Regina Hall with Dog Zeus

Regina Hall is probably recognized most for her role as Brenda Meeks in the horror parody Scary Movie franchise. This talented and versatile actress tends to be known for her comedic roles, appearing in movies such as About Last Night, Think Like a Man, and Barbershop: The Next Cut, as well as in TV shows like Grandfathered, where she recently starred as John Stamos’s well-matched girlfriend.

But she has a serious acting side too, as evidenced by her recurring roles as deputy district attorney Evelyn Price in Law & Order: LA and lawyer Corretta Lipp in Ally McBeal. And you’d better believe that her new thriller When the Bough Breaks is no joke.

One thing you may not know about her from her professional life is that she adores animals — in particular, her 11-year-old Bulldog, Zeus. We visited her at home in LA to get a glimpse into the life she shares with this lucky dog and learn more about why animals mean so much to her.

“I’ve had this little gorgeous piece of fur since he was a baby,” Regina says. Zeus is the first dog she’s had as an adult, and she couldn’t be happier that he’s in her life.

When the actress was young, Regina used to frequently come home with dogs she wanted to rescue. She remembers her mom telling her, “Regina, we cannot keep these dogs. You have to stop.” “My mom was allergic to dogs, so we never could really have them,” Regina says. She has felt connected to dogs since she was little, so she was devastated when she couldn’t keep them.

Regina also had a habit of calling charities like Feed the Children because she wanted to help save kids. “I always called and adopted a child,” she says, “and my mom would be like, ‘I can barely feed you. Stop.’ And I would reply, ‘For one penny a day, mommy, you can feed Odessa.’ If there was something I could do … how could I not?”

Zeus’s Origin Story

Regina originally thought she was going to get a French Bulldog, the Bulldog’s smaller cousin. But then when she went to pick up the Frenchie, she says Zeus was “just pawing all over me, like, ‘I’m your dog.’ They say dogs choose you, and he was like, No, no, no. Yours is right here.”

After Zeus picked her, Regina wasn’t sure what to name him at first. His mother’s name was Zee, and his father’s name was Titan, so the puppy had been named Titan II. Regina thought he deserved his own name. While mulling over choices with one of her friends, she decided to stick with Greek mythology.

Her friend suggested Zeus, and Regina realized that was his name. “I feel like I created a monster because he does think he’s a god now, and I feel like that is partly my fault,” she says. “At the same time, I feel like he picked his name — He’s a Zeus!”

Jet-Setting With Zeus

Regina has made sure Zeus is well socialized. “He even travels with me when I shoot,” Regina reveals. “He flies with me. He’s really great except when the food comes. Then he gets a little antsy, so I take apples and other treats for him, so that while people are eating, he can eat.”

Zeus has his own suitcase, which Regina packs with his treats and a travel set of food and water bowls. “Once they go in the suitcase, he knows he’s going,” Regina says. “When he’s not going, he paces the whole night before because he knows I’m leaving.” When she can’t take Zeus with her, she has someone stay with him at her house.

Movies and Dogs

Regina’s new psychological thriller, When the Bough Breaks, opens September 9. Regina plays Laura, a woman who has paid a surrogate to carry the baby she and her husband (John, played by Morris Chestnut) are expecting. “When you have a surrogate, by law, it is the surrogate’s baby,” Regina says. The surrogate, who turns out to be obsessive and psychotic, decides she wants to keep the baby. “Her taking the baby, that’s not kidnapping,” Regina explains. “You have no recourse even if she takes your money. What makes this so urgent is it’s [Laura and John’s] last embryo. It ends up becoming a nightmare.”

While filming the movie, Regina took Zeus with her to New Orleans. He usually hangs out in her trailer when they’re on set, but Regina says that a lot of people involved in the movie love dogs, so they helped take care of Zeus when she was working.

Of all the movies Regina has auditioned for, a movie called A Dog’s Purpose, about a dog who’s reincarnated, really got to her. “I wanted this movie so much, and it came down to me and another person, and when I didn’t get it, I was devastated,” Regina recalls. “I never get devastated when I don’t get movies anymore. But this one, I was like, I’ll do anything.

