PuppyGate: Every Question Answered About RHOBH's Season 9 Scandal
The scandal over the dog that Dorit Kemsley gave away has fractured Lisa Vanderpump's friendships with her costars
It’s the storyline dominating The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills‘ ninth season, causing a war between some of the biggest stars in the hit Bravo franchise.
But what exactly is #PuppyGate anyway? Here are all your burning questions, answered.
Like any good Housewives feud, this one seems to extend to many people. It started between Lisa Vanderpump and Dorit Kemsley. But soon Teddi Mellencamp Arroyave got involved, as did Kyle Richards and two of Vanderpump’s employees at Vanderpump Dogs: executive director John Sessa and event manager John Blizzard. Oh, and of course, Lucy Lucy Apple Juice…
I’M SORRY, LUCY LUCY APPLE JUICE?
Yes, Lucy Lucy Apple Juice. Or Lucy, for short. That’s the name of the innocent puppy who is at the center of this whole mess.
OKAY, OKAY. GO BACK TO THE BEGINNING. WHAT HAPPENED?
Well, in RHOBH‘s season 9 premiere, we learned that before the cameras started rolling on the season, Kemsley adopted Lucy from Vanderpump’s foundation. Though Kemsley called Lucy “a beautiful, adorable puppy,” Lucy “was not the right fit” for Kemsley’s family after she bit husband Paul and their two kids — son Jagger, 4, and daughter Phoenix, 3 — “a few times.” So Kemsley found a “beautiful home” for Lucy and gave the dog away.
Now, that would have been fine, but unbeknownst to Kemsley, Lucy’s new owner also didn’t want the dog and gave Lucy to a shelter. That shelter scanned Lucy’s microchip, which tracked it back to Vanderpump Dogs.
THAT’S NOT GOOD.
No, it’s not. And that’s literally what Vanderpump told Kemsley in episode 1. “It’s not good for us for a shelter to be calling us saying, ‘We’ve got a Vanderpump dog down here,’ ” Vanderpump said, adding that the pet adoption contract Kemsley signed carries fines for situations like this. “We make very, very stringent rules and regulations so that that mistake can’t be made. That’s why we put in the $1,000 penalty so that it can’t be made.”
DID VANDERPUMP KNOW THAT KEMSLEY GAVE LUCY AWAY?
Yes. In episodes 1, 3, and 4, Kemsley insisted she told Vanderpump about Lucy’s behavior and new home the day after Lucy left. Vanderpump never debated Kemsley on that fact.
BUT VANDERPUMP DIDN’T KNOW THAT LUCY’S NEW OWNER GAVE HER AWAY?
Correct! Nor did Kemsley. To reiterate, that information didn’t come out until the puppy was brought to a shelter and the animal’s microchip pointed her back to Vanderpump Dogs.
GOT IT! DID KEMSLEY EVER CONSIDER GETTING ANOTHER DOG?
She actually did get another dog, before Lucy. And that dog — which the the family named Maddie — bit Kemsley’s daughter Phoenix “on the face,” too (as Kemsley explained in episode 4).
WHAT HAPPENED TO MADDIE?
Maddie was “immediately” taken back to Vanderpump Dogs, Kemsley said in episode 4. “Then after that, we adopted Lucy,” she said.
WAS VANDERPUMP MAD AT KEMSLEY FOR GIVING LUCY AWAY?
More like, disappointed. Vanderpump did discuss the situation with Kemsley, saying that she wished she would have given the dog back to Vanderpump Dogs instead to another family. But Vanderpump never said that she was angry with Kemsley. “I know that you had no bad intention,” Vanderpump told Kemsley in episode 1.
“Maybe in [Dorit’s] mind, she believed it was going to a good home,” Vanderpump revealed. “There is no way she would have given the dog away to be dropped off at a shelter. I stand by that.”
In fact, Vanderpump was so adamant that Kemsley was innocent that she did her best to shut down any conversations about #PuppyGate that were happening on camera.
WAIT — WHO WAS TALKING ABOUT #PUPPYGATE ON CAMERA?
Ah! So, the whole saga came up in the premiere when Mellencamp Arroyave and Richards visited Vanderpump Dogs. There, Sessa brought Lucy out. “You don’t recognize her?” he asked Richards. “It’s Dorit’s dog. She’s with us again.”
Vanderpump wasn’t happy. “Stop! I really don’t want to talk about this now,’ she said. “I 1,000 percent don’t want to talk about this. It’s handled. … It’s not her fault.”
