Ava Gardner and Her Corgis

The famous American film actress Ava Gardner (December 24, 1922 - January 25, 1990), who was considered one of the most beautiful women of her day, loved corgis and as she never had children she considered her Pembroke Welsh corgis her "babies." Frank Sinatra gave Ava her first corgi, Rags, as a birthday present on Christmas Eve 1953 and after that she was never without a corgi.

Ava Gardner with her first corgi Rags

Ava with Rags in her sister Inez's home
in Smithfield, NC (circa 1959)

In 1968, Ava Gardner moved to London and bought the tricolour bitch Nona of Wey from the Butlers. Cara* was the apple of her eye and her luxury London flat in Park Lane housed dozens of scrapbooks and albums packed with photographs of the corgi. Even when Ava was away filming on location, she would call the flat night and day just to hear Cara bark. The caretaker was also expected to read out letters to the dog sent by Ava to Cara.

Ava with Cara

However, the film star had trouble finding housekeepers. The position was difficult to fill as Cara liked to nip their ankles and sink her teeth into their plastic bags when they returned with the shopping. Taking one look at Cara's bared teeth, applicants for the job took to their heels even before entering the luxury apartment.

But then Carmen Vargas, who had been born in Ecuador, arrived at the flat to apply for the job. During the interview Ava told her that she found it difficult finding a housekeeper due to Cara's aggressive behaviour. As Cara padded over to Carmen to check her out, Ava expected her to make a bolt for the door now that she knew what the corgi was like. Ava needn't have worried as the corgi immediately took to Carmen after having her ears scratched. When Cara died in 1980, Ava was heartbroken.

Ava in 1975 with Rags II(?)

Two strokes in 1986 left Ava Gardner partially paralyzed and bedridden and she spent her final years as a recluse in her London apartment - her only companions were her long-time housekeeper Carmen Vargas and her beloved Welsh corgi, Morgan.

Ava Gardner with Morgan, circa 1984

Following Ava's death, her housekeeper moved to California to be housekeeper for Gregory Peck and his wife. She took Morgan with her. Morgan died a few years later and is buried in the backyard of the Pecks' home. Ava and Gregory Peck were life long friends. Both are now deceased

When Ava died of bronchial pneumonia in 1990, Carmen Vargas took her body home to her native North Carolina by for private burial in Smithfield. Afterwards Ava's former co-star and life-long friend Gregory Peck (1916-2003) fulfilled a promise and took care of both her long-time housekeeper and Morgan.

Morgan died in 1995 and was buried beneath a weeping elm in the backyard of Peck's home in California. There's a little plaque that says 'Morgan Gardner-Vargas, 1980-1995.'

*) My guess is that Cara was the pet name of Nona of Wey.