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Tag: entertainment

Uggie, star of “The Artist,” dies at 13

uggieUggie, the dog who captured hearts in his starring role in the 2011 Oscar-winning film “The Artist,” has died at 13.

The Jack Russell terrier was put down Aug. 7 in Los Angeles after battling prostate cancer.

Uggie, who also appeared in “Water for Elephants,” was best known for his role in “The Artist,” which won five Academy Awards in 2012.

According to his IMDb biography, Uggie was saved from being sent to the pound by animal trainer Omar Von Muller.

Uggie received a Palm Dog award at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival for “The Artist,” and his performance in that movie led to a campaign (unsuccessful) to establish an Oscar category for pets. Uggie was the first dog to leave his paw prints in cement outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.

The Jack Russell terrier was a California native, and in his youth he was apparently a handful. His owners were on the verge of surrendering him due to his troublesome behavior when Von Mueller — seeing some raw talent in the pooch — took him in.

“One of the most important thing is that he was not afraid of things,” Von Mueller said in a 2012 interview. “That is what makes or breaks a dog in the movies, whether they are afraid of lights, and noises and being on sets. He gets rewards, like sausages, to encourage him to perform, but that is only a part of it. He works hard.”

Uggie first appeared in TV commercials. His big break came when he was cast in “Water for Elephants” in 2011.

After “The Artist,” Uggie appeared on numerous talk shows, was hired as a Nintendo spokesdog and appeared in an adoption spot for PETA.

Uggie’s “autobiography” was published after he achieved movie fame, and the book was dedicated to Reese Witherspoon, his co-star in “Water for Elephants.”

“For Reese, my love, my light,” the book’s opening dedication reads.

His death was first reported by TMZ, which managed to relay the news without its trademark snarkiness — even though Uggie once nipped at host Harvey Levin during a visit to the the show’s studio.

“I have worked with many celebrities, but people were literally queueing around the block to see this tiny furry star,” said Wendy Holden, who ghost wrote the book. “There was something about him that changed people. Women especially adored him. People approached him far more readily than a human star.”

(Photo: FilmMagic)

White God: It’s not the nerds getting revenge in this haunting Hungarian film

In terms of its story line, White God isn’t too different from any other movie in which the bullied rise up and get even with the bullies.

What makes it different — and makes it shine — is that in this case the bullied are abused and mistreated dogs, a species that already knows (perhaps better and more instinctively than us) that there is strength in numbers.

Perhaps the most talked about scene in the much talked about Hungarian film — winner of the Cannes Film Festival’s Prize Un Certain Regard Award and an official selection of Sundance Film Festival — is when a pack of 250 dogs, all mutts, stampede through the streets.

And what makes that scene even more impressive is that it was achieved not through computer graphics, but with dogs.

Director Kornel Mundruczo first issued a casting call for 100 dogs for the scene, then decided bigger would be better. More than 200 dogs ended up being involved, many of them from local animal shelters.

The scene serves as the movie’s climax, and it was a first of its kind achievement for the dog trainers involved.

Under the leadership of Hungarian dog trainer Árpád Halász, a team of humans was able to train the dogs to stampede in a pack in what was, in reality, a massive rush for treats.

One of the dog trainers involved, Teresa Ann Miller — daughter of a trainer who worked on films like Beethoven and Cujo — was interviewed about the movie on NPR this week.

Miller helped cast and train the two dogs who shared the role of Hagen.

The movie’s story begins when a young girl is forced to give up her dog, Hagen, because it is of mixed-breed heritage. Her father, unwilling to pay the fee required to keep a mutt, abandons Hagen in the streets.

Young Lili tries to find him, and Hagen tries to find her, but eventually he joins forces with, and becomes the leader of, hundreds of other abandoned, abused and mistreated dogs living in the streets.

As a pack, they rise up to seek revenge for the indignities they’ve suffered at the hands of humans.

(If the film has one fault, it’s the notion that dogs would seek revenge. They’re better than that.)

Miller told NPR that director Mundruczó wanted the stampede scene to look as real as possible — a goal complicated by the fact that no one has ever seen hundreds of domestic dogs running as a pack.

It was first rehearsed with 100 dogs running together.

