Los Angeles pet lovers.
By Lori Golden
FLASHBACK: Paramount Studios, Hollywood, CA - 1994 In a special area backstage at the Emmy-winning comedy show Frasier is a pet kennel. Lacking silk curtains and plush carpeting, this is where one of TV’s hottest stars, a 4-year old Jack Russell terrier named Moose, rests between rehearsals. Known to fans of Frasier as Eddie, he is the beloved companion of Frasier’s dad, who shares an apartment with his stuffy radio-shrink son. With one hit season under his belt, stardom hasn’t really changed the canine comedian: according to his trainer, Mathilde de Cagny, “he’s still the same old Moose who likes to chase cats.”
In fact, chasing cats was one of the activities that led to this troubled terrier becoming one of TV’s most precious pooches. Originally owned by a Florida family, Moose was too hard to handle. He couldn’t be house trained; he chewed everything; he dug and barked a lot; and he was constantly escaping and climbing trees. Eventually given to the Florida manager of Birds and Animals Unlimited, a company that trains animals for TV and motion pictures, Moose was put on a plane at 2 ½ - years old and sent to Mathilde de Cagny, an LA trainer working for the show-biz animal company.
Nine years ago Mathilde, a native of Paris, France, set her sights on becoming an animal trainer for the movies. After much perseverance she ended up at Birds and Animals Unlimited, initially volunteering to do anything for the company. Eventually she became a trainer, handling the dogs seen in Steel Magnolias, Back to the Future 2 & 3,The Firm, and Bodyguard. Then came Moose. AndFrasier.
When Mathilde first met Moose, she had no idea if he had that special “star” quality, but felt he could be a good working dog. “He was so hyper and energetic, it was obvious he wanted to do something.” In fact, she thinks he got bored with his previous family and just needed to be busy all the time. “Moose had a great disposition for training. He loved it right away... it calmed him down a little. It’s as if all of a sudden he had a purpose in his life. You can see in his eyes that he’s very sharp. He’s also very curious and is always moving around.”
From their very first session Mathilde knew Moose was “into it.” He learned so fast that after six months of training, Moose beat out a number of other canines in his first audition, landing the coveted role of Eddie on Frasier.
Moose’s major contribution to the show is his famous look: an endless stare that unnerves the pompous psychiatrist played by Kelsey Grammer. Mathilde says it took a while to teach Moose his defiant stare. “It’s a cue thing. I point my finger up and he knows that no matter what’s going on around him, he must look at my finger in front of my face. It’s natural for him to look around when there are noises, so I had him do this when there were a lot of distractions. And because we always use it on the show, we still work on it every once in a while.”
Mathilde doesn’t always reward Moose’s behaviors with treats. “I don’t want him to always expect things from me, so sometimes I’ll just give him a good pat or play with him for a few seconds.” When he does get treats, they’re varied so he doesn’t get bored... from beef stew to chicken to hot dogs to liver bits, cooked at home, cut into little pieces, and brought to the set in a cooler. Otherwise, his nightly meal consists of dry dog food mixed with a small amount of canned food for taste.
Moose works four days a week, getting a special bath and a spray of Holiday Cologne for dogs on film days, “because people are always coming up to pet him and kiss him.”
Although Moose generally knows where to go and what to do during filming, he has occasionally messed up a scene: one time someone had accidentally dropped a piece of cracker on the floor. Moose entered the room, saw it, and went straight for the cracker instead of doing his trick. But John Mahoney, who plays Frasier’s father Martin Crane, says that working with Moose is like working with any other actor. “He’s like a robot... a consummate professional who works hard learning his tricks.”
Visitors to the park by Paramount’s stage 25 often see a Moose look-alike frolicking about. That’s Miko, Moose’s one-year old daughter whom “he’s crazy about.” Mathilde is starting to train Miko as well, hoping that if she gets big enough, she’ll be able to work as a stand-in for her doting dad.
While Moose’s main job as Eddie is to annoy Frasier, viewers of the recent 1994 Emmy Awards could sense Moose’s importance to the show. On accepting his award for Best Actor in a Comedy Series, Kelsey Grammer avoided thanking people individually for fear of neglecting someone. But he did end his speech saying, “most importantly, Moose, this is for you.” Interviewed after the awards Grammer commented, “I did thank the dog. He’s the funniest thing on the show.”
UPDATE: Paramount Studios, Hollywood, CA – 2002 Now in it’s 10th season, Frasier has earned a total of 21 Emmy Awards, including three for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series (Kelsey Grammer) and two for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series (David Hyde Pierce). Never even nominated was Moose, who wrote in his autobiography, My Life as a Dog, “I don’t care. I’m sick of the whole damn mess. I’m just going to keep doing good work and be satisfied with the knowledge that I’m loved by millions of adoring fans around the world. But if I ever have to play a depressed dog again, I won’t have to act.” (More about the book later.)
While the human cast of Frasier has remained intact, such is not the case with Eddie. Moose is basically retired and his son Enzo, 7, now plays the precocious pup. “The retirement of Moose was gradual,” explains Mathilde. “For a couple of years Enzo was doing all the fast-action, jumping up and down, retrieving or running moves. Anything that I thought was becoming a little too strenuous for Moose. Also, Enzo has teeth and Moose doesn’t, a problem that occurred from his chewing difficulties since he was a puppy. Moose is turning 13 and he’s doing great. He could work but I felt like it was time.”
(Miko, who never grew big enough to be a back-up double for Moose, was given to one of the show’s technicians.)
