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The Heidi Chronicles: Chapter 25 -- New Year's resolutions

January 5, 2009 | 10:40 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.

I can't say 'twas the night before Christmas, but it was the Saturday after Christmas -- and Heidi was having her last training session before the New Year.  And the budding starlet was, in the words of her trainer Sue DiSesso, "fooling around."

This is one of Heidi's main problems -- she gets the behavior right eventually, but not before fooling around.  That is, wandering in the wrong direction on the way to hitting her mark, stopping for a drink of water in the middle of a turn or just before obeying a commend to sit, stand or stay, or suddenly playing dead instead of whatever she's been asked to do because she knows it's cute. The dog fools around.

This training session also followed one of Heidi's less obedient walks through the neighborhood.  Today's distractions included not one but two separate vehicles in which the rider in the passenger seat happened to be a dog, hanging out of the open window. Naturally, Heidi had to drag me into the street toward the passing vehicles in order to wish the dogs a very loud "happy holidays."   This is the point at which passers-by tend to turn and cluck with pity at the poor woman walking her killer wolf.


But Sue explained that  Heidi's seasonal brattiness is typical of a working dog during the holidays. Just like people, dogs get lazy and out of practice when their owners are busy trying to fit the dog's training sessions in not only with work, but also with entertaining, shopping, cooking and decorating. It's one of the career drawbacks to being a private dog, rather than one who is owned by a professional animal company. Whatever's going on in the owner's world also affects the dog.

After that misguided training session, I decided to lower my expectations and allow Heidi spend the week opening presents that didn't belong to her, playing frisbee in the house and riding along on all holiday-related errands. She also got paid off with a biscuit every time I went into the kitchen to sneak a Christmas cookie or any other fattening holiday treat.

Heidi even got to attend a New Year's Eve bash, where she partied with her friends -- Layla (left in the photo) and little Kiki Newberg (middle). The hosts, Layla's parents Jim and Irene Dorsey, babysit for Kiki whenever the Newbergs are out of town. No one ever calls Kiki just "Kiki;" she's always Kiki Newberg. It just seems to fit. 

No, Heidi and Layla hadn't been drinking, even though they look like it in the photo -- they were just exhausted from terrorizing Kiki Newberg. A fine time was had by all. And now that it's January, it's time for holiday party animals to get back to work:  Sit, stay, speak and stop eating the wrapping paper.

-- Diane Haithman

  Photo credit: James M. Dorsey

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