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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.

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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.

Want to catch up on Heidi’s story? Read Chapter One, Chapter Two and Chapter Three.


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