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Fifteen Minutes of Furry Fame

Long before computer-generated images became the norm, Mr. Wuzzle was a real-life canine character actor.

Mr. Wuzzle in his Gaines dog food heyday.

Mr. Wuzzle in his Gaines dog food heyday.

In a darkened studio, the photographer raises his camera. The model’s posture is erect. Dark eyes fix the camera with a practiced gaze. Click! Onlookers murmur their approval. An assistant approaches with one last touch: she carefully places a large dog biscuit across the wet, black nose of the model.

“Stay, boy.” She smiles and steps back.

The camera is raised again. Furry eyebrows dance as the dog eyes the biscuit, then in an instant, flips it up and into his waiting mouth.

Such was the busy working life of former canine show business veteran Mr. Wuzzle. Discovered in Manhattan by a dog talent scout, Mr. Wuzzle took the Big Apple for all the biscuits he could eat, appearing in commercials and print ads in the heyday of big corporate advertising budgets and slick ad men in sharp suits.

Mr. Wuzzle’s story begins in rural Oregon, where he was dumped from a moving car and left to fend for himself. This low-slung, Benji-esque dog used his considerable charm to secure a warm spot in the passenger seat of Suzan Phillip’s station wagon a few days later. Suzan picked him up without hesitation and drove him directly into her world of the bright lights and big city.
 
During a routine stroll in midtown Manhattan, Suzan and her dog were approached by a man offering to make Mr. Wuzzle a card-carrying actor. The dog’s first casting call involved a tiny waiting room crammed with two dozen dogs and their hopeful owners eyeing each other haughtily. Once summoned, Suzan’s dog watched with interest as two bowls of dog food were placed ceremoniously on the dingy floor, one Brand X and the other Gaines-Burgers. The dog shifted his eyes from one bowl to the next, licked his lips and promptly devoured both offerings.

Read the entire article in the February 2012 issue