By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
If anyone in my family ever gets a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which isn’t so far-fetched because the entertainment industry is going to the dogs, it will be my dog, Lizzie. As her star-struck daddy, I am proud and excited to report that Lizzie recently was a winner in the Petco Stars Search for America’s Most Talented Pet contest.
This national event, sponsored by Petco, the pet supply and product chain, had regional competitions at stores across the country. Videos of the winners, including Lizzie, are being posted on YouTube. A panel of judges will select 12 finalists. From Aug. 6 to Aug. 18, visitors to the chain’s Web site, petco.com, can vote for the grand prize winner. The grand prize, by the way, is a trip to Hollywood.
This was a great incentive for Lizzie, who enjoyed a Hollywood moment last year when she met Lassie in New York City, where the canine legend (Lizzie, I mean, although Lassie is famous, too) spent an afternoon with the popular collie, who was promoting her latest movie.
A couple of weeks ago, I saw a poster for the talent contest at the Petco store in Selden, N.Y., where I had brought Lizzie for a spa treatment, which she will have on a regular basis if she goes to Hollywood. As visions of fame, fortune and poolside cocktails danced in my head, I signed her up.
Lizzie’s competitors were Daisy, a Bichon Frise who stood on her hind legs to beg for treats, and Bella, a singing Pomeranian. The field wasn’t large, but it was extremely competitive.
Lizzie, a multitalented mutt, blew them both away.
She was introduced to the small but enthusiastic crowd of onlookers (and now, I must say, fans) by Derek Gerardi, an assistant manager at the store. The distinguished judges were Rose Sofia, director of the Paw House, an animal rescue organization on Long Island; Susan Ennis, a field representative for Eukanuba dog food; and Nicole Ciardulli, a small-animal specialist at Petco.
For Lizzie’s first trick, she played me in a game of blackjack. "Cut the cards," I told her. Lizzie tapped the deck with her paw. Then I dealt her two cards and gave two to myself. Lizzie had a 9 and a 3. "Stay?" I asked her. "Or hit?" When I said "hit," Lizzie gave me her paw. I dealt her a 6. "You have 18," I told her. "Stay or hit?" She thought about it. "Stay?" I said again. This time, she gave me her paw. I had a 10 and a 5, so I dealt myself another card. It was a queen. I busted. Lizzie won. The crowd went wild. "Lizzie is playing with a full deck," I said. "I’m not." Everyone agreed.
For her next trick, she did math. I put one dog treat on top of another and showed them to her. Then I blocked them from Lizzie’s view and added two more treats to the pile. "How many treats did I add?" I asked Lizzie. She gave me her paw twice. The crowd gasped. "Next year," I said, "I am going to have Lizzie do my taxes."
Then I knelt next to Lizzie and barked while she just sat there. "Lizzie," I announced, "is a ventriloquist." Huge applause. "And I’m her dummy," I added. Several people nodded.
Next I told the judges to listen carefully to Lizzie. She didn’t say anything. "Lizzie’s also a mime," I said. By this time, the crowd was delirious.
Finally, I said that Lizzie had won the blue ribbon in the Pooch Who Can Smooch competition a couple of years ago at Puttin’ on the Dog, the annual Adopt-A-Dog fund-raiser in Greenwich, Conn. Lizzie proved it by smothering me in kisses. With that, we both took a bow and received a standing ovation, probably because there were no chairs.
Nobody was surprised when Lizzie won. And the judges were effusive in their praise.
"Lizzie seems very intelligent," said Ciardulli, who didn’t say the same about me.
"She dispelled the old saying that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks," said Ennis, who immediately apologized for calling Lizzie old. "Sorry, I should have called her a senior dog." Lizzie, who is 12, accepted the apology by licking Ennis’ knee.
Sofia summed it up when she said, "Lizzie is amazing."
Now we’ll see if she’s amazing enough to win a trip to Hollywood. As Lizzie said, "Woof, woof, woof!" (Translation: "Move over, Lassie!")
Copyright 2007 by Jerry Zezima