Ollie gives two paws up to his audition

My wife saw a story in the paper. The headline said, "Dog needed for short film."

"I want Ollie the Pug to audition," she said.

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Ollie is our dog. He's quite portly. His tongue always hangs out one side, making him seem dim.

Lying on his back, he resembles a saggy bag of wet sand.

I told my wife that, it being the movies and all, the producers likely require a good-looking dog. The doggie equivalent of George Clooney. Or Rachel Ray.

The story also said this movie dog needed to do things like sit, lie down and ride about in a motor scooter.

"Keanu Reeves would have trouble with this," I said, "let alone Ollie."

My wife, being stubborn, would not be dissuaded. To prepare for the audition, she made Ollie practice sitting and lying down. Lacking a motor scooter, she pushed our dog violently around on a chair with casters. Ollie gazed blankly as he loco-moted through the living room.

It was not his usual thing. "Ha," I said. "No expression. As an actor, we're absolutely unclear on his motivation. So, not movie-star material."

The audition happened on a rainy day at a hall in Oak Bay. Some 60 dogs were there, all small breeds. The audition notice had specifically requested this since the film's leading lady, a senior, must be able to carry the dog.

The dogs were unleashing their talent on Saturday for Hattie's Heist, a comic caper starring Maxine Miller (Party of Five) as a cash-strapped senior who becomes a silver-haired Robin Hood.

Inside the hall, it was doggy version of A Chorus Line. The atmosphere was heady - not to mention a bit pongy. I started to get enthused. Could Ollie be the next Marley or Lassie or - oh my god! - Toto?

We filled out a form that asked the dog's weight.

Ollie is heavy for a pug, about 28 pounds. I instructed my wife to lie ("all the movie stars do it"). But she would not.

We sat in chairs, nervously awaiting our turn.

Most dogs were well behaved, but a few started to act up. One pranced about excitedly, then produced a bowel movement.

The embarrassed owner dashed in with a baggie to retrieve the offering.

Another dog started barking loudly at everyone.

Ollie wore his green hoodie. Intended to have a slimming effect, it made him look like a chubby thug. Also, his hoodie was encrusted with dog hairs.

"Quick, get out the lint roller," I said. "The movie camera will pick up these hairs."

"We didn't bring a lint roller," said my wife.

"What?" I said. "Oh.... why God? Why?"

I was sort of losing it. Still, on the plus side, Ollie hadn't yet evacuated his bowels. So we had that going for us. (Generations of actors had heeded the words of Stella Adler: "Bowels must never be loosed at an audition.")

A wee Yorkshire Terrier ahead of us did his tricks perfectly: sitting, lying down. This cute micro-dog leapt into a basket - intended to replicate the motor scooter stunt - with aplomb. Not only that, she sported little goggles and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle helmet. She was like the perfect dog. I half-expected her to twirl a baton or produce an electric guitar and play the Star Spangled Banner.

"Curses," I whispered. Several other dog owners nodded grimly. Mother of God, the competition was fierce.

Finally, Ollie's turn. My wife coached him through sitting and lying down.

Went fine. He even managed to sit in the basket pretty well. It was a miracle, seeing Ollie is a few clowns short of a circus. He's not the brightest bunny in the forest.

On the other hand, neither is Keanu Reeves. So, perhaps our dog has a chance for movie stardom.

achamberlain@timescolonist.com

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