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The Heidi Chronicles, Chapter 42: Doggie "stage moms" write in

Heidi Head ShotThis is Heidi. Last year, she was "discovered" 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 Diane Haithman. And this is her "head shot": That longing look was achieved by placing a biscuit just out of reach.

Last week, "Heidi Chronicles" readers learned about the late Ginger the Wonder Dog, an ordinary house pet who became a working actor under the guidance of Michele Boardman of Mar Vista (and thanks, Michele, for adding your sweet comments about "Ginge"). 

Today, we hear from the stage moms of two other house dogs, one on the East Coast, the other on the West, who like Ginger managed to find some success in the industry. Both of them wrote to me after reading the saga of Heidi's showbiz quest in the print edition of the Times. It's comforting to know that I'm not the only dog parent out there who is certifiably insane.

GabyFirst, meet Gaby (left), a 5 1/2-pound toy poodle owned by Judy Garland of Hermosa Beach ("No, I couldn't name my dog 'Toto,' she says). In my opinion, Gaby is on the fast track to portray Albert Einstein's dog.

 While Gaby's resume (note to self: get Heidi a resume) includes such impressive credentials as two Doritos commercials, appearances on Style Network, Access Hollywood and Animal Planet's "Groomer Has It," Garland describes their Hollywood adventure as "dog eat dog." She says she found most of Gaby's jobs through networking and, surprisingly, www.craigslist.com. She notes that professional union trainers look down on house dogs as "the great unwashed."

"This life of finding work for our cherished four-legged companions is more than difficult and ... quite expensive," she writes. "Plus there is a large demand for owners who look like their pets.... I went to one call and ended up literally cutting my hair to look like my Gaby."

If you still have that photo, Judy, please send. Meanwhile, to see little Gaby at work, check out her gender-bending performance as a "homeless boy dog" on this Pet Spa commercial.

In a Bowtie 2Our friend from the East Coast is Tiger, a terrier mix owned by Lorraine Goodman of New York City. Tiger is Goodman's first dog, as Heidi is mine. Besides boasting an impressive array of tricks and agility skills, Tiger has appeared in print ads (Barney's catalog, Vogue magazine) and on the PBS Nature installment "Why We Love Cats & Dogs."  My favorite of Tiger's resume credits: A "solo performance" at the Jewish Guild for the Blind.

Goodman's writes her own column on showbiz pets for Examiner.com and asked if it was OK to link to  the Heidi Chronicles (Heidi grudgingly allowed this free publicity). Goodman and I also exchanged a few e-mails about a recent one-day acting class that Goodman attended with Tiger. That class was $115, somewhat more reasonable than the $3,995 that I had been asked to pay (and didn't) for a two-level intensive training program by the L.A. pet talent agency Hollywood Paws.

The instructor of the workshop, Goodman said, "talked about the differences between L.A. and N.Y.C. -- saying that in New York they tend to use more pets, because large kennels with stocks of professional dogs don't exist out here ... that said, most of the work here is for commercials and print, with some TV thrown in."

From what I've heard, it might not be worth trying to hide Heidi under the seat on a flight from Burbank to La Guardia, since those commercial jobs seem to go to cute little dogs like Gaby and Tiger. But Tiger recently lost out on the perfect job for Heidi : "He was up for a commercial where he had to chase a ball across the room -- no problem!" Goodman writes. "But then he was supposed to bring it back -- a little tougher."

Heidi has been bringing back the ball, every day, over and over, for six years. The task seems to be coded into her obsessive-compulsive, herding-dog DNA. Sometimes, you don't notice that she's left her ball at your feet and has been waiting patiently, head cocked, for, say, 15 minutes for you to throw it -- which makes one feel like a very bad dog, indeed.

 Not surprisingly, Goodman reports that the job went to a German Shepherd mix.

-- Diane Haithman

Photos: Gaby; Andrew Grant. Tiger; Lorraine Goodman.

 
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That Gaby looks like a lot of fun! Thanks for that! At the rate dog movies are coming out too - it's only a matter of time before we see her playing a doggie genius in one of them :)

Actually, the gig at the Jewish Guild was weird! They had someone there to 'translate' everything Tiger did.... "Tiger just gave Lorraine a paw -- oh, and now he have her the other paw. Oh, good boy! He just rolled over!"

Luckily, Tiger has 2 skills we were able to showcase that went over very well: first, Tiger "counts" -- which means that if I hold up a couple of fingers, he'll bark out how many fingers I have up. He was some addition & multiplication and even a square root or two.

AND -- as they had a piano there, Tiger was able to show off his compositional / improv skills. FYI: his musical talent leans towards contemporary 12-tone etudes.


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