Monday, January 12, 2009

Is Ranger the Next Dog Star?

Let me preface this entire post with a caveat. I don't watch American Idol. I barely watch TV at all (other than BBC or Animal Planet). I do not care for reality television, or hold any aspirations of hanging out with the rich and famous in Hollywood. I truly do not know what possessed me to do this...or even fathom why.

On a whim I decided to go to the Seattle Dog Winterfest this weekend.

Saturday night I was looking over the website and saw that they were holding auditions for the “Next Dog Star”. I giggled at thought…”Wouldn’t that be fun?”. So I read over the requirements and judging criteria.

Next Dog Star Judging Criteria

All dogs will be judged accordingly:

  1. Appearance
  2. Ability to work on set
  3. Marketability

A dog may have certifications in Canine Good Citizen, be a therapy dog or be a show dog, have won awards in any dogs shows or contests or have purebred papers, these are not judging criteria and DO NOT determine in anyway a dogs ability to work on set.

Appearance: A dogs general appearance will be one of the main judging values; however the breed of a dog or mix bred of a dog will not be a judging factor

  1. Grooming
  2. Eye Color
  3. Photogenic
  4. Hair/Fur Color

Ability to work on set in a TV show, commercial or film: Working on set can be long and difficult process. These simple questions will help determine if you and your dog will be good candidates.

  1. How obedient the dog is to the owner:
  2. What types of tricks can the dog do?
  3. Does the dog have the ability to take direction from the owner: Will the dog take commands from someone else?
  4. Are the commands given to the dog verbally? Or hand signals? Are these
    signals recognized by Union 399 animal trainers or self taught?
  5. What distance can a dog be from the owner and still perform the “asked for” command?
  6. How focused the dog is to the owner?

Marketability: Directors and producers can be very demanding. When a dog is sent to set to work we need to make sure they are the right dog for the role. These questions help us determine if a dog is a good canine actor.

  1. Is the dog easily distracted?
  2. Is the dog obedient?
  3. Is the dog focused on owner?
  4. Does the dog have any separation anxiety issues?
  5. Is the dog between 6 months – 10 years old?
  6. Is the dog unique looking?
  7. Does the dog look like he enjoys working?
  8. How does the dog interact with strangers?

Ranger fit all of the criteria. He is handsome, obedient, focused amid many distractions, has a fantastic goofy personality.

I filled out the application, attached Ranger’s picture and hit ‘submit’.

Then I freaked out.

I realized that they were going to expect us to, you know....D'oh... PERFORM.

Oh, my, DOG! I didn’t know what the heck we would do? I didn’t have a routine put together. I didn’t have time to figure one out!

I tried to cancel the application – it was to late, we were already scheduled for Sunday at 12:10. (At this point, any other rational person would decide to just not go...but I didnt).

At 11 o’clock at night I am in the kitchen working with Ranger, teaching him how to jump over a stick I am holding and doing basic obedience commands. I knew he would do great – me on the other hand, I am a moron.

I didn’t sleep much. Ranger slept like a baby.

Sunday morning dawned. I loaded up a freshly bathed Ranger into the car and drove to the Seattle Waterfront. Ranger was his normal delightful self. We got into the convention center, paid our admission and registered for the audition. The whole time I am telling myself that this would be good for us. If I am ever going to go to a trial or agility competition I better get used to performing with my dog.

We sat & waited. While waiting a woman came up to us and introduced herself. She is an animal talent agent in Seattle. She apologized for approaching me in this venue. She gave me her card and asked me to send her some pictures of Ranger because she said she may have some work for him. Hmmm…maybe other people think Ranger is as cute as I do!

Then the Le Paws Agent doing the auditions came and introduced herself to me. She asked me if Ranger was good with distractions because they were holding a seminar on the other side of the curtain where the auditions were being held. I told her that Ranger was fine with distractions – he lived in a house with five teenagers – he can handle anything.

She took us back to a curtained off area next to the stage. On the other side of the black curtain there were lots of people mulling about and activity. The agent left, giving me a few minutes to prepare. Not knowing what to do, I grabbed a chair, a broom & and a orange cone that was hiding in the back corner.

When she came back she explained a few things to me, asked me about Ranger (where he came from & his story) and then asked me to do our ‘routine’. I explained to her that we didn’t have a routine but I would take Ranger through some basic things we had been working on a home & in agility. We did, sit, down, stay, hand targeting, come to heel, backing up, etc. Then I used the chair for perch work. By accident Ranger figured out he could push the chair around while he had his front legs perched on it (very cute) I pretended that was intentional. I had him circle the cone (right and left). Jump over the broom stick and a few other things.

It was not professional or well orchestrated.

Ranger was PERFECT!

Then the agent asked if she could work with him. Ranger did everything she asked. She was impressed. She explained to me that my handling skills were good and that I need more confidence in what I was doing. She went on to explain that it wasn’t the amount of tricks the dog is taught, or how many clothes he can wear. It is really how well he does with distractions – given the seminar that was going on – he had the ability to completely focus and relax amidst chaos. She said that was relatively rare and exactly what they were looking for. The fact that Ranger was striking, had a great personality and is extremely photogenic - an added bonus!

Then she handed me a paper and said we were being moved up as a finalist and needed to perform on stage at 3:30.

I couldn’t believe it!

After the audition was over I called John and let him know we were being moved to the finals. He grabbed the kids, threw them in the car and drove up to Seattle to watch us in the finals. I was so excited and proud of Ranger.

Then I saw the competition.

Crap…we were in trouble.

