April 20, 2009 09:09 PM

Brian Williams may be a hard news anchor, but he’s definitely got a soft spot for dogs. And dog people: “I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t love a dog,” the host of NBC’s Nightly News says. After he spoke sweetly about his 15-year-old pooch Lucy – and her habit of barking at 4 a.m. – on The Bonnie Hunt Show, we caught up with the newsman to find out more about his puppy love.

While the anchor admits he has a weakness for golden retrievers – who doesn’t? – and confesses to “sending my daughter random golden retriever calendars,” it’s the tiny puppies that turn him silly.

“If I’m walking through New York and somebody has a golden retriever puppy on a leash, I just can’t help myself,” he says. “I will be engaged in an intense conversation on the street corner and if I see a puppy, I’m down on all fours. I just love them.”

But he has an even bigger love for mutts like Lucy. “Lucy is my first canine love – in case she reads this,” he says. “I’m a mutt. Lucy’s a mutt. I see a lot of myself in Lucy. I’m a college drop out who has really hit the lottery in life.”

And Williams would like to think he’s given the dog equivalent to Lucy, who was born in South Carolina. “The sainted people at the North Shore Animal League regularly send vans down” to southern states that have severe pet overpopulation, he says.

Lucy has canine vestibular syndrome, an inner ear disorder that comes on like a stroke but is usually temporary. When it first struck, she was rushed to an emergency vet, then kept in a pen “so she wouldn’t feel bad if she had an accident,” Williams says. Now, the only sign of her condition is a permanent head tilt. But Lucy still insists on tackling stairs without any help.

“I wish most of the humans I knew had the inner reserve and strength of this dog,” Williams says. “We wouldn’t have so much complaining on the Internet.”

Williams has a theory about mutts and their strong characters. “They really are Darwinian. They are survivors. They are protective. They are smart,” he explains. “[Lucy] is enormously intuitive. She has a complete stranglehold over my wife. They have a mode of communication that is no known human or dog language.”

Williams grew up with a cocker spaniel, Charlie, and his wife Jane grew up alongside a black Lab named Tara, but Lucy is their first dog together. Says Williams: “Love of dogs and love of Bruce Springsteen were two of the first things we established when my wife and I met 24 years ago.”

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