“When I first read the script, my mom was having surgery on her back. We were at The Spine Institute in Arizona, and I’m reading the script while she’s in surgery. They come out to tell me, ‘The surgery went fine. She’s in recovery,’ but I’m reading and I’m crying. They say, ‘She’s okay. Your mom’s okay,’ but I’m not crying for my mom. I was worried about the dog in the script.”

Hands-On Pet Parenting

Her concern for the well-being of animals more than extends to her own dog. Regina grooms and bathes Zeus herself. “I do everything for him,” she says. “I don’t even have a dog walker. It’s our time together.”

She also takes him to the veterinarian regularly. Zeus visits his vet once every 6 months for a senior wellness exam, which includes blood work.

“I feel like being connected with your dog and his health is imperative,” says Regina. She stresses the importance of taking pets for regular checkups and vaccinations, watching what they eat, making sure they’re eating normally, and just paying attention to when something doesn’t seem right.

Last year, Regina noticed that one of his Zeus’s paws was swollen, so she took him to the ER because they were about to travel. She wanted to be sure he didn’t have something wrong while they were away from home. After taking an x-ray to confirm that nothing was broken, the emergency staff gave him antibiotics and told her to follow up with her veterinarian in a few days.

After several possibilities were ruled out, her vet determined that it was a tumor and recommended having the toe removed. Although Regina was concerned about her older dog undergoing anesthesia, she ultimately decided — through the advice of the veterinarian and much-needed support from her mother — that the surgery was the best course of action.

They biopsied the tumor, which turned out to be a rare, cancerous nailbed tumor. Zeus lost his toe, but Regina says he’s fine now. “Being really diligent with your pet’s health is so essential to their longevity,” she says.

Regina finds that doing research and regularly talking to your vet is empowering. She feels that it’s good to be aware of what’s associated with your dog’s breed(s) so you have an idea of what to watch for. “I really didn’t know that much about that particular breed [when I got Zeus],” she says, “so I went to the vet, and the vet told me what Bulldogs are prone to.”

Regina’s Most Important Role

Regina knows that the life expectancy of Bulldogs is only 8 to 10 years of age, and Zeus has already surpassed that. “My vet said he’s thriving,” Regina remarks, but that knowledge doesn’t stop her from helping to make sure he stays as healthy as possible. She has always kept a close eye on Zeus, and his recent health scare reinforced that decision.

Like many Bulldogs, Zeus loves to eat. “He always wants more food,” she says. Bulldogs can be prone to obesity, so to minimize that risk, Regina makes sure he gets enough exercise, watches his weight, and is careful about what she feeds him. For treats, Zeus especially loves apples and plain baked yams, which she peels and slices for him.

She also makes sure he doesn’t spend too long in the sun. Regina walks Zeus in the morning and then again in the afternoon or evening. “Our walk times change,” she says, “because in the summertime where we are, we walk earlier in the morning when it’s cooler and later because it’s hot.”

Regina says Zeus likes to sit outside in the sun. She knows the Bulldog’s flat face can make it harder for the breed to breathe, and they can easily overheat in hot weather. So she sits outside near him while he lies in the sun for a short time, then he cools off in a small water fountain she bought for him, before they head back inside. “I just want him to feel his independence,” she says, “like it’s his world.”

She draws the line at letting him sleep in her bed, though. That’s because Zeus snores loudly (a common trait in flat-faced breeds) all night long. Regina confesses that she bought her current house because of her dog. “My last house was on a hillside, and I didn’t have a dog when I bought it. When I got Zeus, I thought, Maybe he wants a yard. I wanted him to be joyful.”

One thing has changed as Zeus has gotten older that Regina says hurts a little. “He really started liking a lot of alone time. He acts like, ‘I don’t need anything from you [right now], so I’m going to go be alone.’” She checked with her veterinarian, who confirmed that the cause wasn’t medical. She says that Zeus does still like to be close to her. “In the morning, he allows me to kiss on him,” she says. “That’s the only time I can get my affection.”

Regina can’t imagine her life without her dog. “Zeus is life,” she says. “I mean, what is the world without Zeus, right?”

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of HealthyPet magazine

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