The Heidi Chronicles, Part 3: Our girl gets a 4 out of 5
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This is Heidi. Earlier this 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 Times Staff Writer Diane Haithman. And this is her “head shot”: That longing look was achieved by placing a biscuit just out of reach.
Since Heidi was approached on that fateful day in the park, I have learned a lot more about animal ‘talent agencies’ than I knew then.
Suffice it to say that -- much as is true for children’s talent agencies that encourage you to e-mail a photo or ‘call this toll-free number’ to sign up in hopes that your kid will support you for life -- according to animal trainers working in the industry, the jury is still out, way out, on whether such agencies are the ticket to stardom for your pet.
At least for now, I will avoid using the name of the agency that approached Heidi because I have done no exhaustive research on such businesses and can only tell you how the ‘evaluation’ process went down for us.
Those trainers say animal agencies are not to be confused with established showbiz animal companies, which, with few exceptions, train and own the animals they offer for hire. If the company doesn’t own an animal with the look and/or skills required for the role, trainers who are part of this exclusive world tend to call another company to facilitate finding just the right dog, cat, bird or bear.
But Heidi and I didn’t know that on the drizzly Saturday in early March when we set off for our ‘evaluation,’ Heidi wearing a classic red bandanna because I thought it really made her look like a dog, me with a purse full of biscuits to persuade her to show off her few tricks: Sitting, laying down, shaking hands (for Heidi, more of a flailing high-five), and catching her ball.
With effort, Heidi was coaxed to stop hiding behind me with her head in my purse -- she’s a treat-seeking missile -- to strut her skill set and to successfully hit her ‘mark,’ in this case a wooden square topped with one of her favorite blueberry biscuits (yes, dogs need antioxidants too).
Afterward, a super-friendly agent informed us that we had scored 4 out of 5 in all categories! I didn’t know I was being rated too, for ‘dog interaction.’ I haven’t had this much fun since the SATs.
Heidi was not the only overachiever drooling here -- what would it take to get us both up to perfect 5s?
Here’s what it would take: They recommended that I enroll Heidi in a combo of Levels I and II of the three-level ‘acting’ program. Cost: $3,995. Well, we couldn’t have been more shocked if they’d told us it would be $4,000.
I tell the super-friendly agent that we’ll have to, uh, think about it.