But Sessa seemed insistent. “It was not handled properly,” he said. “I’m pissed and everyone here’s pissed. And I’ve been dealing with this now for a week.”
WERE MELLENCAMP ARROYAVE AND RICHARDS SHOCKED BY ALL THIS?
Richards was, but Mellencamp Arroyave already knew. She’s pals with Blizzard and had heard about what had happened before. “They told me because they’re really upset about it,” Mellencamp Arroyave told Richards at Vanderpump Dogs. “But they were like, ‘Don’t say anything’ and I was like, ‘I won’t.’ And I keep my word.”
ARE THOSE THE ONLY PEOPLE WHO KNEW?
Kemsley also told castmate Erika Girardi in the premiere, but that doesn’t seem to be of consequence.
DID KEMSLEY KNOW THAT RICHARDS AND MELLENCAMP ARROYAVE WERE AWARE OF WHAT HAPPENED?
She didn’t know about Richards, but she was definitely aware that Mellencamp Arroyave knew.
While at dinner together in episode 1, Vanderpump told Kemsley, “John Blizzard spoke to Teddi.” Vanderpump also admitted in episode 3 that she had texted Kemsley “Teddi knows” in an effort for Kemsley to “clear this up and get in front of it.”
“Of course I told Dorit because Teddi and Dorit’s history has been a little tenuous,” Vanderpump said. “If I hadn’t told Dorit and Teddi brought it up, then I probably would have been to blame for that as well.”
Kemsley never discussed it with Mellencamp Arroyave directly until episode 3, when Mellencamp Arroyave brought it up at dinner and exposed the fact that Richards knew, too.
AND… WHY WAS THAT A PROBLEM?
Because Mellencamp Arroyave and Kemsley have been on rocky terms ever since season 8, and Mellencamp Arroyave was worried Kemsley would think she was spreading gossip about it to hurt her.
“I just feel really anxious about it,” Mellencamp Arroyave said in episode 3. “I found out information about it, I never said anything. And then when we went into Vanderpump Dogs, John pranced your dog out and told me and Kyle. … It was not my fault that this is out there.”
“This situation could have been resolved between Lisa Vanderpump and Dorit. I should have never known about it,” Mellencamp Arroyave added. “But I was told by John Blizzard about Dorit’s dog ending up in the kill shelter. Him and I have a relationship, he was telling me the gossip. But I would never do anything to Dorit.”
Kemsley wasn’t exactly happy about Mellencamp Arroyave knowing, either. “I don’t want my private matter being brought up and discussed with anyone, especially with Teddi,” she said in episode 1.
WHAT’S LISA RINNA GOT TO DO WITH ALL THIS?
Let’s just say the actress’ infamous lips have been moving a lot.
In episode 3, Rinna walked in on a conversation between Vanderpump and Richards in which Richards made a joke about Kemsley being “allergic” to dogs. She was hinting about what had gone on with Lucy, but Vanderpump didn’t want to discuss it at all and immediately went silent — something that made Rinna suspicious. “I refuse to talk about it now,” Vanderpump said. “I don’t want to talk about this. There are no winners. If anybody’s going to bring it up, it’s just because they’re going to stir up s—.”
That’s all fine and good, but Rinna — who had been criticized by Vanderpump in the past for not being involved in the group — was invested. The next day she asked Richards and Mellencamp Arroyave about what’s going on and heard about how Vanderpump’s employees brought Kemsley’s dog around while the cameras were up.
In Rinna’s eyes, it looked like a set-up.
Yup. Rinna felt Vanderpump had her employees bring up #PuppyGate to get Kemsley mad at Richards and Mellencamp Arroyave. “You have to see what part you’re playing in this,” Rinna said, “Because [both of you] have had some stuff with Dorit. And they gave you that piece of information because [Vanderpump] does not want to take responsibility for it. She’s dolling it out so she can go, ‘Oh dear, I don’t know what’s happening, I don’t want to talk about it.’ She just set you all up.’
“All Lisa Vanderpump wants to do is punish Dorit about the dog,” Rinna said. “She can’t do it so she had those boys do it. She doesn’t want to get her hands dirty.”
THAT’S A PRETTY BIG ACCUSATION. DOES RINNA HAVE PROOF?
Not specifically, but Rinna has experience. Back in season 6, Rinna accused Lisa Vanderpump of secretly orchestrating the entire Munchausen feud between her and former Housewife Yolanda Hadid.