Trainer Halász watched and then said, “What about 150?” Miller recounted. “And 150 looked so good that he says, What about 200? And each time Árpád learned, as he acquired the dogs and introduced other dogs into the pack, that it was possible.”

It took four months to prepare for the scene, she added.

“And that was amazing to see; that was fascinating. I’ve never seen it done. I’ve never seen such a large pack of dogs run together. And, quite honestly, I don’t think we’d ever do it here (in the U.S.) just for the time that it takes. It’s so much easier just to CGI it, but the director didn’t want that effect at all.”

Which Petey is which? The historical record about “Our Gang” dog isn’t exactly spot on

Before Lassie, before Rin Tin Tin, even before broadcast television itself, there was Petey — the canine character in the Our Gang/Little Rascals comedies who sported a distinctive dark circle around his right (or was it left?) eye.

Just as plenty of myths have floated up and been deflated around the kid actors who played roles in the series — like Spanky, Alfalfa and Buckwheat — the historical record is so fuzzy when it comes to Petey that trying to separate the facts from the fictions can leave one … well, stymied.

I knew the dog who played Petey was a pit bull (though some dispute that). I assumed the ring around his eye was entirely fake (though some dispute that, too). I’d heard he, in real life, was murdered and that he was buried in a Los Angeles pet cemetery (though not everybody agrees on the specifics of those events, either).

When it comes to the canine star of the Our Gang/ Little Rascals comedies, there’s not too much one can say definitively — partly because there was more than one Petey, partly because 80-plus years have passed, and partly because it all happened in Hollywood, a land where truth and myth often spill across their borders and into each other.

But I’m relatively sure this karma-filled episode — in which Petey is put into a gas chamber by a cranky dog warden who goes on to get what he deserved — was, ironically, Petey’s last. (Or at least the second Petey’s last.)

Entitled “The Pooch, it came out in 1932 — like all the “Our Gang” comedies, in movie theaters. Not until 1955 were they syndicated to appear on television as “The Little Rascals.”

The episode stars the second Petey, son of the first Petey, both of whom were owned by trainer Harry Lucenay.

petey2The first dog to play Petey was Pal, the Wonder Dog.

Pal had appeared earlier in the role of Tige in the Buster Brown comedies.

It was for that role that, with dye, a partial dark circle around his eye was turned into a permanent full circle.

After signing a contract with Hal Roach Studios, Pal reportedly became the second highest paid actor of the “Our Gang” series.

Pal’s last appearance was in the 1930 episode, “A Tough Winter.”

Legend has it that Pal, in real life, died after eating meat tainted with poison, or glass. Some reports say the culprit was someone with a grudge against Lucenay.

Then again, legend also has it that Pal was buried with the actor who played Alfalfa, which — given the decades that passed between their deaths — is likely not true at all.

After the death of Pal, who appeared mostly in  the “Our Gang” silent films, Lucenay turned to one of Pal’s descendants, a pup with slightly different coloring.


The second Petey, named Lucenay’s Pete, was just six months old when he took over the role. He lacked Petey One’s distinctive eye circle, so one was supplied by a make-up artist named Max Factor, according to Wikipedia.

Likely unaware that it would lead to confusion, the trainer had the second Petey’s circle applied around his left eye, while the first Petey’s encircled his right eye.

Eight decades later, the  migrating eye circle remains one of the most hotly debated pieces of Little Rascals trivia.

As a rule, if you see a Petey with a circle around his right eye, it’s the first Petey; if you see a Petey with the circle around his left eye, it’s Petey two.

All that gets further complicated, though, by the fact that many of the images one can find of Petey are the result of reversed negatives, and even more complicated by the fact that, all along, multiple dogs, with slightly different markings, were used in the filming of the series.

Apparently, continuity was not too much of a concern among directors back then.

In any case, the second Petey served from 1930 to 1932, when Lucenay was fired.

There were multiple subsequent dogs — all from different bloodlines — who played the role of Petey between 1932 and 1939, when the final Our Gang episode was released in theaters.

The second Petey retired with Lucenay to Atlantic City and would die at age 18.

Like so much else about them, the second Petey’s final resting place, as with the first Petey’s, is disputed, according to Roadside America.

While Petey was a pit bull, an American bulldog was used in the 1994 “Little Rascals” movie.

