Dog-loving actress Julie Benz, best known for two shows adored by the Modern Dog team—Buffy the Vampire Slayer (she was Darla) and Dexter (she was Rita Bennett)—dishes on why dogs are the best remedy for heartbreak, how to ensure your new fella falls for your dog even if things get off to a rocky start, and her ideal day spent with her pups

Q: Tell us a bit about your two dogs.

A: Bamboo is a seven-year-old Morkie [Maltese Yorkie cross] and he's a hot mess. He loves to bark and protect the yard from intruders (squirrels), but becomes a nervous wreck when I start cooking in the kitchen (he hides in the closet!) and he loves to fall asleep in my arms. Sugar is a five-year-old Havanese and she's so easy going. I can take her anywhere and know that she will behave. She's very in tune to our needs and does whatever she can to please us. However, do not disturb her when she sleeps! 

Q: When you divorced from your then-husband actor John Kassir, you were widely quoted as saying your dog Bamboo helped you through the divorce. Can you tell us about that?

A: Divorce sucks, but it's amazing how healing a little heartbeat laying next to you can be! My whole world had changed. I was living in a small apartment with rented furniture and I had lost everything that was familiar, but knowing that at the end of my day Bamboo was there waiting for me made everything OK. Sometimes all you need is a heartbeat, someone excited to see you every day and Bamboo was my heartbeat. 

Q: Do you have any advice for readers who are going through hard times?

A: Time heals! I know it sounds cliché, but clichés exist because they're truths! When seeking a heartbeat to come home to a dog is a very smart option.

Q: You’re now happily married to marketing executive/Firebrand LA co-founder Rich Orosco. Did Rich and Bamboo get along right from the beginning?

A: No! Rich was not a dog person when we first started dating but I wanted him to be a dog person. I remember he said he thought Bamboo smelled so I would bathe poor little Bamboo every time Rich took me out. Let's just say Bamboo had A LOT of baths! There was also "The Blackberry" incident (Bamboo chewed on his blackberry) and "The Shoe" incident and "The Sock" incident… and…well…there were a lot of incidences, but slowly over time they started falling in love. Now Rich is a total dog person and Bamboo follows Rich around everywhere. They are true friends for life.

Q: Any tips for introducing a new person into the pack?

A: It’s important that the dog spend alone time with you and alone time with the new person. 

Q: How about Bamboo and Sugar? Did they like each other right from the beginning?

A: Sugar loved Bamboo immediately, but Bamboo did not feel the same. He started acting very needy and all of a sudden he couldn't jump up on the couch. He would cry and cry until I picked him up. I worked with dog trainer Amy Peel and she said that it was important I spend time alone with Bamboo. I would take him for walks without Sugar and as soon as I started doing that he began to accept Sugar into the pack. 

Q: Can you tell us a bit about your experiences volunteering for animal groups?

A: I was very active in spreading the word about Patrick the Miracle Dog and the movement that has become known as Patrick's Law. Patrick's Law aims to pursue strong animal welfare legislation at a State and Federal level. [Patrick was an emaciated Pit Bull discovered at the bottom of a trash chute in Newark. He had been tied to a railing and starved near to death before being tossed out with the trash. Patrick, as he was named, was discovered moments before a trash compactor would have killed him; amazingly, made a full recovery, in the process garnering fans around the world.] I had the opportunity to meet Patrick very early in his recovery. When I met him he climbed into my arms, rested his head on my shoulder, and stayed like that for a very long time. He was so trusting even though his human had neglected him so severely. 

Q: Why would you recommend volunteering?

A: It’s important we help and advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves. Through fostering and volunteering you are helping a dog that may not have a chance at life. The rewards of fostering a dog outweigh almost everything!

Q: Describe your ideal day with your dogs.

A: My ideal day would be hanging around the house with my husband and my dogs, watching TV, going for a walk, hanging out in the backyard, and taking a nap! 

Q: If Sugar and Bamboo were celebrities, who would they be and why? 

A: I've always thought Bamboo looks like a cross between David Duchovny and Fabio and I would say Sugar is a lot like Cameron Diaz. Both have a lot of toughness wrapped up in a lot of pretty. 

Q: Do your dogs ever come on set with you?

A: Yes! Bamboo and Sugar grew up on the Dexter set. I'm fortunate that they are able to travel with me and come to work with me. Bamboo even had a featured role in Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day. Sugar is awesome on set, she will sit quietly under my chair, not react to gunfire or explosions, but if you have to kiss me in a scene, she becomes very vocal!

Q: What has been your favourite movie or TV role to date and why? We’re big Buffy fans here at Modern Dog.

A: It's hard to pick a favourite! Working on Dexter was amazing, I felt like I was in a master acting class working opposite Michael C. Hall. Playing Darla (Buffy/Angel) was a roller coaster ride, I never knew what she was going to do next! Robin (Desperate Housewives) was so fun and quirky and a real character role for me. Amanda (Defiance) is a total bad ass. I get to be challenged emotionally as well as physically every day and for that I am very fortunate and grateful. 

Q: Lessons you’ve learned from your dogs? 

A: Patience and unconditional love. 

Q: The best part of having dogs is:

A: Some days they are the only ones who are happy to see me! 

To see more of Julie (and, we can hope, a guest appearance from one of her dogs), watch “Defiance” on Syfy. Season 2 premieres June 19th!