A Word or Two About Tulea

I recently posted a picture on Facebook ( http://www.facebook.com/JaneFonda) and Twitter (@JaneFonda) of my dog, Tulea, with her foot taped up and received hundreds of responses! The letters of concern, advice, condolences, touched me so much. I tried to tell Tulea how many people were concerned about her but all she did was lick my face.

Tulea when the hair was still black on her ears

She had been chewing so much on her right toes that they got all red and swollen and I was worried so I took her to our wonderful vet who said it was an allergy though they couldn’t tell me what she is allergic too. Anyway, she got a cortisone shot, some antibiotics and three days later the bandage came off and all seems well. I want to thank all of you who expressed concern and offered advice and sympathy.

There seems to be some misunderstanding about Tulea’s breed so let me explain her background and how she came into my life….but let me first fill you in on my dog ownership history so you’ll get the full picture


I had always been the owner of Golden Retrievers ever since my husband, Tom Hayden made me put a scarf over my eyes one Xmas and placed a puppy in my arms. That was Spencer, so named because he was a red-head, like Spencer Tracey. (This was pre-On Golden Pond.) Spencer lived for 13 years. He died of cancer. I adored him so much that I put him through chemotherapy, something I would never do again, no matter what. You can’t explain to a dog that it’s for his own good. I was married to Ted Turner by then and we were on one of his ranches in New Mexico. The vet was an hour away so I moved in and slept with Spencer in his little cage at the hospital while he went through the chemo ordeal. I cried every night. When it became clear that he would not survive and was suffering, Ted and I decided that we would let him finish his days doing what he loved most: being with us in a boat on Ted’s ranch watching us fish for bass. Then, when the time came, Ted came with me to the hospital and I held him while the doctor gave him the injection. In the instant before he died, he turned his head to look at me. I sat there sobbing for so long and then Ted came in and we sobbed together.

I had Spencer cremated and we sprinkled his ashes on what was once a Native American vision quest sight where I sometimes went to meditate. Ted and I had decided we would be put there as well when we died.

I was still in deep mourning a few weeks later when Larry David (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”), his then wife, Lori, and the whole team of Castle Rock Entertainment (Alan Horn, Rob Reiner, Jerry Seinfeld and their spouses—Ted had just bought their company) came to spend a weekend with us in Montana. Larry and Lori David heard the whole story of Spencer and his passing. Seeing how sad I was, they said they had a Golden Retriever, Roxy, that they could not keep. She was 4 years old but they had a newborn baby and another Golden Retriever and they said Roxy was just too rambunctious for their household.

Fishing with Roxy

I said I thought Roxy and I should go for a blind date before any commitment was made. The following week I flew to L.A. and went straight to their house. When I walked into the living room, I immediately saw Roxy, sitting on the stairs, looking right at me with a big grin (never mind that Golden’s always have grins. This one seemed just for me!), a big bow on her collar, and what looked like black eyeliner around her eyes—you know, like the kohl that Indian women wear. She was a knockout, pure and simple. Smaller and a lighter blonde than Spencer, Roxy stole my heart then and there. I drove her back to the dog-friendly Santa Monica Lowes Hotel where she tore around, leapt onto the bed and made me understand why the Davids didn’t feel they could handle her and a baby. What I realized with 2 days of having her back at the ranch in Montana, was that all Roxy needed was a lot of exercise and outdoor adventures. The moment I took her fishing with me, she leapt into the river and was swept downstream, having no notion of how to swim to the opposite shore. I remember vividly how she looked back at me, her face just above water, her eyes saying, “Help, Mommy, what do I do now?” She soon learned!

The first time she came horseback riding with us (it was summer and hot) she tried to walk right underneath the horse—in the shade—before being stepped on. But she was smart as all get out. It didn’t take long for her to learn what was in her genes—retrieving. I quail hunted in the fall and winter with Ted (we always ate what we shot) and within a year, Roxy would descend 300 feet down into a steep canyon to retrieve a quail I had shot and bring it back up to me. No mean feat, let me tell you!

