| Kelli Kennedy
Gunther the German shepherd spent a recent morning playing with his tennis ball, rolling in the grass, slobbering a little and napping a lot. Later, he had a “meeting” with the real estate agents selling his Miami mansion that his handlers bought from Madonna.
And of course Gunther was wearing his very best faux diamond dog collar for the meeting — his real gold collar is back at his main home in Tuscany. As crazy as it sounds even by Florida’s standards, Gunther VI inherited his vast fortune, including the eight-bedroom waterfront home once owned by the “Material Girl” singer, from his grandfather Gunther IV. At least that’s what the handlers who manage the estate say.
The Tuscan-style villa with views of Biscayne Bay went on sale Wednesday for $31.75 million — a whopping markup from the purchase two decades ago from the pop star for $7.5 million. The home also boasts a gilded framed portrait of Gunther IV over the living room fireplace.
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The dog’s lineage dates back decades to when Gunther III inherited a multimillion-dollar trust from late owner German countess Karlotta Liebenstein when she died in 1992. Since then, a group of handlers have helped maintain a jet-setting lifestyle for a succession of dogs. There are trips to the Milan and the Bahamas, where the latest Gunther recently dined out at restaurants every evening — his handlers like to make sure he’s well socialized.
A chef cooks his breakfast each morning made of the finest meat, fresh vegetables and rice. Sometimes he enjoys caviar, but there’s never any kibble in sight. He travels by private jet, works on obedience skills daily with his trainer and sleeps in a lavish round, red velvet bed overlooking the bay.
“He lives in Madonna’s former master bedroom,” said real estate agent Ruthie Assouline who nabbed the listing with her husband Ethan for the 1.2-acre (0.5 hectare) property in a row of a half-dozen waterfront homes next to a public county park and on the same street where Sylvester Stallone once lived.
“He literally sleeps overlooking the most magnificent view in an Italian custom bed in the former bedroom of the greatest pop star in the world.”
Carla Riccitelli is one of Gunther’s main caretakers and is on a board that manages the trust now worth almost $500 million, deciding when to buy and sell real estate. The group has even purchased sports teams, including a men’s soccer team and women’s swimming team and, yes, Gunther played on the field and attended the meets, she said.
Riccitelli, a 52-year-old animal lover who resides in Tuscany, met the group taking care of Gunther nearly 30 years ago. She instantly connected with the dog and the mission of the trust, and joined the team. She also helped form Gunther Rescue a few years ago to care for other animals.
She has taken care of the last three Gunthers and often brings the current dog with her on routine trips to the market or visits to the kennel where she cares for strays.
“He’s not aggressive at all,” she said, saying many people write off the breed as wolves. “He’s very good with other animals.”
“They’re very protective with their owner, with their people. They like to have the family around so I usually invite friends with other dogs over,” she said during a phone interview.
She talks with the board that oversees the trust a few times a month. The Miami real estate market is so hot, with such limited inventory, they decided it was an opportune time to sell.
The Assoulines are accustomed to multi-million dollar listings, but this one seemed unbelievable.
“When it was explained that this house was bought by this German shepherd, I was like, ‘What are you talking about? I’m not following you’,” Ruthie Assouline said.
When she first met Gunther, he covered her face with such sloppy kisses that he licked off her lipstick, she laughed.
As luxurious as Gunther’s life sound, he still has drama and hardships like everyone. Back in Italy, Riccitelli has two other dogs that live with Gunther — his favorite playmates.
But she also has six cats and a couple of chickens.
Let’s just say it’s a work in progress, Riccitelli said.
“He’s still learning to be with six cats.”