Kristin Chenoweth on Losing a Pet, Finding Inspiration in Her New Dog

The Emmy and Tony-award winning actress and singer recently adopted a puppy named Thunder.
By: Linda Childers
Kristin Chenoweth and Thunder

Whether performing on Broadway (“You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” “Wicked”) or filming a television show (“Glee,” “The West Wing”) in Los Angeles, Kristin Chenoweth was rarely photographed without her Maltese, Maddie, in tow.

So when Maddie died in 2016 after spending 14 years at Chenoweth’s side, the 49-year-old actress was heartbroken. Not only had Maddie been Chenoweth’s best friend, she had also provided a source of comfort during the singer’s bouts with vertigo, a symptom of Meniere’s disease, an inner-ear disturbance that Chenoweth was diagnosed with in her 20s.

It wasn’t until this past January that Chenoweth even began to think about adopting another dog, and when she saw a pint-sized ball of brown fluff at a Los Angeles rescue, she admits it was love at first sight.

We caught up with Chenoweth, on a break from her current concert tour, to talk about her new rescue pup, Thunder, her television show, “The Real Fairy Godmother,” and how Thunder served as the inspiration for her new song.

PawCulture: How did Thunder’s adoption come about? Were you actively looking to adopt?

Kristin Chenoweth: I had been tossing around the idea of getting a new dog for a little while, but, as you know, the time has to be right. My sweet Maddie was in my life for 14 years and my heart needed time to heal. Anyone who has lost a pet can understand.

On a whim, I walked into Saving Spot Rescue in Los Angeles this past January and saw the sweetest little puppy. I realized that adopting a new puppy, giving her the chance to live in a loving home and becoming a part of my family would not only help her, it would also heal my heart. I rescued Thunder (named after my favorite basketball team, The Oklahoma City Thunder), and honestly, she rescued me too.

Thunder on a walk

PC: What advice do you have for others who are looking to adopt a pet?

KC: I encourage everyone to visit to an animal shelter. Talk to the staff and hear how the animals were rescued and where they came from. Most of these stories are pretty heartbreaking, and there’s nothing like realizing you have the chance to continue those stories and change those lives for the better. My parents adopted me as a baby so this is a topic that hits close to home for me. I am so very glad I adopted this baby girl.

PC: You frequently post photos of Thunder on Instagram. How old is she? Do you know what breed/mix she is?

KC: We know very little about Thunder’s birth, but we do know she was found by the rescue when she was about 3 months old. I did the math and decided I would celebrate her birthday every year on October 6th, so she just turned one. I did a do-it-at-home DNA test, and when the results came back I found out she is quite the mixture: Miniature Poodle, Shih Tzu, Cocker Spaniel, and, get this Norwegian Elkhound (a larger breed).

PC: I know you’re currently touring. Does Thunder travel with you, and if so, is it hard finding dog-friendly hotels?

KC: Thunder goes everywhere with me. She’s the perfect travel companion and she does better than most humans on airplanes. She’s got her own suitcase and hotels never have a problem with her because she is well-behaved and just so dang cute. She comes with me to all of my concert venues and happily waits for me in my dressing room while I’m on stage. She provides me with a lot of emotional support, so I was able to make it official: she’s my emotional support animal.

PC:In what way has adopting Thunder changed your life?

KC: Thunder is a D-O-G. She loves to run and play and get in trouble. It’s a kind of energy I’m not used to being around, and she makes me laugh every single day.

PC: Was Thunder trained or have you been working with her?

KC: Thunder was not trained when I adopted her. And yes, she attends obedience school, where apparently she’s a star student. At home, sometimes it’s a different story. I wrote a song chronicling Thunder’s behavior at home called “Obedience School.”

Kristin Chenoweth and Thunder

PC: How did you decide the time was right to adopt another dog after Maddie’s passing?

KC: I actually had a dream that Maddie gave me her blessing to get another dog. I know it sounds bananas, but it’s the truth. Now that I have Thunder, I actually recognize little bits of Maddie in her. Sometimes it’s a look over her shoulder, or the way she’ll fall asleep on the couch. She makes me happy.

PC: Any chance that you’ll add to your family and adopt another dog?

KC: If the airlines would let me take more than one dog with me when I travel, I’d have an army of them!

PC: You’ve had a busy year with filming and touring. Can you tell us what’s next?

KC: I’m starring in a new TV pilot called “The Real Fairy Godmother,” a comedy that was just acquired by ABC, and I’ve got an animated film called “The Star” coming out this holiday season, plus “American Gods” season two on Starz. I’ve also got a few other fun things up my sleeves, so stay tuned.

Images courtesy of Kristin Chenoweth