Last weekend, I attended America’s Family Pet Expo in Costa Mesa, California, which attracts thousands of people for a host of reasons: they love pets, they volunteer with rescue organizations, or they’re interested in buying their cats some quality business cards. One of the biggest draws, though, was the celebrity pet event—a showcase of trained dogs and cats who act in popular TV shows.
Like normal, non-dog-dominated events, the expo had its own black market: shortly after I stepped into the long admission line with the rest of the noncelebrity pets and humans, I got approached by a sketchy, nervous-looking guy who mumbled at me, “You guys want to buy some passes?” Yes, this man was a Pet Expo scalper. I bought a pass.
Although I was primarily there for the celebrity pets, there was no shortage of other entertainment. While walking through the expo, I watched several rounds of dachshund racing, pet an 18-pound rabbit, and spotted more than a few dogs who were better dressed than I was.
The celebrity pet event took place on a huge stage in the middle of the fairgrounds. It consisted of the animals’ trainers explaining the ins and outs of TV pet wrangling and demonstrating the pets’ abilities. The trainers warmed up the audience, comprised of mostly children, by asking dog-realated trivia questions, then the excitement started. First up was Lambchop, a poodle-chihuahua mix better known as Yakult, the dog on ABC’s Suburgatory. Lambchop has a classic rags-to-riches story: he was found on the street, morbidly skinny and covered with dirt, by a kindly rescue group who cleaned him up. Soon afterward, he was cast in an episode of American Horror Story. Apparently, he was so good in his role as Scary Dog #2 or whatever that he was cast in Suburgatory immediately and has had a recurring role on the show ever since. What have you done with your life?
Next up was Beatrice, the French bulldog who plays Stella on ABC’s Modern Family. In addition to her acting talents, Beatrice also has a penchant for swimming with a little life jacket on. The trainers explained that Beatrice cannot swim without the life jacket, which became a problem when the script called for her to do exactly that. The solution was to craft a tiny, buoyant wetsuit painted with Beatrice’s exact markings to act as an invisible floatation device. The latest news on Beatrice is that she is learning how to ride a skateboard, a skill she enthusiastically demonstrated for the audience.
The pet celebrity headliner was Mick, an Australian shepherd mix who's better known as Stan, the title character on the Disney channel’s Dog with a Blog. Mick was a clear audience favorite. His name was announced to raucous applause that only increased in both volume and joy as he went on to sit, shake, and turn around in a circle. Mick was also the only celebrity pet to get a Q&A session. The children in the audience had many questions for the trainers, such as “When is Mick’s birthday?” and “Does he ride a skateboard?” One child asked if Mick “really blogs.” To her credit, the trainer made the case that yes, he really does blog, in that he’s learned how to make a typing motion with his paws, eliminating the show’s need to use prosthetic paws.
Not present was Kuma, Mick’s double on Dog With a Blog. Kuma looks enough like Mick that she is able to step in on days when Mick is under the weather, or is too focused on his stuffed monkey (his favorite toy) to focus on acting.
After the show, fans stood in massive lines for up to an hour to meet and take photos with the celebrity pets. Many of these fans were children, but there plenty of adults as well. One man shouted, “Wait your turn!” at a couple who had unwittingly cut in line, then said, loudly enough for the volunteer security guard to hear, “Security just isn’t paying attention.”
The fans seemed so enthusiastic about getting their pictures taken with the celebrity dogs that I joined them in line. It was a good 30-minute wait, but it felt worth it to bask in the glory of the dogs who have achieved more fame in their short lives than 99 percent of humans. That, and I may have “accidentally” left my screenplay on Mick’s desk.
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