Roxy was with me for 6 years until she died at 10. I was making “Monster-in-Law,” and it happened over a weekend, very fast. Total systems failure, the vet said. Once again, I held her in my arms, sitting on the floor of the Santa Monica Animal hospital when she was given the injection. I sat for an hour crying my eyes out. The first person I called was Ted, and we both sobbed. We were divorced by then but I knew he was the only one who would understand because he loved her too.

Spencer and Chief ready for Fishing

Which brings me to Tulea. I travel a lot. If you travel a lot, you can have a big dog if you have a yard and housekeeper or a rich husband with a plane. (Ted’s black lab, Chief, and my 2 Goldens, Spencer and Roxy) traveled the world with us on Ted’s plane. But now I was single, no plane, no yard. I needed a small dog. But what kind? I like Westies a lot and was considering one of them but then one day, while filming on location in a home in Pasadena, 2 small white dogs came in from their walk. They were the owners dogs and she told me they were a breed called Coton de Tulear. What? Never heard of them. Neither had she, she said, until one day she was watching the Oprah Show. Barbra Streisand was singing to her dog on the show and the name of the breed was up on the screen. The owner had found a breeder in California and got herself two of them.

Turns out it’s a breed from Madagascar that originated when that island was a French colony. Coton means cotton in French and Tulear is the town where they were first discovered. (Being a French word, you don’t pronounce the ‘r’ unless there’s an ‘e’ after it. So it’s pronounced Tulea) Legend has it that the French pirates marauding in the seas around Madagascar always had Bichon dogs. They were the breed favored by the pirates. I guess they went after the rats on board. One day there was a terrible storm, many pirate ships were wreaked and the bichons swam ashore at the town of Tulear where, in time, they mated with the locals and, le viola, a new breed was born. This was in the 1500s. The dogs were gentle, with hair, not fur, and hypo-allergenic. There were very few of them and for several centuries, only royalty were allowed to own them. They were particularly prized for being able to be placed into the crib of even the most colicky royal baby and calm her down in no time.

I knew right away that this was the small dog I had been waiting for. BUT, I didn’t want an all-white coton. That seemed too chi-chi for my outdoor living style. The trouble is, they are white by nature. Very hard to find color. I found a breeder in Montreal that bred for color. I wrote and said I wanted a dog that was black and white. A few weeks later, she emailed me a photo of the 2 week old puppy. Half the face was white and half was black; she had a back ring around her shoulders and around her tail. It was perfect and I was hooked! I was in the middle of a global tour to promote my memoirs, “My Life So Far,” but I took time to fly to Montreal and there, in the airport, the exchange happened. She was the runt of the litter the breeders told me, which suited me fine. She weighed like a feather and was the length of my hand. (She still only weighs 6 1/2 lbs.) She was so mellow I asked them if they’d given her something to calm her down. They laughed, assuring me that was her temperament. Most Cotons are mellow (though not all) and Tulea has remained that way. People are amazed. She can be on my lap through an entire lunch and only when I stand up to leave do people realize I’ve had a dog with me.

Over the 6 and a half years she been with me, the black has turned to gray —it’s those genes calling–but I don’t mind. (See how she used to look in some of the photos in the Tulea section on my blog).

She goes just about everywhere with me and when I am without her I ache for her. It’s a physical thing. I feel a pang in my body and it’s harder to sleep. She follows me like a shadow and is so smart. She waits for permission to get up on the bed. She hops into her carrying case in the airport when I say “in”! She knows when I am going out without her and goes into a corner, all hang dog, and waits.

So that’s the story of how Tulea came into my life. Smaller dogs live longer than big ones, so I figure I’ll be around 83 years old when she dies. What do you think: does an 83 year old person get a new dog? All that leaning over to house break etc. Whaddaya think, huh?