Vanderpump was also accused of similar manipulation back in season 5 — this time by Brandi Glanville, another RHOBH alum. Glanville claimed Vanderpump had told her to bring tabloid magazines that claimed Richards’ husband was cheating on a vacation, in order to get the storyline on camera. “You wanted me to bring it,” Glanville said. “It’s all clear that Kyle needs to know the truth.”
Oh, and in episode 6, Camille Grammer noted that Vanderpump had forced her to bring up Taylor Armstrong’s abuse allegations on camera during season 2. “We’ve all experience the wrath of Vanderpump and it’s terrible because it’s a character assassination,” Grammer said. “Lisa Vanderpump asked me to bring up the Taylor/Russell abuse issue [back in 2011]. Lisa had a habit of keeping her hands clean and having other people do her dirty work.”
In all those situations, Vanderpump denied those claims. Still, Rinna doesn’t seem to believe her. “How many years do we have to go through this?” she asked her castmates in episode 4. “When do we finally say enough is [enough]? Stop!”
DID RINNA EVER ADDRESS THIS ‘SET-UP’ CLAIM DIRECTLY WITH VANDERPUMP?
Duh! In episode 3, during that stressful group dinner in the Bahamas, Rinna pounced. “This sounds like a f—ing set-up,” she said. “I think you set them up.”
“Well, you can believe that,” Vanderpump said, shrugging off Rinna’s accusations.
WERE THERE ANY OTHER ALLEGATIONS COMING FROM RINNA?
Oh yes. In episode 3, she also said that Vanderpump should have disciplined Sessa for bringing it up. “You should have protected Dorit,” Rinna said. “He’s your employee. This wouldn’t get out there if you didn’t want it out there.”
In her defense, Vanderpump said, “I have 100 employees. I can’t be responsible for everything they do and say” while also admitting, “I don’t think John Blizzard should have said anything.”
Vanderpump later called Sessa in episode 4, and he said he acted on his own accord. “I’m not your employee, first and foremost. I’m your partner,” Sesssa told Vanderpump. “You don’t control what I say. Sorry, Lisa.”
THIS DOESN’T LOOK GOOD FOR VANDERPUMP. DID SHE REALLY DO ALL THIS?
Well, the women are clearly uniting against her, but Vanderpump has maintained her innocence throughout — reiterating time and time again that she tried to shut the dog conversations down.
“I tried to protect Dorit. If Dorit had just handled it properly, there wouldn’t be this scenario,” Vanderpump said in episode 3. “I’m not a liar. These women questioning my integrity? I don’t appreciate it at all. They don’t even know what the f— they are talking about.”
HAS SHE GONE ON THE OFFENSE AT ALL?
She didn’t at first. But by episode 3, Vanderpump pinned it on Mellencamp Arroyave, telling Kemsley, “I had no idea Teddi would be gossiping.”
“Don’t turn this around on me,” an angry Mellencamp Arroyave said in response, before storming out.
SO DOES MELLENCAMP ARROYAVE THINK SHE WAS SET UP?
She sure does. In fact, Mellencamp Arroyave even went further by claiming that Vanderpump instructed Sessa and Blizzard to bring up #PuppyGate on camera that day at Vanderpump Dogs. “The staff at Vanderpump Dogs told me damaging information about Dorit, yet I did not tell anyone,” Mellencamp Arroyave said in episode 4. “I know 100 percent they were told to tell me [by] Lisa.”
WHAT HAPPENED WHEN MELLENCAMP ARROYAVE CONFRONTED VANDERPUMP ABOUT THAT?
Vanderpump denied it. “I’m sorry you’re in this situation but I did not tell my employees to tell you,” she told Mellencamp Arroyave in episode 4. “Why would I tell [Sessa] to say it? … I wanted to shut it down and I absolutely stand by that.”
She explained: “I couldn’t say possibly to Dorit that Teddi instigated the conversation when John brought the dog out because we were all there and we saw that Teddi didn’t instigate the situation. That was John [Sessa] and John was out of order.”
Mellencamp Arroyave was adamant. “From the very get-go, I was told, ‘Lisa wants you to know.’ You gave direct instructions to them to tell me,” she told Vanderpump, pulling out examples of texts with Blizzard in which he allegedly confirmed Vanderpump instructed him to tell Mellencamp Arroyave.
