Lifestyle & Human Interest

James Garner's Daughter Honors Late Father's Memory with Dog Rescue Founded in His Name


Five years after the death of actor James Garner, his daughter, Gigi Garner, has found a sustainable and heartfelt way to honor her father’s life and legacy.

James Garner died in 2014 at the age of 86. The actor is known for his memorable roles in television and film, notably, as Jim Rockford in “The Rockford Files,” and Bret Maverick in the 1950’s western series, “Maverick.”

He was also a prominent voice actor and producer and starred in more than 50 films throughout his career. Garner played the lead in films such as “The Great Escape” in 1963, “The Americanization of Emily” in 1964 and “Murphy’s Romance” in 1985.


In the latter part of his career, Garner starred alongside Mel Gibson in a film version of “Maverick,” playing the role of Marshal Zane Cooper. He went on to film “Space Cowboys” in 2000 with Clint Eastwood and appeared in “The Notebook” in 2004.

While Garner’s name is famous in the world of film, his family also knew him as a man with a heart for vulnerable dogs.

From childhood until the final days of his life, Garner always seemed to have a rescue dog by his side, Gigi Garner told USA Today.

Garner’s love for dogs inspired Gigi to create the James Garner Animal Rescue Fund as a way to honor her father’s life.

“He rescued dogs and was a huge animal lover. There wasn’t a dog or a baby that my dad did not want to meet,” Gigi told USA Today. “And I’ve been rescuing dogs for three decades. This seemed like a good fit to honor his legacy.”

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Gigi said that her father rescued his first dog, Ginger, when he was just 11 years old. Throughout the years, Garner went on to rescue many more dogs, giving them meaningful names like “Cherokee,” after his production company, and “Nicky,” the dog who befriended him while he was trying to kick his Nicotine habit.

In the late 1990s, Garner had retreated to the desert for a time of solitude while he tried to quit smoking, Gigi recalled. Seemingly out of nowhere, a hungry and abandoned shepherd mix found him.

“He’s in the middle of nowhere in the desert, opens the camper door and there’s this dog,” Gigi said. “He fed and washed him and named him Nicky. And Nicky was a great dog.”

After being involved in animal rescue for three decades herself, Gigi intends for the James Garner Animal Rescue Fund to support animal rescue organizations nationally and globally.

“Humans have been given the huge responsibility of having dominion over animals, which I believe means that it is our duty as human beings to take care of them,” Gigi stated on the JGARF website. “They are innocent unconditionally loving creatures at our mercy, and there is no excuse for animal abuse.”

As her father’s life came to a close, Gigi said his faithful dogs were by his bedside, nuzzling alongside him. She believes her father, who insisted that he did not want a public funeral or memorial service, would approve of an animal aid organization in his honor.

“I think he’d be proud,” she said.

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A graduate of Grand Canyon University, Kim Davis has been writing for The Western Journal since 2015, focusing on lifestyle stories.
Kim Davis began writing for The Western Journal in 2015. Her primary topics cover family, faith, and women. She has experience as a copy editor for the online publication Thoughtful Women. Kim worked as an arts administrator for The Phoenix Symphony, writing music education curriculum and leading community engagement programs throughout the region. She holds a degree in music education from Grand Canyon University with a minor in eating tacos.
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