“Enzo has the exact facial markings as Moose, which is extremely rare for Jack Russells to match so well,” Mathilde continues. “They can come out in every shape and every color. It turned out that they double each other perfectly. Enzo is a little leaner and he’s obviously younger, and now it shows, but for years nobody even here really knew which dog I was using. The cast can now tell the difference between the two dogs because Moose has a grimmer, older, wiser look to him, (we call him the old man), and Enzo is still young.”
Less anyone be upset because I’m featuring a dog who was bred for a specific purpose, it’s important to note that this is not the norm for Mathilde or the people with whom she works. All of Mathilde’s dogs are rescues that usually come from shelters or rescue groups. And spaying and neutering is very important to her as well. All of her dogs are fixed. “Moose was an exception,” she explains. “It was a necessity because of the show. But even Moose is neutered now.”
Mathilde adds that probably a third of the people involved with Frasier have dogs that she rescued for them. And the cast members are all animal lovers. “Peri has a few dogs, including one of Moose’s puppies from a few years ago. David has two Wheaten Terriers. Kelsey has a bunch of horses and dogs and Jane has a cat, but we don’t tell that to the dogs, of course.” Ironically, only John Mahoney, Eddie’s doting dad, remains ‘dog-less,’ although he’s had Boxers in the past.
(During our interview Enzo and Mathilde are called for rehearsal. I get to watch. The entire cast is involved in the scene, including Enzo. At one point, as the director discusses some blocking notes, the conniving canine cozies up to Kelsey Grammer, who immediately begins patting, rubbing and scratching Enzo for a good three minutes before sending him, content and happy, back to Mathilde. The smile on his face indicated to me that Kelsey enjoyed the exercise as much as Enzo.)
Although I’m a faithful fan of the show, I never knew that the casting of Eddie had changed. But Mathilde explains the differences between the two stars. “Both dogs are very smart and train very well, but Enzo was always a lot easier to work with… a lot less challenging. He’s a typical good working dog that wants to please me. And he likes to catch his tail, which is very hard for a Jack Russell to do. Enzo is really a spectacular dog.”
“Moose, on the other hand, was always a problem child, which is why he got to me in the first place. He still is. He has “issues.” It’s in his mind. (He could actually be a candidate for Prozac.) He’s not the average dog. He always seemed to be really unhappy and you can see it in his eyes. It’s him. It’s his personality. I’m not saying he is unhappy. I think he’s pretty happy. He’s got a pretty good life and lots of love. He’s just not the average loving dog you would think. Now don’t get me wrong. Moose has huge charisma and he’s got something that no other dogs do… he has an incredible personality. And it shows. But he’s not as much of a method actor as Enzo is.”
I think Moose would beg to differ with Mathilde on that last point, at least according to his autobiography, My Life as a Dog, by Moose with Brian Hargrove. (c.2000, HarperCollins Publisher) In this delightful tome, Moose goes into great detail about his acting craft, and in his own inimitable style, takes the reader through his rags to riches story.
So how does Moose spend his time these days? “He leads a pretty relaxing life. He enjoys being at home and has his own dog walker who comes every day for an hour walk. The rest of the time he hangs out in the sun, playing with one of his buddies, Bogus, a St.Bernard/Golden Retriever mix who is a retired actor as well.” Moose also goes camping with Mathilde and her husband, or anywhere else when they leave town. Although she has a number of dogs, Moose, due to his senior elder statesman status, tends to get preferential treatment
Moose also goes to the studio often with Mathilde to check on all his buddies. “He comes here more or less to look after things and to make sure that Enzo is doing ok.”
Even though the pet kennel has been replaced by a trailer, Mathilde says Moose most enjoys hanging out in David Hyde Pierce’s production office with his assistant Katie. “David is thrilled and honored to have him in his office, and he’s with people when I’m doing other things.”
David, meanwhile, seems to have the utmost respect for Mathilde. Commenting on what it’s been like to work with her dogs for the last ten years, the actor says, “I can tell you that both Moose and Enzo have aged like fine wines because they are so well cared for.”
That being said, Mathilde points out something that totally surprised me: “Moose and Enzo do NOT get along at all, which is not unusual because they are two male, Jack Russell terriers. In the car, one of them rides in the front, the other in the back. One comes out first, the other second. Everything is done twice. They are walked separately. They don’t even know there is two of them. They are never together. If they see each other they’ll get mad and fight.”
Mathilde has worked long and hard at her craft, and offers this important advice for people who think their dog could be the next Eddie. “If the person is not a trainer, there is very little chance they’ll be able to get their animal in the business. Maybe a print ad. It’s a relationship you build with the animals. You don’t share an animal with someone you don’t know. We are absolutely not interested in working with someone else’s animals. We want them to live with us and we are very parental with our animals. And we will hardly ever work with privately owned dogs.”
These days it’s very difficult for a show to last ten years on television. And while the novelty of a dog on a show tends to decrease after a year or two, the opposite is true with Moose. He became more popular. “He gets mail and gifts all the time, and he was treated just like any other best-selling author when we went on our National book tour forMy Life as a Dog.” Moose travels in limos and flies first class across the country. He even has his own frequent flyer card under the name Mr. Eddie Moose Frasier.
Whether it be Moose or Enzo, one thing is perfectly clear: Eddie truly is the Lassie of the nineties…and still going strong in this new millenium!
(Both Moose and Enzo starred with Kevin Bacon in My Dog Skip, available in video stores. (Enzo played the young Skip; Moose took over the role as the dog aged.) Jane Leeves and Peri Gilpin are working together to produce a TV movie based on Moose’s autobiography. And while My Life as a Dog is no longer in print, a “large-type” version of the book is available at Amazon.com. Finally, you can still catch Eddie on Frasier Tuesdays at 9:00pm on NBC.)
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