Local Pooch Is Top Dog to Chase After Chuck Wagon


Yeehaw! Purina Chuck Wagon Stampede dog food is making a comeback. And the poster dog, who like his predecessor will chase a tiny, horse-drawn covered wagon brimming with kibble, is a Westside pooch.

In a rags-to-riches story, a former pound dog named Sage (French for intelligent and pronounced sahj ) won a nationwide competition in which 1,000 would-be cover canines auditioned via videotape.

The rival dogs included a border collie and an Australian shepherd--highbrow purebreds next to the beardie mix Sage. But Sage won because he had that “just really cute” look, according to a Ralston Purina Co. spokeswoman.


After chasing an electronically operated plastic wagon around bales of straw during his audition, the shaggy dog, who looks a lot like the original 1970s Chuck Wagon pooch, jumped up on a Hollywood studio stage and cocked his head at the cameraman. “And the cameraman said, ‘Ahhhhh . . . he sat right on the mark,’ ” said Sage’s “mom,” Julie Fulton, a West Los Angeles actress. Sage received 40 pounds of Chuck Wagon Stampede kibble and $1,000, Fulton said.

The company says it decided to resurrect the dog food after focus-group research revealed that people “had an unbelievable recall” of the TV ads for the product, in which a dog chased a miniature chuck wagon around the kitchen.

As the latest Stampede dog, Sage has won the cover spot on the new Chuck Wagon dog food bags, and he may also be featured in TV ad campaigns for the product. No talk yet of a movie deal.


CLOSE SHAVE: Remember when Robert Gruenberg, a.k.a. the Venice Beach chain saw juggler, announced in a buzz of publicity recently that he was retiring his cutting-edge act?

Here’s a part of the story you may not have heard.

After weeks of hype, the fearless juggler planned a final stunt on Oct. 23 that threatened to risk his very manhood: revving up the Sears Craftsman in the nude.

In response to the advance publicity, Gruenberg said, police who patrol the boardwalk warned him they would cite him on several charges, including indecent exposure and incitement to riot.


As Gruenberg ran to his performance perch, wearing just a G-string beneath his trench coat, he saw dozens of young children waiting in the front row.

So, tipping his hat to family values, he said, Gruenberg opted not to take it all off. He juggled but kept the G-string in place.

“I couldn’t believe people brought their kids,” he said. “I decided I didn’t want to be remembered that way; I’m not that desperate.”

After finishing his act, Gruenberg finally packed away his chain saw--under the kitchen sink. He says he occasionally performs on the boardwalk--but only to practice for the comedy club career that he hopes lies ahead.

“If you juggle a chain saw, nobody hears anything you say,” he said. “Now I realize I can hold a crowd without it. . . . The tongue is stronger than any weapon.”