Saturday, October 20, 2012

My "Rescue 9-1-1" Blunder---Part One

What I really needed was someone to rescue me... "If I were to write a book entitled "Dumb Things I've Done" it would wind up looking like a set of encyclopedias (hey a good way to organize it!)  I would have to say that this story would be in the Top Ten." --GW-T

I'm typing this story totally from memory (one that I have suppressed for maybe 18 years):

Once upon a time, there was this gal (me) who wanted to make some money as a stay-at-home mom and do something "fun" at the same time.  I owned and trained a wonderful golden retriever bitch "Windi" to obedience high in trial awards, as a water rescue dog in Malibu and a motion picture trick dog during the 1980s.  (I will post about her soon.)  So, I figured doing a little TV/print work around Ohio would be a piece of cake compared to Hollywood.   This was not the case.

My dog love of my life "Windi" had long passed away, but I am well connected in the "dog world."  I have been active in many clubs, forming many life-long friendships with folks who would trust me with their dogs.  I set up a little business and mailed out a few brochures.  I did some print work and would pay a rental fee (or offer, some folks just liked having their dogs in ads) and charge the customer a wrangler fee for myself.  I wasn't getting rich, but all I had to do was a little training and show up ---usually.

My "big break" was when a casting director called and asked me to send some photos of collies to do a "Rescue 9-1-1" in Dayton.  This was a reality show way before they were popular.  All I had to do was match dogs and have a spare that could paw at a door and push it open.  No biggie.  I also needed to give them a rate upfront.  That comes into play later.

I have lots of friends with collies, so I easily found a matching pair, way better looking than the original dog, but nobody would know that.  I found one of them through a trainer friend, who wanted to become involved.  So, I decided to be broker and turn over the training which could take a few hours to her.  Unfortunately, the owner of the main dog decided she too wanted to participate.  That has never been my policy as the potential for disaster is exponentially multiplied---and I usually like being right, but not this time.   The owner was originally just coming along for the ride...I would only be paying the dog...

We, of course, only had a short time to get our act together before the shoot.  Thank goodness the trainer friend I will call "Ann" had a motor home we could use as a home base.  I swung by and picked up my 2nd dog and met them at a rest area.  We got to the hotel in Dayton and settled in with our instructions.  All was well, get up at 4 a.m. and go.

I went to the morning meeting and the director changed everything.  Why I didn't expect that, I don't know.  With "Windi" I could train on the spot if need be, so I guess I hadn't thought about it.  This happens all the time, even though we were supposed to be re-creating an actual event.  The director, who immediately said he hated working with kids and dogs, obviously knew nothing about either.  There was a set of six week old twin babies who were miserable the whole shoot and never stopped crying.  My dogs kept coming unglued with that as it upsets them to hear anything cry.

This director also decided this was his one chance to direct a "Lassie" episode and wanted us to have the dog walk in the nursery, put feet on the bed, see the baby not breathing, fretting and barking, then circling a certain number of times,  jumping on the bathroom door as well as pawing, push it open and jump in a shower, dragging the mother out to "save" the baby.  Shooting would start in 30 minutes.  We had to be done by dark.  And oh, there won't be room on the credits to add me.

I left the meeting shell-shocked and went back to the motor home to explain.  This was to be shot in a sequence and not takes of each trick, meaning the dog would have to go from A to B to C on it's own.  There would have to be all three of us directing that poor dog.  The house was tiny and between us, the cameraman, gaffers, sound guy, etc. it was crowded and overwhelming to the dogs.  My beautiful second dog was mostly an insurance policy and not really trained.  I did work with her on the door stuff a little.  Everything obviously had to be hand signaled as you can't have us hollering commands all through the scene.

I went back to the A.P. (assistant producer) and explained the situation.  We would need some time to rehearse in the house at the very least and I would see what I could do, but this was not in the original agreement and I was making no promises.  They could tape some barking and plug it in where necessary and we had to get the dog to do that without saying anything.  Try it sometime.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, my original babysitter was unavailable and poor Mark had to arrange a replacement at the last minute as he had a business to run.  This also turned into a disaster and the dollar a minute cell phone bill escalated---chipping away at my "profit."  This would prove to be the least of my worries.

Believe me, you will want to come back next week "for the rest of the story"...

Until then, have a great week!


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