Joan talks pet bereavement

Joan Rivers with the late, lamented Max. Photograph by Charles William Bush.

It may be one of Hollywood’s best-kept secrets: Joan Rivers is a lovely person.

I had the pleasure of interviewing her when I was starting out in my career and she couldn’t have done enough to make a rookie feel welcome – complimenting me on my outfit and even asking me to turn around so she could see it in full.

Now many moons later, we’re talking in the car. Actually two cars. On two different coasts. Joan’s being driven around on the West Coast while I’m on my cell in a parking garage on the East Coast. What Joan wants to know is am I safe where I am?

Yes, I assure her, and we proceed. But that’s the kind of sensitive soul she possesses, one that belies her brash comedic persona, her opinionated pronouncements and her TMZ’d celebrity feuds, not to mention the antic behavior that drives grounded daughter Melissa nuts on WE’s “Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best?”

The April 12 edition, “Dog Days of Fashion Week,” was a toughie, dealing as it did with the loss of Joan’s beloved black Pekingese, Max.

The rescue pooch had two previous owners, one of whom must’ve had cats.

“He would jump up on the desk and not disturb anything,” she recalls. “That was so strange.”

Ultimately, Max developed kidney trouble. For six months, he thrived with a feeding tube. Then came the moment when Joan had to decide to have him put down.

“Devastating,” she says. “It’s the hardest part.”

She had the vet come to her home and euthanize him there so he could die enveloped by familiar surroundings and the love of his mistress.

When a person dies, friends, acquaintances, even strangers can’t do enough for you. When you lose a pet, not everyone is so sympathetic.

“The only sense of comfort comes from pet lovers, dog lovers,” she says. “The others don’t understand.”

Joan – who was raised in Larchmont and attended Connecticut College before graduating from Barnard College – says the only way through the grief is to get another rescue right away. So she added tiny Teegen, a Japanese Chin, to a menagerie that includes Samantha, a Havanese; Lola, a Jack Russell Terrier; and Mike, a Border Collie.

As she notes practically, “Your husband dies on Tuesday, you can’t go out right away and get a new husband. But you can go get a rescue.”

Joan’s forthright style, which has been a household staple since she broke through on “The Tonight Show” with new host Johnny Carson in 1965, was on display once more in Westchester when she appeared at the Paramount Hudson Valley in Peekskill May 3.

“I love talking about everything you shouldn’t talk about,” she says, “just having a good time. I love performing.”

She’s always been no-holds-barred. But since turning 80 last year, she’s doubling down.

“Some of my friends are dying or ill,” she says. “You might as well do what you want to do. … It’s the nicest thing about getting old.”

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