I’ve had a few dogs in my life, but it was a canine I never truly met who’s had the biggest influence on me.
I was a 24-year-old working at a public relations firm in Los Angeles. He was a Saint Bernard mix working as an actor. Naturally, I booked his air travel.
Before starting the job, I imagined public relations would have me sitting across from corporate fat cats, making recommendations like, “Either you tell the American people the truth or there won’t be a company tomorrow!”
Unfortunately, expecting that my crisis communications course had accurately illustrated the profession was a bit like using The Fast and The Furious franchise to prepare for a driver’s license test. In reality, the job mostly consisted of attending meetings, recapping meetings, and sending out emails to people about their availability for future meetings. Still, it was very stressful and I took it all very seriously. Too seriously.
Then one day my manager informed me that a major morning TV show wanted Bolt, the adorable and shaggy star of our client’s new advertisement, to appear on set at the Super Bowl in Indianapolis (the Patriots were in a rematch against the Giants). As the lowest person on our org chart, I had the honor of getting him there.
Size was my first problem. “Sir, this is a little dog, correct? Like a Chihuahua?” the airline agent added as an afterthought.
I hesitated. There is just no way to say “Saint Bernard” in a way that makes the dog sound petite. “No, no, it’s a Saint Bernard mix,” I replied. My emphasis on “mix” didn’t help.
“That can’t fit under the seat,” the agent blurted. I didn’t disagree. With the dog’s weight unlikely to drop before takeoff, I had to sell her on the importance of this mission.
“Look, this dog is going to be interviewed on the Today show,” I said, praying she didn’t ask me to clarify how such an interview would work.
“Well, maybe he can qualify as a celebrity pet,” she suggested. I was thinking, Huh? but what came out was, “Oh, absolutely!”
But a booking on the Today show wasn’t impressive enough, apparently. My call was transferred to someone else who could verify the dog’s acting credentials. “What studio does he work for?” this new representative wanted to know.
I ummed and ahhed as I scrolled my way through Bolt’s bio. “He worked for Disney in Beverly Hills Chihuahua,” I said, adding in a whisper, “. . . 3.” What if she was familiar with the trilogy and knew that the third went straight to DVD?
I tried to sound surprised — offended even — that she hadn’t heard of my four-legged Anthony Hopkins. “He has a pilot in pre-production with TNT!” I told her. Hold music started playing.
At this point, I was pretty sure my prayers were about to go unanswered. I started coming up with excuses to give my manager, like the sad news that planes just didn’t fly to Indianapolis anymore, due to a lack of interest.
But the voice returned. “So, I can get them on a flight tomorrow morning,” she said, as if it had all been very routine.
Crisis averted. I had done it. And to cap it all off, Bolt and his trainer would be flying first class.
The next morning, I received an email from the trainer. It was a picture of his (our) dog, sprawled out in his first-class window seat, showing no sign of nerves about his upcoming interview with Al Roker.
I had lost two hours of my day — of my life — booking air travel for a dog, but I had gained perspective. Surely, any job that has you analyzing the IMDb page of a dog isn’t worth losing your head over.
That fine actor may not know what I did for him, but he did a hell of a lot for me.
Christian P. Harrington is a writer in Boston. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. TELL YOUR STORY. Email your 650-word essay on a relationship to email@example.com. Please note: We do not respond to submissions we won’t pursue.