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Joe Mantegna and Maltese dog

Pets and Their Stars

An Interview with Proud Dog Owner, Joe Mantegna
by photographer Christopher Ameruoso.

Tell me about your dog.

His name is "Chooch," (which means "donkey" in Italian). He belongs to my youngest daughter who's been wanting a dog since birth. We have had cats in our lives, but never a dog. I had lived in an apartment in Chicago. My father grew upon a farm and said that dogs should be on a farm, not in an apartment. So now I get a house, and my daughter could care less about my past. All she knows is that she wants a dog. I know nothing about having a dog. We kept dodging that bullet because we travel so much. Cats don't care when you leave or come back. They look at you like, "Hey, how you been?" But a dog is a bigger problem. So it was Christmas time and we decided to fi nally get a dog. On Christmas day we get this big box, like in the movies, with the lid and ribbon. Little Gina opens the lid and this Maltese puppy looks up at her. I'll never forget the look on her face! She starts crying; I start crying; my wife starts crying; then Gina looks at me and says, "You know, when you said open this one first, I thought it was food." Talk about being Italian! She thought I was giving her mozzarella.

Who does your dogs personality most represent in your family?
I tell you that he's definitely got the personality of an Italian boy! He yaps like we all do. We're not the quietest family.

Tell me something about this breed that people don't know.?
Maltese is a very ancient dog. The Malta comes from Italy , so we thought he'd definitely fit in with the Italian family life style. The fact that they have this coat that doesn't shed is a plus, of course. My wife says his haircuts cost more then hers! In Roman times the women would carry them since they are small enough to be carried everywhere, (and he does like that). He's happiest when you pick him up.

If your dog could speak to you, what do you think is the first thing he would say?
"What the h--- did you name me Chooch for?" And I would hope the next thing would be, "Thank you, I hit the jackpot!"

What does your dog really mean to you?
Chooch is that missing member of the family that finally showed up. Chooch was supposed to show up. Now there's the four of us and the three pets.

- Written and photographed by Christopher Ameruoso www.chrisaphoto.com

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