Articles Index/Norfolk Tales
Posted 10/23/00

A Star is Born Kind of Well Almost

In August of 1997, my friend Sue called and asked if my dogs would go to ground on command. She wanted to know because she was lining up interesting canine activities to be filmed for a Discovery Channel television show about the various roles dogs perform and some of the filming was being done in the Connecticut area. At the time my thoughts turned to Grenadier (Ch. Titanium Grenadier, JE) who would dig anywhere, at any time, for any reason. And, he liked an audience. A natural earth dog and a real ham, he seemed perfect for the role.

Sue didn't really understand why I requested that the filming be done at the John Jay Homestead in Katonah, NY, site of ANTA's annual Fall Festival. She reasoned that Connecticut had plenty of fertile territory and, since she lives only about 30 minutes from me and had arranged for some filming near her home, it seemed to her that a trek across the border was an unnecessary complication. "Trust me," I said, "It'll be worth the drive; the setting is perfect." By this time, she needed me (or at least my dogs) and she capitulated. A date was set for mid-September.

When the day arrived, I loaded the Norfolks into my van and set off to meet Sue and the Italian film crew that was set to record the activity. It was an absolutely spectacular Fall day, the foliage was perfect and the Homestead had never looked prettier. With old buildings, stone walls, fields and forests, and blue sky above, the setting was glorious. When Sue and the Discovery crew pulled up to the barn where I was parked, they were effusive in their praise.

What followed was more than two hours of dog fun, although my plans to use Grenadier were soon thwarted. The idea was to carry live mice to the site and then to carry live mice away from the site but Gren would have none of it. It was obvious from the beginning that he intended to eat his fellow actors. So, we enlisted the aid of obedience trained Peter (Ch. Folklore's Novel Approach, CD, CGC). The crew carefully created an upside down tunnel from one of ANTA's earthdog liners, filled it with grasses and leaves and released a mouse. Peter, who was holding a beautiful down stay, stared and stared but he didn't move a muscle. The cameraman filmed close ups and caught the intensity in Peter's eyes. The dog quivered, but he didn't break. His self-control was awesome. Finally, the director called "cut" or "stop" or something of that nature (it was in Italian) and we all relaxed. Except Peter. He pounced. Crunch. Gulp. Ah, yes, after all he is Grenadier's son.

Following this series of close-ups, Peter and Lily (Ch. Chidley Lily Marlene) were allowed to explore stone walls, run in the meadow, enter holes in the fields and generally have a wonderful time. Peter was filmed running along the top of stone walls and both dogs were captured charging out of heavy cover and racing across the grass. The cameras rolled. The dogs performed. It was a wonderful afternoon. My dogs had been "Discovered". Could Hollywood be far behind?

And then we waited. Fall turned into Winter and Winter into Spring. A year later, in September of 1998, the show still hadn't aired. Sue checked with the producer. We followed the Discovery Channel on the Web. We waited and waited and still no calls from Hollywood. No 15 minutes of fame.

Finally, in February of 2000, the show was set to air. The fact that it appeared directly opposite the broadcast of Westminster didn't affect me, since I don't have cable and couldn't watch either show, but it did seem a scheduling faux pas. The next night, Sue called. She said the show was ok. Not great, but not too bad. I tried to sound casual when I asked if we'd been featured. "Well," she said, "they left out all the wonderful shots, but I do believe Peter and Lily did appear kind of near the end."

Sue is a master of understatement. A couple of people were kind enough to send me a video tape of the show. About 30 seconds from the end of this three-hour program, there is a close up of Peter and Lily. Happy. Panting. Their faces filled the screen for, oh, maybe three seconds.

Did I care that they didn't have a featured role? Not really. The memory of that fun day is still fresh. Gren and Lily are both gone now, and what really matters is that it was a great day for the dogs.

Peter and Lily look to the stars while waiting for the call from Hollywood.

Sheila Foran
June, 2000

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