LOS ANGELES, Dec. 7, 2006 — -- A Hollywood heartthrob and a 300-pound Vietnamese potbellied pig make one of life's more unusual love affairs. Nevertheless, no woman has ever been able to hold George Clooney's affections for as long as his beloved Max, who lived with Clooney for 18 years before passing Friday from natural causes.
Max wasn't any old pig. Not only did he live until the ripe old age of 19, four years beyond the normal life expectancy for such creatures, but he also enjoyed the trappings of a close association with a movie star, occasionally being photographed hanging out on the set of his owner's latest movie.
After losing his pet bulldog Bud earlier in the year, Clooney sounded downcast about the news.
"It's strange how animals become a big part of your family," the star told USA Today. "They really become a big issue with you."
Max had a brush with death back in 2001 when Clooney's friend Tommy Hinkley accidentally ran him over. A black pig on a dark night does not mix well with a reversing car, but like a true Hollywood superhero, Max made a full recovery and was back to his best within no time.
"He's eating his way through life," Clooney said of Max during one post-collision interview. "I'd put him on a diet, but he screams like hell if he's not able to stuff himself the way he likes it."
Celebrities and their odd choice of pets are nothing new. Elvis Presley had a monkey called Scatter, while Michael Jackson decided Bubbles was an apt name for his chimpanzee.
The pets, however, don't always reciprocate their celebrity owner's love. Paris Hilton was made to squeal after being bitten on the arm by Baby Luv, her pet kinkajou, and needed a trip to the ER.
Hilton excluded, the marriage between superstar and super-pet is usually harmonious.
"Animals exhibit genuine empathy," psychologist Stephen Madigan told ABC News. "They have emotions and are faithful companions who are always happy to see you when you get home.
"Additionally you don't have to worry about them clearing out your checking account or messing up your life," Madigan joked.
Knowing your money is safe is certainly a bonus, but it would great if humans could tell what their pets were thinking. Enter animal clairvoyant Lisa Shaw.
"The animals I visit are usually content, but sometimes have questions about what they see," said Florida-based Shaw.
Shaw, who refers to a pet's owner as their "human companion," closes her eyes and reads animal thoughts and feelings.
"Sometimes they will tell me that they want to be brushed more or do not like certain rooms in the house," Shaw said. "I once put my hands on a dog and when I asked him what he wanted he answered, 'Pizza!'"
If you are of the opinion that animals are used by celebrities simply as publicity tools, then make sure you don't speak to Pamela Anderson.
The former-Baywatch beauty turned animal rights activist threatened to split from her then-husband Kid Rock when he joked about shooting deer during an interview with GQ magazine.
"That's divorce right there," retorted Anderson. "You shoot anything, it's over (and) that's in writing."
Shortly after, it was over. As is often the way with celebrities, the reasons behind the separation are far from clear. Hopefully it wasn't because Kid Rock found his gun.
Animals become like surrogate children or partners to many people. Clooney famously remarked "Love me, love my pig" when explaining that his on-off relationship with British TV presenter Lisa Snowdon had the blessing of his potbellied buddy.
If Clooney feels like a pick-me-up he can log in to Pigs4ever.com, where an excerpt from resident piggy poet Sharon Jean Updike gives a reminder of the good times enjoyed by departed pigs like Max.
When the mud hangs from my snout
Now that's the way to live
What more do you expect from me
It's so great to be a pig.
Whether these words will be enough to persuade Clooney to rethink ruling out further pig ownership remains to be seen.