Share This Post
  1. So nice to hear all about your dogs. x

    • hi jane, I too have a coton named molly and she looks almost like Tulea. she has what’s now an ash brown spot on each side of her bottom and her ears. love the clors too. she even has the lemon tipped tail, very unusual. my first coton was bred with a llasa apso and she(angel) was the love of my life. when it came time that I decided I wanted another dog as angel passed away, the coton was always on my mind but I couldn’t afford the price, I waited, fingers crossed and found a breeder online, and he had a 5 month old Coton, and again, love at first sight. the rest is history. she is usually calm at home but she goes nuts with people and other animals. I love her so much since she now understands cuddling is a good thing!Cotons rule!

  2. Hi Jane,

    First off let me say I am a big fan. Secondly I am a dog lover. Years ago I worked for a rescue group and through them fostered two dachshunds that people could no longer keep, however when the time came for me to put them up for adoption I couldn’t do it and they were mine until both passed away. My Eddie a black and tan dachsie passed away in May of 2009 and said no more dogs. But in July 2009 I made a trip to NYC where I encountered dogs everywhere(I loved it). Anyway then and there I had to have another dog,so when I got home my search began. Luckily my cousin’s dog had just had a litter a few weeks before and I was promised one of the remaining pups. Danni, my new little Pinneranian(Min Pin Pom mix) came to me at 4.5 weeks, too young I know and she has been the love of my life ever since She is only 9 pounds and very easy to transport in her carrier, but she does like to stay home with the 19 year old cat.

    As for allergies all my dogs have suffered with seasonal allergies, especially in the fall. So they rarely got to go out and play in the leaves. During the fall I would feed them an all natural food such as Solid Gold, Taste of the Wild or anything by Merrick, all of which which helped greatly. Danni hasn’t experienced any symptoms and I hope she doesn’t because I hate to see them suffer.

    Danni and I both hope Tulea feels better very soon so her mom can stop worrying.


  3. That made me cry my eyes out and then smile.
    Vanity Fair: What or who is the greatest love of your life?
    Helen Mirren: “My husband and all the dogs I have ever known.” 🙂

  4. Jane,
    I’m fonder of you than ever,(no pun intended) now I’ve read your life with dogs. Dave and I thought we were the only people who cared for our pets the way you do; certainly we’ve been told we go all the way with and for them. You know what we know, that any price can’t equal the love and joy they give so willingly.

    As to your question, we’re in a similar situation to the one you say you’ll face after Tulea leaves you. As much as we ache for our recently lost Mini Dog and wish we could feel the comfort of another pup, we’ve decided it would be selfish and unwise for us to take on a new dog at our ages. Perhaps, your circumstances will differ from ours, but we worry about what would happen if we weren’t around anymore or were unable to play with and care for her/him at some stage. Just our decision.

  5. Of course. I am 58 and just got a rescue puppy, I was supposed to foster, had to keep her. Never had a small dog. She is a baby Pomeranian, and is supposed to weigh about 4 lbs, yikes! They live 12-17 years, God willing. We have two Beagles too, both rescue, one from the Navajo Nation, where we used to live. Love you, love your blogs, books, causes. We met in Albuquerque and I will never forget your kind words to me, meant the world in a terrible situation. We have always had BIG dogs, but urban living requires downsizing!

  6. wow! i enjoy your writing immensely.i had to grab hold of my little sweetie,while reading thru watery eyes tho..( and yes,something to keep you bending and moving in your 90’s will be good!)

  7. Have you seen any of the Roddy McDowall home movies from 1965 on YouTube? They were taken at his Malibu beach house during the summer of ’65. I’ve seen you in a couple of them and I was wondering if you have any memories of Roddy and his beach house?

    He attracted a wide variety of Hollywood people. From Paul Newman and Natalie Wood to David O. Selznick and George Cuckor.

    There is no sound but they are fun to watch. Everyone seems to be enjoying the socializing. They are a great window into that time.

