Tuesday, February 16th 2010
Duke: Film Star, Extraordinaire.

One day last week there was a message on the answering machine from a company wanting to use our backyard in a television commercial. Mike thought this was a great idea.  I did not. I thought this was crazy. And, also? That’s the sort of message that totally reinforces my commitment to never checking the messages on the answering machine in the first place.  But Mike called them back and agreed, since he’s the one without a phone phobia and he liked the whole crazy idea and all.

Our backyard is… pretty awful. I mean. The space is lovely. Huge, great for playing sports with 3 boys – it’s PERFECT for that. And it looks like we’ve been doing exactly that. A lot.  It’s a large expanse of dead grass and a ton of kid toys and various balls and not much else. There’s a table that has seen better days and enough chairs for thirty people. Even though I don’t know 30 people, much less ask them to come over. My efforts at landscaping, and the original professional attempts at landscaping make some of the edges of the yard pretty. In the summer. But that’s it.  And this isn’t summer.

So why would a company want to film a commercial in such a place as this? I guess because it’s a big yard. And they’re in the ‘clean it up and make it look better’ business. Not that ours ever actually looks better. But it is cleaner. It’s a business that comes once a week and… picks up the dog poop. Yeah. There ARE companies like that.  And they need to film their commercials somewhere. And we do have poop out there.

After that phone call, I began to wonder what such a commercial would look like. Would they clean up our whole backyard FIRST, including the grease spot on the patio from the Christmas fried turkey (if that doens’t make sense, just ignore it, it’s a TX thing) that would NOT come up despite my scrubbing it forever with Dawn?  Because I could really like that. Maybe that would work out well.

Or would they come scatter MORE poop, for greater effect, and then clean it up while the cameras rolled? If so, would it be real poop or fake poop? What would fake poop be made of anyway, and if it were real poop, but not from our dog, couldn’t THAT cause problems? Like, dog territory issues?

Today the company called again, asking if today was okay. I didn’t ask any of my questions.  Or mention the turkey grease. “Yeah… but I’m trying to get a kid to take a nap, so I won’t really be available, and by the way… do you want the dog out there?” Yes. They did want the dog. They were thrilled I offered the dog, since they had only requested the yard.  I was thrilled I wouldn’t have to talk to people or get near their cameras.  Or their possible buckets of extra poop.

I hung up and called my mom. “Wanna see Duke’s big showbiz debut? It’s in a few minutes.”

“Uh.. I think I’ll skip this one. But I’m sure he’ll be a natural.”

“That’s gross, Mom.”

She laughed and added, “Well! I’m sure whatever they need him to do, he can produce!”

Ew. Bye.” I hoped they wouldn’t try to get him to poop on film.

They arrived and I let Duke out. He barked once. The dog NEVER barks. Once every few months, maybe. It was not a good sign. He got better. Charlo, the cat, looked on from his vantage point on the footstool.

He could not believe the scene unfolding outside. People petting and oohing over Duke and walking around with scripts and cameras. Charlo is beautiful. And he knows it. It was extremely offensive to him. He’s been waiting for a camera crew to show up for years, and today one finally did and they had the wrong pet. It was crushing.

Out of pity, I should have thrown him out the door and said that the littlest turds are his. I mean, they’re not. That would have been dishonest AND bizarre of me, but it really would have made his day.

Duke did well, and posed and looked all pretty and chocolatey and did not poop. They didn’t seem to want him to.

And after they left he looked dejected. Here he is, all ‘come baaaack! I can do more!’

And there’s the table that has seen better days. It looks like it has a bellybutton. It does not. That’s where I left the giant umbrella up during a windstorm and the thing snapped off and left a jagged, awful stump that could kill a kid, so I sawed it off and now it looks like a bellybutton. Charming.

I opened the back door and Duke ran in, triumphant.

Charlo gave him a mean right hook when he came in. He does that, when annoyed.

And he was really annoyed.

This afternoon, I told Caden-6yr and Seth-4yr all about it. Caden-6yr was horrified over the exploitation of the dog. “I do not feel good about this. Duke is our dog, and I don’t like it that they filmed him. What he does in our backyard is private.”

“You mean, poop?”

“No. WhatEVER he does. Those are his… his… details. Private details.”

I was as stunned at his phrasing as I was at his sentiment. I glanced guiltily at my laptop. Hmm. Public knowledge of the details of the dog’s life is wrong… I wonder if I’ve ever mentioned this website… and how I write about the details of the kids’ lives… huh. Well. That’ll be a fun revelation one day.

He mentioned his new favorite word: “Embarrassing.”  Caden-6yr is all about the word ‘embarrassing.’ He thinks Duke will be embarrassed if he ever sees the commercial. And depending on the camera angles and potential close-ups on his poop, I can see Caden-6yr’s point.

But he seems really okay with it for now.

He was going for soulful. Soulful, mixed with a little ‘check out the bendy thing I can do with ankles!’

Charlo had to be held like a baby and assured of his numerous star qualities.

It was kinda hard to photograph, since he was so close. And depressed. But you get the idea.


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