Her words didn’t sway Vanderpump: “I don’t have any communication with John Blizzard ever. I don’t even have his phone number. I mean, he’s 22 years old!” Vanderpump said. “Teddi’s saying she spoke to my employees and they said me, ‘Lisa told you to tell Teddi.’ That is not true.”
The two then came together again in episode 6, where they both said they had been “betrayed” by the other. “If you can live with yourself doing this, than go for it,” Mellencamp Arroyave told Vanderpump. “It’s been working for you for a long time.”
IS MELLENCAMP ARROYAVE TELLING THE TRUTH?
If she is, she certainly left some stuff out at first. It wasn’t until episode 4 — when Vanderpump’s husband Ken Todd printed out text messages between Mellencamp Arroyave and Blizzard — that we learned that Mellencamp Arroyave had actually appeared to know about Kemsley’s dog situation before she arrived at Vanderpump Dogs.
“Have the dog there and I can say it looks like Dorit’s dog,” Mellencamp Arroyave texted Blizzard, appearing to orchestrate #PuppyGate. “Either way it will come out.”
“We can lay it all out about everything,” Blizzard wrote back.
The news shocked Vanderpump. “I can’t believe this,” she said as she read the texts. Todd put it more bluntly. “She’s a f—ing liar,” he said.
Yeah, right? Mellencamp Arroyave explained more in episode 5, admitting that she initially conspired with Blizzard. “I was kind of in it. Texting with them, being catty back,” Mellencamp Arroyave told Girardi. “They wanted me to say it. I already know this going into Vanderpump Dogs and I couldn’t go through … with telling everybody what Dorit did.”
WHAT HELD HER BACK?
According to Mellencamp Arroyave, it all clicked when she saw Vanderpump trying to shut down the conversation.
“When I really knew the setup was beyond was when I saw Lisa and how she was acting. ‘No, no, don’t you dare,’ ” Mellencamp Arroyave said in episode 6. “This bad acting and at this moment, I shifted. I was like, ‘I don’t care about this petty crap. This is someone I can’t look at anymore. You just set me up. And now you’re pretending that your hands are clean so that you can be relevant and you can be the hero to Dorit? F— you!”
SO WHY DIDN’T MELLENCAMP ARROYAVE JUST SAY THAT THEN AND THERE?
In episode 6, she claimed it was because she had heard even worse things about what Kemsley had allegedly done to the dog.
“Truthfully, I wanted to protect her,” Mellencamp Arroyave said. “The original story I was told was so bad. But that’s why I was so angry on top of it. Because I was told an inflated version of the truth! The original story I was told wasn’t true. I was told that not only was Dorit’s dog in a kill shelter, but that Dorit had locked that dog in her basement and it hadn’t seen the light of day in months.”
Despite her guilt, Mellencamp Arroyave maintained that Vanderpump was the one in control the whole time. “She fed me information, I bit,” Mellencamp Arroyave said. “[Blizzard told me], ‘Lisa wanted you to know.’ ”
BUT VANDERPUMP HAS SAID SHE DOESN’T EVEN TALK TO BLIZZARD…
Yeah, but in episode 6, Mellencamp Arroyave said that she, Vanderpump, Sessa, and Blizzard had engaged in “multiple” phone conversations together. “They’re like, ‘Hold on, we’re on hold with John Sessa, and Lisa, and blah blah blah.’ It was a whole orchestrated thing that I was totally messy and involved in.”
Later, she showed texts between her and Blizzard that led her to believe, at least, that Vanderpump and Blizzard were close. The texts had Blizzard claiming he was in conversation with Vanderpump, Todd and even their daughter Pandora Vanderpump Sabo about the incident. “This once again proves that Lisa Vanderpump is lying about having zero relationship with John Blizzard,” Mellencamp Arroyave said.
THOSE WEREN’T THE TEXTS THAT VANDERPUMP SHOWED BEFORE, THOUGH…
Yeah, apparently Vanderpump was only showing part of the story. Or Blizzard was exaggerating.
WELL WHAT ABOUT BLIZZARD? HAS HE BACKED MELLENCAMP ARROYAVE UP?
Not at all. In episode 5, he admitted he told Mellencamp Arroyave that Lisa wanted her to know — but insisted that Lisa never told him. “I put words in your mouth that were not true and I will own that and I’m sorry for that,” he said to Vanderpump. “I’m not proud of it.”
WHO DOES KEMSLEY BELIEVE?