    • Kevin, yes someone sent them to me and it was a lot of fun to watch. I remember Roddy’s house well and was there often. I spent a great deal of time with Roddy in 1962. He was a dear friend.

      • In those videos, I noticed a resemblance to your niece Bridget when she played the beach bunny in “Jackie Brown.”

  8. There are always plenty of senior dogs looking for love! I think that would be a perfect fit, its what I plan on doing when my Bichon goes over the Rainbow Bridge!

  9. Loved reading the wonderful stories about Spencer, Roxy and Tulea. 🙂 I do remember seeing several pictures of your other dog, Manila. I remember seeing a photo of you with your arms around her and her face was so adorable.

    Can you tell me a little bit about her?

  10. OK Jane. I had a friend once tell me that she and her husband would not get another dog, more likely than not, because of their age. They didn’t want to outlive the dog. I couldn’t relate to it at all.

    If a dog has been paramount to your life and gave you joy on a daily basis then why not at 83? I’m 66 and my dog (the daughter I never had as I like to refer to her) is 16. Will I rescue another. As long as I’m in good health, you bet I will. If you rescue an older dog why not? Older dogs are harder to adopt. There are rescue organizations for every breed on the planet as well as mixes of those breeds.

    To Jane and Tulea2. I already decided I’m naming my next dog Reba2:)

    Love to you,

    Linda Messina

  11. Tulea must have gotten her allergies from the Bichon side. My precious Sunshine (gone 10 yrs next week) was tested and we discovered numerous allergies – wool, pyrethrin (used in flea shampoos), and dust (for goodness sake). You can have Tulea allergy tested and it can really be a great help in alleviating her itchiness. I’ve decided I’m finally ready for another puppy and have chosen Coton de Tulear as welll! I would not have guessed Tulea was a Coton with her coloringf! Well, you helped confirm my choice!Hope you’re feeling better, and Tulea as well! Must say that Spencer’s face is precious.

    • There’s a good breeder of cottons in northern CA, Hailey Parker is the name, I believe.

      • Hi Jane, Thank you so much for remembering me. The Coton de Tulear is such a wonderful breed. Only those that have owned one know the true joy that they bring into your lives. I have seen you travel with Tulea everywhere and can see that you both love each other. I rarely see you without her. Your breeder and I both belong to the American Coton Club. http://www.americancotonclub.com/index.htm. The Club just had an article about you and Tulea posted in their Newsletter. For those that are interested and would like to learn more about the breed they can visit the site. The club also has a list of Code of Ethics Breeders listed by state. I love your blog and your stories about Tulea. You are a true animal lover. Hugs, Hailey

  12. Beautifully written, Jane! In my own personal opinion, someone who loves animals, especially dogs, is a good person. :)I don’t have any children, so my dog IS my child. I teach school, so the first day with the students I explain that I have one son, Nigel. Then I show a picture of Nigel on the television screen and get a big laugh from the kids. Truly, though, Nigel is like a child to me. I love him with all of my heart. He is a labradoodle, so he is a bit too big to sit on my lap at the dinner table, though he certainly tries to get there! I can completely feel all of your emotions with your past dogs and Tulea. Nigel sends the best of licks your way!

  13. I have recently had to put down (don’t like that turn of phrase) my best pal of fourteen years and am overwhelmed by sorrow and loss. I have come to realize that I never made a move without considering my beautiful dog. He was with me wherever I went and such an integral part of my everyday existence. He was the best dog in the world … wish I could show you a picture. It happened so suddenly; before I knew it I had to make the decision. A disc collapsed in his back and he could no longer stand or walk and was in a great deal of pain. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. As I was leaving the vet I stayed in the parking lot calling his name so that his spirit would know where I was and could follow me. Silly, I know. I can’t imagine ever getting over this, but am hoping that, with time, gratitude will eclipse grief. Thank you for sharing your story; and thank you for all you do, Jane.

