The Heidi Chronicles, Part 4: A cocktail party for dogs
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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.
The fact that I was willing to even consider a $3,995 dog ‘acting’ program at an animal talent agency attests to the seductive lure of Hollywood. Or maybe it only attests to the over-the-top insanity of L.A. dog parenting in 2008.
Despite her humble roots as a rescue, Heidi now laps it up as waitpersons offer her fresh water at bistros with outdoor seating, attends art gallery openings and occasionally shops Rodeo Drive -- where salespeople who dress better than I ever will coo over her and invite her inside, perhaps to shed fur on black designer duds.
Why all the attention? She never buys anything. My husband and I chafe at businesses that allow dogs, but only if you can carry them -- perhaps the reason the chihuahua is now L.A.’s most popular breed. We can carry 70-pound Heidi; we just choose not to.
But on subject of the ‘acting’ program, I was brought back to earth by Ron Hutchison, a San Fernando Valley professional dog trainer who taught Heidi basic obedience when she first arrived in Los Angeles. Hutchison laughed when I told him Heidi scored 4s out of possible 5s on her agency evaluation, and suggested bringing in a dog trained to do absolutely nothing, who would just lie there like a speed bump. He predicted Speed Bump Dog would also score 4-out-of-5s. He also told me what would become a refrain as our industry quest began: Pet talent agencies represent no path to stardom.
This did not stop us, however, from attending the agency’s monthly cocktail hour for dogs. I didn’t want to go, but Heidi talked me into it.
And the event was a hoot -- dogs of all types, refreshments for canines and their humans and an opportunity to chat up what seemed to be a sincere,dedicated staff.
Most dog owners I talked to acknowledged their pets had not gotten much work -- but for them, the agency’s intensive training program was worth the time and money. A valid point of view, I suppose.
Heidi, meanwhile, turned up her nose at Bowser Beer (made from ‘pure malt barley and infused with a mouth watering beefy flavor’) and instead of networking, played with a dirty tennis ball she found outside on the deck. But like any budding starlet, she did love the gift bag.