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Beginners' Animal Trainer Extraordinaire
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Bark: Did you know Cosmo had such a cuddly personality when you got him?
De Cagny: Yes. Yeah, which is why I got him. He’s a dog that is, indeed, very loving towards people and very playful, which we use a lot in movies. And also, that’s the nice thing about rescuing an animal—a dog—is that when you go to pick them out in shelters and such, I have a sense of what the animal’s going to be like in general. So that gives you an advantage of getting a dog that’s older and rescued, because within an hour or so of spending time with them, I can sense whether he’s going to be good for—well, it’s hard to say; there’s always a two-week period because they could get skittish—but you get to see that first personality a little bit.
B: Did you do any kind of assessment on him when he was in the shelter? Were there any traits you were specifically looking for?
De Cagny: He was very skittish, which is something you don’t want in an animal. But, knowing he was a terrier, and I have a lot of experience with Jack Russells, because I did the dog on Frasier, and I know their quirks and I know that they’re far from being perfect to begin with and they never will be, ultimately. But I am able to put myself in a Terrier, Jack Russell state of mind, and I know how to deal with them in different levels. And so he was very different from Moose [who played Eddie] on Frasier, and I like that in him, and he was always cuddly, even on Day One when I first went to go pick him up, and I like that. But I could see that he was lacking confidence quite a bit. But that’s what I like to do: build up confidence by our relationship, by training, and by following their instincts and working with that. So I had a feeling that he had a very good potential to be a good movie dog.
B: How do you keep Cosmo from becoming burned out? Does he work too many hours?
De Cagny: No, usually not, because they have the capability to sleep and rest quite a bit between setups. And they fall asleep right away, so in that regard, they actually do get quite a bit of rest. They do get tired too, not so much on that movie, but sometimes when you do night work, they get a little tired. But that’s why the crate is so important, and all of our animals are crate-trained, because as soon as you’re done, you cover that and let them sleep. And you always have half an hour, minimum. They’re able to get their sleep like that.
B: Do you worry about the “Eddie Effect”—that breeds in movies become overly popular, much like Jack Russell Terriers did because of Frasier?
De Cagny: Well, the movie’s not out yet. I think the Jack Russell trend is kind of over in that regard because of Moose, and already the damage is done. What I get really upset of is all those breeders that sell the dog to the wrong person. And I’ve had so many people calling me—and believe me—I’ve helped zillions of people, answered all their calls or letters of people that will say, “Well, how come he’s this and that?” And I’m like, “He’s a Jack Russell.” And breeders who sell those dogs—they sell them—to the wrong family is just unacceptable. I rescue the animals, and everyone knows the importance of training and what it takes to have a dog in your life, regardless of what it is. It’s a commitment. And the fact that so many breeders let those dogs go to whomever that are gone all day and it’s a disaster, is very inappropriate and unfair. I do my part by saying, first of all, rescue a dog. And second of all, really look into your lifestyle and the breed, because I really think those dogs are probably the most difficult ones to have. And they’re so smart and they’re so driven that to let them rot like that, or to leave so much impulsion not worked out and not used is really not good. Again, I feel like I’m doing my part, and there’s not one interview with Moose where I didn’t intimate the fact that they’re very difficult dogs, and blah blah blah. And he had three lives before me! And believe me, I learned so much from that dog and I’m grateful I had him, but boy, he was my hardest dog.

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This article first appeared in The Bark,
Issue 65: Jun/Aug 2011
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