Barking

Will Someone Solve the Mystery of Lena Dunham’s Dog, Lamby?

Was Lamby abused, and if so, by whom? As Dunham has been fighting with her former dog’s vets, the headlines have become ever more hyperbolic.

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast

If you need a break from the titillating news about Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer, you may wish to familiarize yourself with the Byzantine saga of Lena Dunham and Lamby, the dog she recently gave away.

The story began on June 21, when Dunham alerted Lamby’s fans on Instagram that she’d found a new home for Lamby after “four years of challenging behavior and aggression that could not be treated with training or medication or consistent loving dog ownership.”

Dunham chalked up Lamby’s tendencies to lash out—“biting and peeing in his own mouth and all”—to enduring “terrible abuse as a pup” which “made him in a typical home environment dangerous to him and others.” This narrative aligned with a 2013 New Yorker essay by Dunham about her decision to adopt Lamby, who showed signs of aggression from the get go.

But Dunham’s recent insistence that Lamby was “abused as a pup” was refuted by BARC, a New York City animal shelter where Dunham adopted Lamby.

“I have pictures of the dog loving on Lena and her mum, which is weird if the dog was abused,” a spokesman for the shelter told Yahoo Celebrity last week.

The spokesman also suggested that Dunham fabricated part of her New Yorker essay—specifically, her claim that Lamby had “three other homes, three other names, but now he’s mine mine mine.” The shelter’s spokesman said their records indicated nothing about Lamby having multiple owners, only that he was “surrendered” by his owner.

This prompted Lena Dunham to “clap back,” as Entertainment Tonight put it, in yet another Instagram post that praised BARC but maintained their staff had a “very different account” of Lamby’s “early life and behavioral issues” than Dunham did—and that hers was more reliable.

“Why should this story be subject to scrutiny and anger? It is willfully misunderstanding the truth,” Dunham wrote, referring to her dispute with the shelter as a “micro-drama” (she’s survived many of these micro-dramas, “but this one hurts MOST because of the vulnerability of letting people know Lamby and my story, and because I miss him so damn much”).

Yet this was no micro-drama; it was an operatic tragedy, largely of Dunham’s own making, with melodramatic plotlines (Lamby’s “aggression—which was unpredictable—and his particular issues, which remain myriad, weren’t manageable, at least not by me”) and exaggerated emotional gymnastics (“There were so many lessons in it, about forgiving myself and loving with an open palm and giving in to a larger plan”).

As if we needed more evidence of the media and Lena Dunham’s mutually dependent relationship—much of it hinging on Dunham’s attention-seeking social media posts—the Lamby saga is the ne plus ultra of our love-hate fascination with her.

Dunham’s claim that Lamby was “abused” was fodder for her conservative critics who insisted she lied about being raped in her memoir. Likewise for her fans, who delight in the culture of oversharing on social media that Dunham perpetuates. And because Dunham is a culture war lightning rod, her social media activity is mainstream media clickbait.

The New York Times sought input on Dunham’s handling of Lamby from Kenny Lamberti, vice resident of the Companion Animals department of the Humane Society of the United States, who “said it sounded like Ms. Dunham did the right thing.”

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The obsessive coverage of Dunham’s headline-generating sob story inevitably intensified after her Instagram “clap back” at BARC’s spokesman.

In an article titled “The Real Problem with Lena Dunham and Her Dog,” The Huffington Post declared—somewhat convincingly—that “the real vexation of the Lamby situation” was the way Dunham repeatedly referred to herself as Lamby’s mother.

“This isn’t just a Dunham quirk either,” the author wrote. “She’s just another annoying dog-person who’s confused having a pet with raising a human child.”

The Lena-and-Lamby drama took on more layers of absurdity over the weekend. “Lena Dunham’s Defenders Offer Conflicting Accounts, Say She Was a Good Dog Owner,” read an unironic Refinery29 headline on Sunday, reporting on a tweet from New York Times magazine contributor Taffy Akner: “To those asking about how I could possibly know that Lena Dunham was a good dog owner, please witness my only-ever Marshall McLuhan moment,” Akner wrote. “My sister was her vet.”

A trainer at the Zen Dog rehabilitation center in Los Angeles where Dunham enrolled Lamby last winter also chimed in over the weekend with more details supporting Dunham’s side of the story.

“He didn’t want to be touched and he didn’t want to be handled,” Matt Beisner, who runs Zen Dog, told People of Lamby’s first days in rehab, noting that the dog was indeed a biter and drank his urine. Beisner also confirmed that Lamby was adopted by a Zen Dog staffer in March.

So the never-ending saga of Dunham and her dog has seemingly run its course—which means we can return to more important issues now, like whether or not her two toy poodles, Karen and Susan, are safe and happy in her care.