Surprisingly, Mellencamp Arroyave. It helped that Mellencamp Arroyave owned up to her role in it and apologized to Kemsley in episode 6. “I was in on the scheme. I was part of the scheme,” Mellencamp Arroyave said. “I was set up and I took the bait but could not go through with it. I didn’t tell Kyle, I didn’t tell Lisa Rinna. And I told you that your friend betrayed you.”
“I was involved but none of it would have ever happened if Lisa Vanderpump wouldn’t have given them direct orders to constantly contact me,” Mellencamp Arroyave added. “I can tell you this: I’m sorry and I want to move on and I want to start fresh with you. None of it would have happened without her orders.”
The apology went a long way with Kemsley. “There’s two people that play a part in this,” she said. “Teddi is owning her part. Teddi was caught in a lie but at least she’s taking ownership of that. … Lisa Vanderpump, she plotted against me behind by back to hurt me. A friend doesn’t do that to someone.”
Even Kemsley’s husband Paul seemed to side with Mellencamp Arroyave. “I love her but LVP is a genius at manipulation and control,” he said in episode 5. “She’s the best in the world at it and I respect her for it but it gets a bit different and difficult when it’s my wife.”
THAT MUST HAVE HURT VANDERPUMP …
Big time. Vanderpump walked away from the table in episode 4. “Why would my friends think that I’m out to get Dorit?” Vanderpump asked audiences. “I don’t know why I’m getting the blame, I’m not the one who brought it out in the dog center. I have gone out of my way not to talk about it publicly. Oh, and now Dorit has sided with everybody’s else. Dorit’s actually got it wrong. My priority was always the dog, end of story. And now I don’t have any idea how to sort out this whole bloody mess.”
She seemed even more frustrated in episode 5. “Why are you believing Teddi over me?” Vanderpump asked Kemsley. “You believe that I told Sessa, Sessa told Blizzard, that Blizzard and Sessa are lying [when they say I wasn’t involved], and that [Teddi] would have never of said [what was in her texts]?”
WHO DOES RICHARDS BELIEVE?
At first, Richards was torn. On one hand, she saw the set-up as plausible. “I love Lisa, but that doesn’t mean I’m blind,” Richards said in episode 3. “Someone dropping a dog off at a shelter would be very upsetting to Lisa. I think she’d wanted to punish [Dorit] a little while trying to look innocent because she wanted to protect her relationship with her at the same time.”
On the other hand, Richards supported Vanderpump despite her flaws. “This is who she is. I know who she is,” she said in episode 4, of the restauranteur’s alleged manipulation. “I’m not saying it’s okay … I don’t have the f—ing answer for her. I’m not responsible for Lisa Vanderpump’s actions. I’m just saying, I know this about her and I love her and she’s my friend.”
But when they met in episode 5, Richards appeared to be on Team Teddi. “There’s no doubt that her hands aren’t clean in this. But I think that it’s not fair to put that on her when she wasn’t alone in the situation,” Richards said. “She did not initiate this.”
AND WHAT’S RICHARDS’ PROOF?
For Richards, it all comes back to the fact that Vanderpump texted Kemsley, “Teddi knows” about the dog. “Lisa saying she never spoke with John Blizzard but someone told her something cause she quickly let Dorit know. So who told you? Where’d you get that information?” Richards asked in episode 5. “Obviously Lisa and John Blizzard had a whole conversation about that.”
“It’s very clear to me,” Richards said in episode 6. “Lisa wanted Teddi to have that information about Dorit, then Blizzard let Lisa know, ‘Okay jobs done, Teddi knows about the dog.’ And then Lisa texts Dorit, ‘Teddi knows’ just to stir up s— between Dorit and Teddi.”
WHAT DOES EVERYONE WANT IN THE END?
An apology. Since this mess began, all have spoken about wanting the other to take ownership and say, “I’m sorry.”
WILL THAT EVER HAPPEN?
Perhaps by the end of the reunion? As it’s been well-reported, this feud has gotten so bad that Vanderpump has stopped speaking with her RHOBH costars, even refusing to film with them when shooting the season 9 credits. In fact, Vanderpump has said she doesn’t even plan on watching this show back. Meanwhile, most of the RHOBH cast have gone on the offense against Vanderpump in the press. Reunion host Andy Cohen is sure going to have his work cut out for him this year.
The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills airs Tuesdays (9 p.m. ET) on Bravo.