A Call About Dogs 101, Spring 2008
I was sitting in my sister-in-law’s living room when my cell phone rang. It was a producer from Powderhouse Productions, who creates Animal Planet’s Dogs 101 series. They were featuring rare breeds in an upcoming season, and had seen the Rosewood website. They wanted to know if we were interested in coming to New York for a rare-dog photo session. Of course, yes! We arranged for May 15, 2008.
Joyce and Elsie took a train down to NYC from Boston. Hamlet and I jumped in the car and drove up from Virginia. We stayed with a lovely little kooiker named Rosie who lives in Manhattan not far from the Fifth Avenue studio where the filming would take place.
In the Waiting Room
The next morning, we took the three dogs to the studio. We shared the waiting room with a number of rare breeds. A Bergamasco, native of Italy, lay panting on the floor like an animated string mop, while a North African desert dog, the Azawakh, stood nearby, as sharp and thin as a desert shadow. A Coton de Tulear (descendant of dogs who survived an ancient shipwreck near the Madagascar coast) occupied his human’s lap—this pretty puff looked anything but shipwrecked.
Filming for Dogs 101
The purpose of the shoot that day was to capture a model dog as representative of the breed against a white backdrop.
They filmed Hamlet and Elsie together, Hamlet by himself, and Hamlet with some of the other breeds. They took video as well as stills. Joyce, an amateur photographer, was particularly interested in the technical aspects of the shoot.
I was more concerned about Hamlet’s ears. I had expected Hamlet, who is an extremely sensitive and conscientious dog, to be unsure about what was expected of him in this strange, artificial environment. I had taken him to a trainer to acclimate him as best I could to cameras and flashes, giving him treats when he would prick up his ears and look relaxed and confident. Hamlet, smart and loath to offend, did everything I asked of him. But alas, he couldn’t do it with Elsie’s relaxed and confident air. As clearly as words his expression said, “I know you want me stand like this in front of these cameras, but this is truly the most ridiculous thing ever. Am I doing this right? Are you sure? If you say so—” Not once did he prick his ears and actually look relaxed!
Initially, the kooikerhondje episode was supposed to air sometime in the fall or winter of 2008. They planned to send a film crew to The Netherlands to capture the duck hunting method for which the kooikerhondje was bred. However, this was mid economic crisis. Follow-up phone calls to the project manager revealed that due to budget cuts, the episode would not be finished and the project was shelved.
Two Years Later
It’s probably optimistic to say the economy has recovered; nevertheless, I called up Powderhouse Productions this summer just to see about the status of the kooikerhondje episode. I honestly don’t know if they had plans to resurrect the project or not. But in the intervening year, I had gone to The Netherlands to bring back Yorick, and his breeder, Roel Steenhuis, had taken me to an eendenkooi. I was so enthusiastic about this elaborate process of kooikerhondje duck seduction that I was able to convincingly pitch the trip to the production manager. I put him in touch with Roel, and soon the shoot was planned!
Episode to Air November 27, 2010
The Dogs 101 episode is now listed on the Animal Planet web site! It first aired November 27 at 9:00 p.m. The one-hour episode was focused on large and small breeds, and featured the Kooikerhondje (including Hamlet and Elsie, and other Rosewood dogs), the Leonberger, Dandie Dinmont Terrier, Tibetan Mastiff, and Affenpinscher. Unfortunately, only the first part of the segment is posted on the Animal Planet web site. To watch the entire episode, including the demonstration of the duck-hunting technique, you can buy the DVD from the Animal Planet store.
The entire show, Dogs 101 Season 3, Episode 5, is also available for purchase for $1.99 from Amazon Video on Demand. The kooikerhondje segment begins at minute 31:45.