    • Oh Claudia, I’m so so sorry for your loss. You’ll get over the pain. I promise, but he’ll be with you forever. I know that.

  14. Bring a dog like Tulea into a seniors home and watch the residents light up! Pets bring out emotions and feelings that, at that phase of life, other humans cannot. Will 83 be too old for you to have puppy? Jane, when the time comes you’ll need one more than ever. And, let’s face it, time has taught you how to love one even more.

  15. Hello Jane,
    Your love of dogs in you life, tell me alot about you as a person. Because of the pure short life span of our friend the Dog, compaired to us the human, we learn about life and caring in many ways. Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault,it semms. Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole. I do miss not having a frend about, there is no person like a best dog to care for.

    Thanks Jane,
    with love and care

  16. I can’t imagine life (anymore) without a dog, they are like my children and a therapist all in one. They really do offer unconditional love (well, as long as you feed them, and talk to them – so I guess it is conditional). After my beloved Cocker Spaniel Buffy died, she was only 6 years old, I moved to terriers who are (suppose to be) more hearty and that’s how I ended up with two (adorable) west highland terriers. Our beloved Millie passed away two years ago (she was 14) and our other Westie, Maddie, was alone with us. I never thought Millie could be replaced (and she wasn’t really replaced) – but I somehow think she sent us our newest Westie (now 2 years old), Roxie. She has so many traits and looks that Millie had. God forbid anything happens to either of my two adorable “kids”, I know I will get another. I realize now, they are not “replacements”, each one is special and unique in their own way. They are pure love. So it doesn’t matter how old you are – 84 or 24, having a dog in your life brings happiness, companionship and a purpose.

  17. Okay, I know you are extremely busy, but just in case you have time to answer this:
    I will be in the LA area this weekend. Do you have any restaurants that you would recommend? Or unique things to see in the area?

    • Restaurants: Cecconi’s, Mr C are two. The Getty Museum off Sunset and MOMA.

      • Thank you so much for responding to my question. That was extremely kind of you. We did eat at Cecconi’s for dinner. I loved the atmosphere and the food was very good too! So again, thank you for a great suggestion!

  18. Hi Jane! I just finished reading your autobiography “My LIfe so Far” and wanted to tell you how wonderful I thought it was! You are an amazing woman! Things seem to have come full circle in your life. It must have been a cathartic experience writing that book! Thank you for sharing and I wish you the best! Hope you’re feeling better as well!

    • Thanks, Sea. You’ll probably really nice my new one, too…”Prime Time”.

  19. What enchanting stories and pictures of the beautiful dogs in your life. I do think you have another book here (you probably do not want to hear that while you are promoting Prime Time)!

    I absolutely understand that ache you describe when you are away from Tulea. I have it for my favorite cat, Willow, because she is such a baby. My dogs are my best friends but not babies, so the feeling is a bit different. But how I love them. We selected our chocolate Standard Poodle, Bonbon, from a breeder in Canada…only she flew to us and we picked her up at Customs in Portland. I cannot imagine a time when she was not in my life and cannot think of her going. She’s 10. So is Abby, our Old English Sheepdog, who we rescued when she was seven. I think that Abby is my favorite dog ever, sort of a dream dog. But they are our last big dogs. It is why I am so interested in learning about the marvelous Coton.

    I so hope I may always have a dog and a cat, no matter how old I am. I think you must have another Coton when you are 83 or beyond, most definitely!

    Thank you for taking the time to share these stories at your blog. I loved this post.

  20. Dogs are the nearest and dearest thing to my heart. I’ve lost 5 dogs in the past two years and it breaks my heart every time. I currently have a Golden retriever and he is just a big sweetheart. I also have a chihuahua, dachshund and (God help me) a Boston terror – I mean “terrier”.

