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Cheeto Moment – Dogtown Missoula


dogDogs know that sometimes when you are looking for something specific, like that tennis ball that just rolled under the couch, you often find something else even more wonderful and marvelous, like a Cheeto.

I had a Cheeto moment recently.

A West Coast advertising agency gave me the assignment to photograph some dogs for a national dog food brand. Their client wanted three specific types of dogs for the ad:

1) A medium-size adult “working dog” with “healthy mobility” like a Border Collie, Australian shepherd, Cattle Dog, etc.

2) Any other medium-sized adult dog who is fit and has a good activity level

3) A small toy breed dog like a Chihuahua, Dachshund, Short-haired Terrier, etc.

My first thought was how lucky it was for the ad agency (and for me) that I live in Missoula. I would have no trouble finding just the right cast of characters for their ad. I emailed a casting call to about 30 friends inviting their dogs to consider the fame and fortune that would come from starring in a dog food ad, not to mention the fringe benefit of getting to chow down while on the job.

The replies started immediately. Hundreds of them filled my inbox. My email had been forwarded again and again to friends of friends, all of them proud parents of dogs who would be perfect, or almost perfect, for the job.

The emails extolled the virtues of dogs all over town. I was introduced to photogenic dogs who were mostly well-behaved but had a few lingering bad habits like eating the cat food, bolting after squirrels and taking up too much room on the bed.

Someone mentioned their very fit Great Dane would like to be considered for the medium-sized part. One person offered up her boyfriend’s dog if the agency changed their mind and needed an old, cantankerous dog full of character and bushy good looks.

Phone photos poured in. Every few minutes, I got a photo of a dog visiting Santa, dressed for trick-or-treating, or just being their wonderful self. One photo that really made me giggle was captioned “here she is chewing on my sock” (which is still on my foot).

My favorite veterinarian posed the question that the casting call was perhaps discriminating against large breeds, disabled and older dogs. Personally, I think she was secretly campaigning for one of her pack to get a part in the ad.

What really came through in all the emails was the true love and adoration people have for their dogs. When I go back to re-read them, it always makes me smile. I wish I could make them all famous. The next time I need a big dog, little dog, funny looking dog, trickster, shedder, licker, shaker, jumper, or tail chaser, I’ll know where to find them.

When the ad agency told me the project fell through, it was hard to be sad. What I had found during my search was so much more than I could have imagined. A giant Cheeto, so to speak.

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