Lauren Bacall’s Obsession With Dogs

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Lauren Bacall with her cocker spaniel

The late-screen siren’s canine obsession went above and beyond, with the actress bequeathing $10 million to her papillon Sophie in her will

“You know how to whistle, don’t you Steve? You just put your lips together, and blow,” said Lauren Bacall as Marie ‘Slim’ Browning in the 1944 film noir To Have and Have Not. Certainly, the now famous quote spoken by the actress in her debut role was pertinent to her life in more ways than one; throughout the years, she owned many, many pet dogs, no doubt called to her side by the expulsion of breath through tightly pursed lips. 

When Bacall married her To Have and Have Not co-star Humprey Bogart at the age of 19, many questioned what shared interests the pair could possibly have, considering the actor was in his mid-forties. As history books now attest, the lovers found plenty of common ground, including a mutual obsession with all things canine. By the time of the Hollywood stars’ nuptials, Bacall had already ‘mothered’ two cocker spaniels named Droopy and Puddle; but they received their first ‘co-parented’ dog – a boxer – as a wedding gift. “We named him Harvey, after the invisible rabbit. He was really smart. He knew he wasn’t allowed to get on the furniture so he would only put two paws on at a time, and he would sit between us if we had a fight,” said the couple.

Harvey sadly died in 1957, just six months after Bogey. But, as Bacall told Michael Parkinson in a 1979 interview, “being a widow is not a profession”, and she always endeavoured to fill her life with meaning. Naturally, her dogs remained faithful companions throughout turbulent times – not least her beloved papillon, Sophie, who remained by her side until her death in August 2014 at the age of 89. Her will dictated that her estate was to be split between her two children, but also made sure that there was something left for Sophie; a casual $10 million did just the trick.

Four years before her passing, Glenn Close visited Lauren Bacall and Sophie at their Upper West Side residence in New York. “I was always a dog yearner,” Bacall confessed during their conversation. “I didn’t have a dog growing up in the city with a working mother. As an only child, I yearned for someone to talk to.” Evidently, Sophie was quite the pampered princess, with Close even getting on her knees and declaring “I WORSHIP YOU!” to the dainty papillon upon entering the apartment. With pictures and throw cushions depicting the likeness of Sophie featuring heavily in Bacall’s decor, it was immediately clear who ruled the roost. Sophie was even allowed to demonstrate her audacious ‘humping skills’ on camera, using a toy bulldog called ‘The Humperdink’ as a demonstrative partner. “Oversexed and underpaid – this is how she gets her thrill,” joked Bacall. “Have you ever seen a little girl dog do that before?” We haven’t; but wouldn’t have expected anything less from a pet belonging to one of the fiercest women who ever lived.