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Actress Carrie Preston Talks Life with Her Dog Chumley

Melissa Chapman
Feb. 7, 2011

Actress Carrie Preston, who currently stars as Arlene Fowler, the saucy waitress in the HBO series True Blood, has made her mark in countless stage productions, indie films and television series, shows no signs of slowing down.  And while she's excited about several of her latest professional pursuits, having recently directed a feature film, she's also thrilled at the prospect of having her two favorite guys under the same roof.  

After five years of shuttling between Hawaii, where her husband, actor Michael Emerson shot the television series Lost, and their home in Los Angeles, Preston is basking in blissful domesticity with newly rescued Poodle/Maltese mix Chumley.  She sat down with Care.com to chat about life with Chumley and why rescuing animals holds such a special place in her heart.

Tell us about True Blood.  What's it like being on such a popular show and do you believe in vampires? We also loved you on The Good Wife.  Will you be back?

I feel very lucky to be a part of such a popular show.  I acted in several pilots over the years that didn't go to series or didn't last if they did, so I'm extremely grateful for a steady job on a stellar network.  We have one of the largest casts around these days and that makes me feel like I'm a part of something epic.  I don't believe in vampires, per se, but I certainly believe in the hold they have on pop culture right now and I'm grateful for it!  I loved doing The Good Wife.  I haven't done any more episodes, but I'm itching to do more.  

When did you get Chumley?

We only got Chumley this past April.  We both wanted to get a dog for many years but we had to wait for Michael's show Lost, to be over.  It's very difficult to bring dogs in and out of Hawaii.  I would torture myself by looking on Petfinder.com, finding all of these adorable dogs that needed homes and knowing I couldn't take one in just yet.  So the minute we knew Michael's end date, I started looking.  I found Chumley, fell in love with him and then showed Michael pictures of him.  He gave me his blessing and I was able to bring Chumley home two days before Michael came back for good.    

Where did you get the name Chumley?

Years before we got our pup, we were walking in the West Village on a beautiful New York City evening. We walked past Chumley's, a bar famous for once being a speakeasy where renowned writers such as Hemingway and Fitzgerald used to imbibe.  Michael said, "Chumley would be a great name."  And then we both said at the same time, "For a dog!"  From then on, we referred to the dog we would get one day as Chumley.  In the years we were waiting to get a dog, I would periodically say, "Where's Chumley?"  It's like we manifested him.

Did you always want to get a rescue and any advice for other couples who are considering getting a dog?

I always knew I wanted to rescue.  There are so many animals that need homes and I felt that adopting was the right thing to do.  Having a dog and taking care of it properly takes a lot of time and energy.  I encourage people to study their lifestyles and make sure they have time to devote to walking, disciplining playing, cuddling and giving affection to the dog.  That will also help determine the type of dog that fits their lifestyle best.  Because of our unpredictable lifestyle, I knew we needed a small dog that could travel well, one that doesn't need large fields to run around in, one that doesn't shed (I'm slightly allergic to dogs), and one that is comfortable being inside most of the time (half the year we live in a small New York apartment).  The more specific they can be about what they're looking for, the more likely they'll find the right dog and give her a happy and healthy life.

Is Chumley a good travel companion?  What are your tips when it comes to traveling with a pooch?

Chumley is a great traveler.  Before we ever flew with him, we would periodically put him in the carrier and take him for drives or on errands with us so that he knew that whenever his little carrier came out, it meant that he was going somewhere with us.  Now whenever we put the carrier on the ground, he goes right inside. 

Are there any pet charities you're active in?

I have donated to A Dog's Life Rescue since we rescued Chumley through them.  It's a really good organization with wonderful, caring people running it.

What can we see you in next?

This fall I directed a feature film written by my dear friend Kellie Overbey called That's What She Said, starring Anne Heche, Marcia DeBonis and Alia Shawkat.  Outside of True Blood, getting the movie edited and ready for festivals is my primary focus these days.  That said, I acted in two indies that will hopefully be released soon - A Bag of Hammers with Jason Ritter and Rebecca Hall, and Sironia with Wes Cunningham.  I hope they will start festival rounds soon. 

How has Chumley enriched your life?

I would say Chumley was the best thing that happened to us in 2010.  Getting a pet together was the perfect way to bring us back together after almost five years of dealing with constantly being apart.  With Chumley in my life, I always have a wonderful reason to get up in the morning.  If I'm stressed about work or an audition or something, all I need to do is take Chumley for a walk or play fetch with him or smooch on him a little bit and I feel more relaxed.

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