The dogs! Brooke’s dogs! Somehow the treatment of beloved Brooke Astor’s beloved dogs is now a barometer of the meanness of her son, Tony Marshall, recently indicted for “swindling” his mom out of millions. “He killed the dogs!” one of Brooke’s friends gasped in horror. Of course, Tony didn’t kill the dogs. But in the Dickensian tropes that envelope this scandal — he fed his own mother gruel, Tony’s son charged — Tony has become Fagin. Every meanness is credited. He wanted to put the dogs to sleep, said the Daily News, quoting an anonymous source. In her last days, he wouldn’t let his mother see her dogs, Tony’s son charged. All this is, of course, contrasted with Annette de la Renta’s loving consideration of the dogs. De la Renta, who became Brooke’s legal guardian in the end, is the dog rescuer. She’s got mutts; they roam her apartment. She invited dogs to her daughter’s wedding. She even bought Brooke one of her dachshunds.
The problem with this story is that Brooke’s little dogs could be aggressive creatures — one from a previous batch bit off one of her fingers. This enthusiastic batch had cut her increasingly fragile skin in the last year or so of her life, as a sealed court evaluator’s report found. The cuts had once sent Brooke to the hospital. And so the dogs were confined to the pantry. Sadly, none of Brooke’s feuding staff stepped forward to walk the beloved beasts of the woman they now all profess to love. Tony wasn’t on top of the situation while he was in charge. He was an absentee manager, summering at Brooke’s former Maine estate while the dogs dirtied the pantry. But he did seem to realize there was a problem with the dogs. At one point, he says, he even called up Annette. “Would she take the dogs?” he wondered. “No!” Tony recalls the rescuer saying. In the end, a judge asked Annette to settle the matter. She found a home for them in Vermont where she is sure Brooke knows they are well cared for. —Steven Fishman
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