A Chihuahua named Bonnie is at the center of a custody struggle between a Playboy Playmate and her estranged husband.
Joshua R. Lang, who married March 2008 Playmate Ida Ljungqvist last Dec. 7, bought Bonnie in the City of Commerce in February when the Chihuahua was 1 month old. He claims the dog is his and that Ljungqvist took the canine without permission when they separated on Sept. 11.
Lang, who filed for divorce on Sept. 19, is asking a Santa Monica Superior Court commissioner to order Ljungqvist to bring back the dog to him immediately, or to allow him visitation with the pet during alternating weeks.
In a sworn declaration, Lang says he has spent "an enormous amount of attorneys' fees on this issue" because he believes the cause is worthwhile.
"I love Bonnie and miss her tremendously," his declaration says. "She is like my child and I want to have her returned to me, or in the very least I want to exercise custody of her."
But Ljungqvist -- the first African-born Playmate -- maintains Lang purchased the dog for her as a gift during difficult times between the couple. She does not wish to part with the animal, according to one of her lawyers, Jeffrey S. Helfer.
"For her to return the gift will not happen," Helfer wrote in a letter to Lang's attorney, Megan E. Green, who attached a copy of the missive to her client's court papers. "If you intend to proceed forward in court, so be it."
Top news of the day
Helfer also denied Green's statement, in a letter to him, that Ljungqvist offered to give Lang $200,000 if he allowed her to take the dog to Europe.
"Ms. Ljungqvist has no intentions of relocating from Los Angeles to Europe ...," Helfer wrote.
Commissioner David J. Cowan held a brief hearing on Lang's motion on Monday. He postponed further proceedings until Nov. 24 so Ljungqvist's lawyers can file papers on her behalf, according to another member of her legal team, Keith A. Fink.
"If the best show award was given for the silliest lawsuit, this matter would be the odds-on favorite to win," Fink said. "Mr. Lang claims to be emotionally devastated not because he no longer is with his charming, beautiful and intelligent wife, but because he misses his Chihuahua Bonnie and wants joint custody."
Fink charged that all of Lang's claims are "fiction," including his additional assertions that Ljungqvist also took his Blackberry, a laptop computer, a designer bag and $7,000 in cash when she left their home for good.
"The very police report he filed omits any mention of the host of items he now claims were stolen," Fink said.
In a letter to Green, Helfer alleges it was Lang who took items from Ljungqvist, including proofs of her Playboy pictorial, a painting her father gave her that he bought in Ethiopia and her college diploma. Ljungqvist has a degree in fashion design and marketing.
A copy of Helfer's letter was included within Lang's court papers, which say he found Bonnie while searching online ad for puppies and bought the dog for $400. The night Lang brought the Chihuahua home, Ljungqvist chose to go out to dinner while he stayed home with the new puppy, according to his court papers.
"At no time did I tell Ida that Bonnie was a gift for her," Lang states in his court papers.
Lang says he walked the Chihuahua every day, took her to parks to play with other dogs, went hiking with the dog in Malibu
and traveled with the animal to San Francisco and Arizona.
"Ida rarely, if at all, cared for Bonnie," Lang states.
Lang's lawyer submitted a copy of a community petition from fellow pet owners at the Barrington dog park who support Lang and want Bonnie "returned to Mr. Lang as soon as possible."
Lang also obtained several sworn declarations in support of his motion, including one from a dog trainer.
Ljungqvist, 27, was born in Tanzania to a Swedish father and a Tanzanian mother. She was discovered by 2007 Playmate of the Year Sara Jean Underwood while at a Bebe clothing boutique on Rodeo Drive.