Grand Champion I Get A Kick Out of You At The Magpie is a top dog at American Kennel Club dog shows, where wins rank him as the No. 12 bloodhound in the country. He's just plain ol' "Otis" back home in Bethel Park, where he is a lovable, laid-back, low-energy couch potato who has never met a dog or a person he doesn't like.
The 2-year-old hound has added a new star to his resume, now appearing in two national television commercials for Freshpet dog food. Otis lifts his wrinkled face to the sky and howls. Around his neck is a sign that says: "Hunt Down Processed Food."
Is that really the voice of Otis? Yes, it is, said Kim Briglia, who co-owns him with her daughter, Kara Berestecky, a junior at Slippery Rock University.
Shooting the commercial in June in New York City, "they asked if I could get Otis to howl on command," Mrs. Briglia said. "I said, 'Well, sort of.' The first time Otis heard us sing 'Happy Birthday' to Kara, he howled. Now he howls anytime anyone sings that song."
"Otis is awesome!" said Cathryn Long of All Creatures Great and Small, the New York animal agent who finds talent for television shows and commercials, movies, magazines and live performances. "Otis likes to please. He is probably the best bloodhound I have ever seen."
Ms. Long has been an animal trainer and "shoot consultant" for more than 30 years. She works with her mother, Ruth Manecke, a zoologist and trainer who founded the agency 50 years ago and for many years provided the animals used in "Captain Kangaroo" television shows.
In the Freshpet commercials, dogs of many breeds are "protesting against processed pet food," according to the website -- http://freshpet.com/the-freshpet-commercial/ -- which features Otis and other dogs, including a Pomeranian, Dalmatian, bulldog and Boston terrier.
The commercials have been running here and across the country since August and are expected to run for many months. Mrs. Briglia said she's seen them during "Jeopardy!" and "Wheel of Fortune" and on Animal Planet.
All Creatures Great and Small had first contacted Claudia Kaminski, who breeds "Hounds of the Magpie" bloodhounds in Milford, N.J., because one of her dogs had successfully worked in commercials. "But he's old and gray now," Mrs. Briglia said, "so she gave them our name."
Otis stayed in the Hotel Pennsylvania in Manhattan because it was an easy walk to the commercial shoot. While New York City is very dog-friendly, dogs are not allowed to ride in taxis, Mrs. Briglia said.
"It was an experience. Otis was quite the star on the streets, where I didn't see any other bloodhounds. People would get a big smile on their faces and stop to talk to us."
In their corner of Manhattan, "there was no grass" and it took some patience to convince the suburban dog that he could do his businesses on paved urban surfaces.
If you think your dog has what it takes to be a star, Ms. Long says you can email All Creatures Great and Small at email@example.com. "But I always tell people don't expect your pets to make money to send your kids to college."
Otis was paid $400 for three hours of work. Mrs. Briglia was not reimbursed for travel, meals and hotel expenses.
"Dog people are crazy," she said, explaining why she did it. She and her daughter are proud and happy to see Otis in the commercial, though "most people don't know it's him."
Otis doesn't make money on the show circuit, either, where he competes with professional handler Bill Colbert of South Park. It's an expensive hobby and the only rewards are ribbons, trophies and points toward championship titles.
After a day of Black Friday shopping, you can have your gifts wrapped to benefit Angel Ridge Animal Rescue in Washington County. Volunteers will be wrapping, for a donation, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday at Ponderosa Steakhouse Party Room, Trinity Circle, Washington, Pa. There will also be handmade craft items, stocking stuffers and raffles to benefit the rescue animals.
Twenty shelter animals have gone home with military veterans since summer, and the soldiers got them for free through the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society Veteran's Adoption Program. The offer still stands.
In addition to waiving the adoption fees of dogs, cats or rabbits, shelters in Elizabeth Township and Pittsburgh's North Side will also throw in free training classes, a personalized ID tag, and a $50-$100 voucher at the Humane Societ stores. Veterans get a free one-year society membership, which includes reduced fees at the veterinary clinic.
Active military personnel or honorably discharged veterans can go to www.wpahumane.org and click on "programs" to fill out an application.
The holiday known for turkey and televised football games is also the day for the National Dog Show Presented by Purina. It's televised on NBC from noon to 2 p.m. with host John O'Hurley and expert analyst David Frei. About 2,000 dogs are competing.
Mr. O'Hurley's entertainment credentials include playing J. Peterman on "Seinfeld," and he has authored two books about living with his dogs and his son, Will.
Mr. Frei, who also hosts broadcasts of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show every February, is a lifelong dog owner and a judge at American Kennel Club shows. He's a tireless advocate for therapy dogs, and he and his own dogs spend many hours visiting hospitals and other venues.
The Animal Rescue League Shelter and Wildlife Center is one of three finalists in the running to win $25,000 in a national contest, the 2012 ASPCA Rachael Ray $100K Challenge. The Larimer shelter is also in the running to win the $100,000 grand prize. Winners will be announced Nov. 30.
The other two finalists are the Humane Society of Central Washington in Yakima and the Bangor Humane Society in Maine.
A total of 50 shelters across the country competed. Finalists saved at least 300 more animals in August, September and October than they did in the same months in 2011. Contestants also had to show their shelter generated enthusiasm and support from the public, volunteers and the media.
Pet Tales appears weekly in the Saturday Home & Garden section. Linda Wilson Fuoco: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-3064. First Published November 17, 2012 5:00 AM