Pooparazzi: Anne Hathaway’s revenge

Anne Hathaway

Anne HathawayActress Anne Hathaway and her chocolate lab, Esmerelda, teamed up to leave a gift on the windshield of a photographer that was dogging the duo as they tried to enjoy an afternoon walk.

The Huffington Post reported that the “Les Misérables” star was walking her dog on the day after Christmas and found herself being followed by a man with a camera.

When Esmerelda pooped, Hathaway dutifully scooped it up in a yellow plastic bag, and knotted the top.

Then, the website reports, she placed the bag on the windshield of the unidentified photographer’s car and walked away.

I love you just the way you are

You can call me Fuddy Duddy. You can call me Party Pooper. This Halloween, like every Halloween, I find myself put off by the effort, and money, we Americans put into dressing up our dogs for the occasion.

In trying to figure out why I feel that way, I can pin down four reasons.

One is the annoyance, and safety risk, elaborate costumes can cause for dogs. Two is that our dogs, though they might register their displeasure, don’t get to vote on being dressed up solely for the amusement of ourselves. Three is we’re tinkering, if only for a night, with something that’s already perfect. Dogs don’t need costumes any more than Mona Lisa needs a makeover.

And four is the pipedreamy thought that the $300 million we spend on costumes for pets every year could do a lot of good if it could somehow be funneled to some worthy dog-related cause.

A not-overly-elaborate costume, worn by a dog for a few minutes, doesn’t bother me. But we tend to take things to extremes when we get into decorating mode — resulting in using dyes to make them look like other animals, or, as in the case above, TV characters.

“Creative dog groomer” Catherine Opson appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” Tuesday night, showcasing five of her designs — a dog  transformed into a koi pond, one dyed to resemble a leopard, one zombie, one depicting nearly the entire cast of Sesame Street, and another depicting characters from the Simpsons.

Her work is impressive, and a small part of me thinks it’s kinda cool. She uses safe dyes, and the dogs, at least while on air, didn’t seem too humiliated (though they were mostly poodles).

But the larger part of me (and I’m not referring to my stomach) can’t help but feel a little troubled by what seems our increasing tendency to, more and more elaborately, decorate our dogs.

Every October, the news media, websites and blogs go nuts when it comes to costumed dogs, promulgating more of the activity. (ohmidog! is proud to be the only dog blog in the galaxy that has made it, until now, all the way to Halloween without doing so.)

If there is any creature that is entertaining and endearing enough just as it is, it is a dog. If there’s any creature that doesn’t need a makeover, it’s a dog. If there’s any creature we should be able to accept, savor and celebrate just as it is, it’s a dog.

Maryland SPCA’s March for the Animals

Over 5,000 animal lovers and their four-legged friends are expected to attend the Maryland SPCA’s 16th Annual March for the Animals at Druid Hill Park from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Participants, whether they are hiking the 1.5-mile walk-a-thon or checking out vendors and entertainment, will be helping to support homeless animals in the Baltimore area.

For the walk-thon, registration opens at 9 a.m. and starting line ceremonies will take place at 10 a.m. 

The event also features a demonstration by Mid-Atlantic Disc Dogs, pet training tips, an agility course for dogs, low-cost micro-chipping, a “flea-less” market of pet friendly vendors, musical chairs for dogs, and a pet costume contest judged by celebrity guests, food and entertainment.

Prizes will be awarded to the top fundraisers, including a grand prize trip to the Bahamas. Participants will receive a special “doggy bag” that includes treats, corporate giveaways and other gifts. Dog bandanas will be given to those who raise at least $30, and the 2011 March for the Animals t-shirt will be given to walkers who raise at least $40.

From “The Office” to the dog house

For all those wondering what Steve Carell would do after “The Office,” now we know: He has agreed to star in and co-produce a new movie about talking to a dog.

It may sound cutesy, but it’s not.

“Dogs of Babel” will be a film adaptation of the 2003 novel by Carolyn Parkhurst, described as a tragic story of love and loss, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Carell — pretty much a virgin when it comes to serious drama — will play a linguistic professor who comes home to find his wife dead in the backyard.

When the police rule the death an accident, the professor has some doubts, and he attempts to teach his dog Lorelei — the only witness – to talk, so he can learn about the final moments of his wife’s life.