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Living High Off The Dog

A casting call for the Life Network show Dogs with Jobs
brings pooches who paint, work in advertising and have their own business cards

Rebecca Eckler
National Post
February 7, 2002
Peter Redman, National Post
Tillamook Cheddar practises her art. Her preferred medium is colour transfer paper, wrapped and taped.
Peter Redman, National Post
SHE'S NO BARNETT NEWMAN: Tillie and her latest work, Lake Ontario.

I am not the boss of my dog. When I make reasonable demands like "Stop eating off my plate!" or "Stop hogging the couch!" he just gives me a look that says, "Uh, you're not the boss of me."

I was raised with the "As long as you're living under my roof, and I'm paying for the roof, you'll follow my rules" rules. So, following in my parents' footsteps, when the invitation for a press conference for the television show Dogs with Jobs arrived, I thought it would be a brilliant field trip for Bogey and I.

The third season of Dogs with Jobs, which profiles dogs with jobs, premieres on the Life Network Feb. 18.

I had a plan. I'd get Bogey a job, he'd be a featured on the show and get so much exposure that Bogey would pay for his own bills. And mine. If he's paying for my roof, I probably wouldn't mind that he doesn't treat me like a human. Plus, I like meeting celebrities, so why wouldn't Bogey like meeting celebrity dogs?

I knew that even though the invitation said "Dogs welcome," this wouldn't be an easy outing. First, every taxi that passed us on the way refused to pick us up. Bogey the soon-to-be-celebrity-dog and I were forced to take the streetcar. This would never happen to Lassie. Never.

Tillamoock Cheddar, known simply as Tillie, was the first celebrity dog we ran into.

Tillie, whose job as a dog is a painter, arrived yesterday for her first ever Canadian visit. She's had four shows in New York, and her paintings fetch anywhere from $100 to $300.

"Tillie can be a bit of a snob," says her owner/assistant, Bauman Hastie. I didn't think so. Tillie smelled my dog's bum, my dog smelled Tillie's bum. I don't think Tillie quite realizes how important she is. She acted like, well, like a dog.

Bowman tells me they are being put up at the Quality Inn (read: not the Four Seasons) and they aren't receiving any honorarium for being here. "We got the flight paid for," he says. Tillie travels in a sherpa bag with Bauman, and stays under the airplane seat. "She doesn't get food or anything, and takes up my leg room." Which is the price you pay for owning a celebrity dog, who has so far made "in the high five figures."

"I'm hoping to live off her. That's the plan." He's also thinking of getting her paws insured.

Next we run into Freddie, a Great Dane, who weighs 150 pounds. His job as a dog is in advertising. He's so big, you can throw a sign over him, and he prances around, for all to read the advertisement. He's basically a sandwich board.

He gets anywhere from $50 to $100 an hour for doing this. I'm sorry, but for $50 to $100 an hour, my dog could do that. Heck, I'd do that. Ken French, Freddie's babysitter, says Freddie works 15-minute breaks into his contracts. He hands me a business card with Freddie's face on it.

What is amazing about these dogs with jobs is how well behaved they are. I realize this as Bogey runs up to a very nice woman, Judy Gerstel, who works at The Toronto Star, and snatches the chocolate chip muffin out of her hand and wolfs it down. I do what any dog owner would do upon seeing her dog eat another reporter's muffin. I keep walking, pretending Bogey isn't mine. "Who's bad dog is that?" I whisper to the person next to me.

"Do you know that was a reporter?" I scold Bogey afterwards. "She's going to ruin you in print. Ruin you! Your reputation is tarnished."

After the presentation, which I missed completely because Bogey refused to lie nicely at my feet, I find Maura Kealy, the series producer and writer. "How can I get my dog on the show?" I ask.

"What does he do?" she ask.

"Well, he's unemployed right now. He's in between jobs."

First, she tells me, he needs a job.

I'm sorry, I tell her, but my dog could probably paint, too. He probably couldn't be a seeing-eye dog, or sniff out ancient bones, or herd emu, like some of the dogs featured on the show. But he can sit and beg for a really long time.

"That's a trick, not a job," she says. "He should go on Letterman."

I paid for Bogey's ride home.