"Some of my best leading men have been dogs and horses," Elizabeth Taylor famously quipped; no mean feat considering that Taylor's other leading men included Paul Newman, Richard Burton and Rock Hudson. Taylor's great love of creatures stemmed from childhood – she doted on her family dog Monty, and spent many a weekend on her godfather Victor Cazalet’s farm, where she refused to allow any chickens to be slaughtered. For her third birthday Cazalet presented her with a Newfoundland pony named Betty, with whom she later claimed her happiest childhood days were spent. Aptly, Taylor's first film was Lassie Come Home, opposite the world's most famous Collie; and it was her role in National Velvet (1944), alongside a spirited gelding, that catapulted the young actress to fame.
Taylor's affection for animals lasted her entire life, and over the years she owned an eclectic array of furry friends. This included a chipmunk named Nibbles, a Persian-Siamese cat called Ali-Kahn, a lion cub, given to her as a teenager – "he was just adorable but my father made me give [him] back, explaining that we had no business raising a lion!" – and a bush baby that she and Richard Burton acquired around the time they shot The Taming of the Shrew. It was dogs, however, that really stole Taylor's heart. She owned a cavalcade of assorted canines throughout her younger years, and was famously fond of Pekingese pups but her all-time favourite was a Maltese terrier named Sugar, whom she acquired much later in life.
"Some of my best leading men have been dogs and horses" — Elizabeth Taylor
The Maltese is a breed of toy dog whose characteristics include a slightly rounded skull with a finger-wide dome, a black button nose and brown eyes. It has a long silky white coat, sometimes with lemon or brown markings. The breed name and origins are generally understood to derive from Malta. Maltese are bred to be companion dogs, are very energetic and adore attention. Other famous Maltese owners have included Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, Snoop Dogg and Susan Sarandon.
Of her own Maltese, Taylor once said, “I’ve never loved a dog like this in my life. It’s amazing. Sometimes I think there’s a person in there.” Sugar accompanied Taylor everywhere from the day she purchased her as a three-month-old puppy, and was her constant companion as she recovered from brain surgery. Taylor allegedly almost refused to accept her title of Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1999 when informed that Sugar would not be allowed into Downing Street. So frequently in the spotlight, Sugar soon became a star herself and Christopher Radko even made a Sugar Christmas ornament one year, with proceeds going to an AIDS charity. Needless to say Taylor was heartbroken when Sugar died in 2005, but she soon sought out two more Maltese terriers, Daisy and Delilah, who came from the same line as Sugar. Daisy and Delilah outlived their devoted owner, who died on March 23, 2011.
Text by Daisy Woodward