    I did go the chemo route with a dog of mine once and I consider it a good decision on my part. He was diagnosed with cancer at 11 and I took him to the vet college in Madison, WI, where they recommended the chemo. He was on chemo, once a week for a few weeks and the treatment itself lasted 15 minutes each time and when I’d pick him up from the vet, he was his same happy self. He ended up living until he was 18. All situations are different and I think you have to make choices depending upon the pet, what your vet recommends and what your gut is telling you.

    Tulea is lovely and Spencer looks like he was a very noble soul.

  21. It’s nice to see you love your dog so much. It’s a bit awkward to admit but I have a paralyzing fear of dogs ever since I can remember. So obviously I keep a distance between dogs and myself. I’d love to get rid of my phobia but I have no idea how or where to start.

  22. Hello Jane,

    Just reread your Nov 2011 blog, hyper-linked from Sara France’s Cotonnerie website, from whom we also acquired our, Lucca Giacomo il Primo, in May 2005 in Montreal, which by my calculations, is the exact month your lovely Tulea joined you. Further research on Cotonnerie’s website – “Puppy Album, Album#1” – reveals our Lucca, born on March 22, 2005, just to the left of your very distinctly colored Tulea, albeit not in the same photo, and therefore apparently not the same litter. Parentage for our Lucca’s litter of four (the 3 males in the Cotonerie photo and 1 female (Tulea?) according to our official documents) were Pirate (father, same as Tulea) and Maddie (Lady Madonna) so that makes our Cotons at least ½ brother and ½ sister, born within days of each other – unless Tulea was the female of the same litter, which seems a possibility as you weren’t sure of her mother’s name.?.! Maybe our two Cotons are actually litter mates.- sister and brother.?. Therefore TODAY March 22, 2015 — here’s wishing them both Happy 10th birthdays, and many many more to come!!!

    We have another connection: my best college buddy, Doug Rosen from Monte Nido, CA (owns Rhodesian Ridgebacks), posted Facebook photos from Sid Galanty’s October 2013 memorial service, including one of you eulogizing Sid, who was also one of Doug’s most beloved friends.

    Finally, FYI – Five years ago we moved from Peterborough, NH, USA to Colares, Sintra, Portugal where we hear Johnny Depp also has a vacation retreat and where we own a small eco-B&B, http://www.colinaflora.com. If you’re ever in the area do please stop by, and bring Tulea too! All & Always the Best to you in 2015, and beyond the beyond! James Robb

    • Fascinating, James. FYI, Tulea’s father was definately Pirate but her mother was Chloe

  23. My Lucy was black, white and brown as a puppy and has also grown up to be completely white!! She will turn ten this year too..in December. White dogs are more prone to skin problems and Lucy HAS them. My vet recently gave me a RX of a new drug called Apoquel for her itching and chewing. She almost chewed her paws off too 🙁 I was hesitant because it’s new and it’s contraindicated for dogs with any kind of malignancy as it can increase malignant growth, but as long as the dog is otherwise healthy, it works wonders for allergies. My Lucy sleeps with me and if she is up scratching and chewing all night, I don’t sleep either. (I know, some would say, just move her out of the bed…yeah, that ain’t happening! LOL). I still don’t particularly LIKE giving her this med, so I only limit it to the summer when she’s at her worst….but she does seem happier when she’s not itching constantly!!
    Since I’m SURE you have PLENTY time to sit here and look at pictures of some stranger’s dog, here she is (just humor me)- sorry for the ridiculously long links-hope they work. She’s a Lhasa Apso born in 2005- a few months AK (After Katrina) :
    A few days old :

    A few weeks old, first day with us:
    Five months…color is starting to go:
    A few years ago – she was UNDER her bed- pillow and I said “TREAT” and she popped out LOL! Such a mess.
    When she tried to get back some “color” LOL She thinks it’s funny:
    Exhausted from Christmas festivities:

  24. One more….. She’s mad because I’m not sharing my turkey sausage! https://instagram.com/p/pYzyozm4cU/?taken-by=wendyplaf

Leave a Reply