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The Heidi Chronicles, Chapter 20: Enter the acupuncturist

December 1, 2008 |  7:33 am

HeidiThis is Heidi. She was "discovered" this year in the park by a pet talent agency; since then, she has embarked on a one-dog quest to break into the business. This is her Hollywood story as chronicled by Times staff writer Diane Haithman. And this is her “head shot”: That longing look was the result of seeing a biscuit just out of reach.

Unlike many Hollywood actors, Heidi does not have a chef or a personal assistant, a chauffeur, a therapist, an astrologer or a hairdresser. Sure, she has a trainer, but not a personal trainer — you know, the gym rats who charge $100 an hour to sip vitamin water and talk about reps, carbs, abs and glutes alongside an already toned person who sweats, but not too much, in designer gear.

True, Heidi has a full-time staffer who will bravely force an arm or leg beneath the sofa to fish out her red ball every time she lets it roll under there, but it's an unpaid position, which I know because I have not received a check in five years.

What Heidi does have, however, is an acupuncturist. Like many large-breed dogs, particularly German shepherds, she has joint problems: hip and elbow dysplasia, plus arthritis. Her X-rays are not pretty. I bring this up not because the dog wants your sympathy, but because dysplasia may affect a canine’s performing career.

Heidi_gets_acupuncture_2While she’s fine running, jumping and playing on her own, in movies or TV a dog is often called upon to repeat such behaviors dozens of times. For that reason, her trainer Sue DiSesso says, Heidi has a better shot at print work or TV ads than action roles. At least so far, Heidi does pretty well by staying thin — excess weight is not good for any dog’s joints — and by taking glucosamine, MSM and chondroitin supplements. Her vet says that although the effectiveness of these supplements is less documented in humans, they definitely seem to help dogs.

Only rarely, after vigorous exercise, does Heidi need to resort to Rimadyl, a doggie drug mostly used for arthritis that can cause liver problems if used regularly, but is sometimes the lesser of two evils for dogs with severe pain. The acupuncture helps too; in fact, Heidi should go more regularly than she does. (In the photo above, she is treated by Gael Parks.)

After Dr. Gael Parks of North Hollywood’s Best Friends Animal Hospital gives Heidi a few drops of a holistic calming blend, she’s more than happy to lounge on the big magnetic floor pad and have the needles inserted, down her spine and even in her forehead. In fact, Heidi has so much fun at acupuncture that the challenge is to keep her from standing up and giving herself a happy shake that starts at her shoulders, ends at her tail, and sends needles flying everywhere.

The point (no pun intended) is that Heidi works with her physical problems and, like any good actor, can still play roles that suit her many talents. Let her doubles do the running and jumping; save Heidi for those glamorous close-ups and “speaking” parts.

Photo: Alan Feldstein.

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