hardened convictsare trained as dog handlers and paired with pooches rescued from animalshelters. The prisoners help prepare the dogs for life as a pet, housebreakingand leash-training them. But it's not only the dogs that are affected."Incredible bonds are formed," says Vartan. "You see killers just break down intears over their dogs."

But not everyone feels such affection for four-legged friends,which is why Vartan gives his time and money to charities that work to combatanimal neglect and abuse. "I go to a lot of events," he says. "Anything tofight animal cruelty." In May 2009, for example, he played in a celebrity pokermatch to raise money and awareness for The Humane Society's End Dogfighting inLos Angeles campaign. "When I hear about the unspeakable cruelty that peopleinflict on animals, I feel a complete and utter disgust for the human race,"Vartan says. "Then I calm down."

As he speaks, he's got his eye on Millie, who is soaking insome California sun, and his voice turns warm and fuzzy once more. He can't getenough of her. So, does Millie feel the same way? "I'd like to think so,"Vartan says. "But to her, I'm probably just a giant can opener with legs."