A bulldog that won Nick and Night’s Fido Awards who rode a rocking horse & skate board.

An adorable border collie mix who was a Frisbee champion

An Aussie with fantastic tricks & a very well spoken handler

A beagle with spot on perfect obedience

A little Chihuahua with a host of AKC awards & etc whose mom had a complete mini agility set up on stage

An adorable poodle mix with an entire routine of sweet little tricks and antics

Then there was me and Ranger – with basically nothing. Talk about getting promoted on good looks.

A few hours later the finals began.

The judges were (Right to Left) Art Director of Le Paws Agency, Owner of "Pawparazzi", and Editor of Seattle Dog Magazine aka Dog Queen.

We were second after the agility star Chihuahua

When the evaluator introduced us to the judges she said (I am paraphrasing from the video tape John shot) “I chose Ranger because I was fascinated by his relationship with Carolynn. I want to remind everyone that this contest is not about finding the most talented dog nor the most obedient. It is about a dog with the right appearance who can work on a movies set full of distractions and activity and still able to listen to his handler and do what is asked of him. While Carolynn is just beginning as a dog trainer, I saw that Ranger has everything we are looking for and more.”

She then handed the microphone to me and I tried to introduce Ranger. I explained where we got him. Told his ‘rescue’ story about falling out of a truck and dragged behind as a puppy.

Ranger was wonderful. He did everything I asked him to do. I was an unorganized, nervous scatter brained idiot.

I took him up on the stage and put him through the obedience basics. Had him jump over the stick a few times. I put him in a down stay facing the audience – then threw his treat down the “runway” and said “Okay” which is his release word. He must not have heard me because he kept looking at me waiting. Finally I made a big deal out of throwing his treat and saying OKAY – then noticed I threw the treat right off the stage. Like a good boy he jumped off…found his treat among the people watching and jumped the four feet back up on stage coming right back to me. I was so proud of him.

After the ‘finals’ the process was explained to us. We have to watch the Next Dog Star website for our standing as they move across the country. When they are done with all the auditions in all the different cities they will choose a winner who will be crowned “The Next Dog Star”, win $10K, a new car, contract with Le Paws Animal Talent Agency, 2 weeks in LA with a dog trainer and a few other things.

They took a group picture of all of us (which will be posted on the website soon). John shot some pictures of the group trying to get together for the picture.

We don’t stand a chance in Haiti of winning anything.

However, I saw something in my dog that I will always remember. He loves me, he wants to please me, and surrounded by people, cameras & chaos he still will do anything I ask of him just for my approval, some love and a treat. That was better than winning any silly contest.


Sarah said...

very cool!

(i would pick him)

Darci said...

You go girl! Even if Ranger and you dont go any further,look what a great time you two had and what wonderful memories the two of you made! Thats what its all about,
getting out and having fun with your dog! Besides,Ranger has always been a star in my eyes. He is simply adorable!
Best of luck, I hope you both earn another try. In the mean time, probably wouldnt be a bad idea to make up a fun routine....just in case!

Shelly said...

I would pick Ranger, too. Great story!!!

Laura said...

Way to go, Carolynn and Ranger! It sounds like you blew everyone away--hooray! Actually, what it really sounds like is that the two of you have a rare, incredible relationship :) Please keep us updated on your standings!

Raising Addie said...

OMD that is soooo coool!!!

Don't sell yourself short. You have an excellent chance at winning!!

You must have been soooo nervous! Ranger was just amazing. I LOVED that he waited then jumped off of the stage to get his treat then jumped right back up!!

We can't wait to hear more. Any idea of how much longer before they start narrowing it down?

We have our paws crossed for you!


BCxFour said...

I have no idea when they will let us know our standings. They told us to keep our eyes on and they will be posting our standings as they move through the country - and each city. So far there hasnt been a thing posted to the website.

I will be patient and assume that we are not in the running. Ranger might be a star in my eyes...but so was each dog there. So we will see...

Sandi said...

Hi. I was the woman with the poodle mix (Schnoodle) next to you in the group picture. I was impressed when Ranger gently placed his head on my right arm when we were posing. Grace doesn't like bigger dogs at all, so Ranger must have given off a calming vibe!

You did everything EXACTLY RIGHT, doing the research on the website. The evaluation was more about demonstrating the dog's ability to be trained, but more importantly, focused on the trainer amidst distraction. On top of that, a cute look because one of the prizes is the dog's likeness as Pawparrazi doll.

Now for some not-so-great news. I've withdrawn my dog from the contest before any of us know if we are moving ahead. I've discovered some shoddy business practices of the editor of Seattle Dog Magazine. Many are linked to in the Comment discussion thread on the Seattle Times online article, "Don't Bring Dogs to Seattle Dog Winterfest". I emailed David, the one who sent us our audition time. He replied, copied others, saying he was forwarding my concerns to the LePAWS Talent Agency.

Good Luck!

BCxFour said...


I am so glad you posted!!! I have more pictures of you and your dog I would love to send you - if you would like them. They are not the greatest but you can still have them.

I thought the stiffest competition on that stage was your dog. She was just adorable! Ranger does give off 'calming dog' vibes. At doggie daycare they use him to hang out with & test all the new dogs because he is so sweet & has such a non threatening approach. His happy go lucky attitude to life helps me keep on an even keel most days. How can you not smile and laugh when you see his goofy face looking at you?

I will research the editor & what you found behind the scenes. Would you mine emailing me directly then I can send you the photos?

I am wondering if and when they will post anything to the website? Did you by any chance hear anything from David about that?

Thank you again for commenting on --- I hope I got everyone's descriptions right!