Jean Arthur was, by her own admission, shy and uncomfortable in social settings. She avoided parties, had trouble connecting with people—even those she had known for some time—and had very little confidence in both herself and her ability as an actor. “I am not an adult, that’s my explanation of myself,“ she said. “Except when I am working on a set, I have all the inhibitions and shyness of the bashful, backward child… Unless I have something very much in common with a person, I am lost. I am swallowed up in my own silence.”
It was in animals that Jean found the great friends she lacked in humans, and she valued them immensely. “When I’m walking down the street I don’t pay much attention to the people,“ she commented. “I only see the animals, and I go up to them like old friends.”
Jean was arrested in 1973 for trespassing on a neighbor’s yard when she attempted to console a frantic German Shepherd that was chained outside. She was convicted of “trespassing and of cursing and abusing the policeman who arrested her on the neighbor’s complaint.“ None of this seemed to bother her—she firmly maintained the animal’s needs as being far more important than her situation.
She said she was concerned about the dog, whom she believed was being neglected “because he barked all day and most of the night, and he cried like a child.” She added: “It kind of broke my heart.“ Jean explained that she would occasionally sneak into the yard to pet the dog and bring it food and water. She had threatened her neighbor that she would call the Humane Society, but after he continued to ignore the attentions of the dog he kept constantly chained outside Jean took the matter into her own hands. According to reports, the former Hollywood star—then seventy-three years of age—had to be physically restrained and handcuffed.
Some time ago, I told Larry King that I planned to live to be 102. I still do. I dreamed as a little girl in Dublin of growing into a wonderfully eccentric, tough, cantankerous, and sometimes mean old lady who thumps her cane loudly to get what she wants and to express her thoughts. I’ve already been known to use a cane to get around from time to time–the thumping is still to come.