When first entering my office, most people notice a photo I have of what appears to be Tom Cruise with his arm around my dog “Magic”. Imagine their surprise when I say, “It is!” Here is the story behind that photo…
If ever there were a dog trainer “moment” in time, the day this photo was snapped in 2001 would be it.
“Magic” and I were hired by an animal agent and were sent to California to meet up with Tom Cruise, Penelope Cruz, and director Cameron Crow for the movie Vanilla Sky. (Don’t buy it or even rent it, unless it’s just to see “Magic”. She’s the only good moment in that dark story). The whole experience was pretty surreal. We were to meet a camera crew at dawn in Malibu beach. “Magic” was afraid of the waves at first, having never seen a beach before. But as the day went on, her true Labrador nature started to show and quickly felt right at home with this giant body of water and endless supply of frisbee-tossing people. I’m sure she thought she was the “star” of this movie. Then Penelope Cruz came out and she and “Magic” had still shots taken. A girl and her dog, on the beach, in deep reflection. Except Magic was foaming and shivering with excitement from chasing frisbees. At first, Penelope was a bit scared of “Magic”. But once she settled, she snuggled up to Penelope and some beautiful shots were taken of this stunning actress and this relatively unknown star, my sweet girl. Later in the afternoon, I was asked to drive by Cameron Crow’s production office so he could meet “Magic” and discuss the scene they wanted her to play.
I got there on time but Mr. Crow was looking at the dallies (not sure what that is but I think it’s Hollywood lingo for scenes shot that day). After about 30 minutes, Mr. Crow came in, followed by Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. I was not expecting anyone but Mr. Crow, who coincidentally, lives in our hometown with rock star wife Nancy Wilson (from the famous 80s band Heart). Tom Cruise was so nice. Collectively, they asked what tricks “Magic” knew and I immediately put her through her paces. Then they asked if we could practice the scene she had with Tom. Essentially, the scene was Tom coming to Penelope’s apartment to pick her up for their first date. As she lets Tom in, “Magic” was to rush him and well, how do I put this… They wanted the dog to be a “crotch bumper.” Just go head first into Tom’s business and be an inappropriate greeter! Say what?! The obedience trainer’s dog? I had no idea how I would get her to even go near Tom’s “zone” but luckily, I had a stroke of genius! I gave Tom a tennis ball and asked him to toss it for her a few times. After a few throws, he stuffed the tennis ball into his pants pocket and “Magic”, out of frustration, went for the ball by trying to bump it out of his pocket. That’s my girl! A total inappropriate greeting, on command! I was pointing to the zipper of Tom’s pants telling “Magic” to “Get it, you know you want it!” After a few practice runs, Tom took pity on her and threw the ball about 20 more times before we left.
Now for the blunderous part of the story. As I was packing up our things, getting “Magic’s” leash on, Cameron Crow told me how beautiful and well trained she was but he feared she was not thin enough for the part. Yes, you heard it right, even dogs are pressured to be thin in the industry! “Magic” was not over weight and I let him know that I could not take her weight down and he understood. Quickly realizing the odds of me EVER being in the same room as Tom Cruise, I got out my camera and asked if I could get a photo of Tom with “Magic”. He was so gracious about it. He really is a nice guy. “Magic” loved him and he clearly likes dogs. So, the actual scene went to some smaller, black mix breed who, by the way, didn’t even have a decent crotch-bump. But, during the movie, when Tom picks up a picture frame in Penelope’s apartment, it zooms in on a gorgeous photo of Penelope Cruz and her dog on the beach. “Magic’s” big close up. I remember Dave saying “That’s our girl! There she is!” and I think the whole theater woke up and wondered what we were so excited about.
People often reprimand me for requesting a photo of Tom with my dog and not myself. But this photo is priceless to me. I miss my “Magic”. She afforded me so many opportunities as a dog trainer. In a world where black dogs are not adopted, thought of as taboo in some countries and go unwanted, she had an amazing career. She had a part in the film Practical Magic with Sandra Bullock, she modeled for catalogs, did commercial work. She was even used in a promotional video for a corporation and got paid big bucks to drink out of toilet! She could not believe her luck, getting paid to do things she loves. Not every dog can say that. And not every dog trainer is so lucky to have a “Magic” in their life.