Oscar goes to the dogs


Uggie, left, from the film "The Artist," and his shy brother Dash arrive at the first annual Golden Collar Awards in Los Angeles on Feb. 13, 2012. Both wear custom-made tuxedos sans pants. (Matt Sayles/AP)

People love dogs.

People love movies.

Thus, people love dogs in movies.

At this weekend’s Oscars, one dog is set to become top dog amidst the multitude of breeds that have graced the screen since collies immortalized Lassie and solidified their dominance as the divas of cinematic canines.


Academy Award nominee Christopher Plummer (left) and Ewan McGregor (right) star as father and son in writer/director Mike Mills’s “Beginners.” Cosmo keeps them company. (Focus Features)

There are many reasons why this smart and agile breed of dog has surpassed Pomeranians, Poodles and even the all-American Golden Retriever (the dumb blonde of dog actors) to star in not one, but two Oscar-nominated films this year.

For one, they’re unhappily unemployed.

Jack Russells were historically bred for the British tradition of fox hunting, but that sport isn’t in high demand in the United States. Since these diligent hunting dogs are born to work long hours, go weeks without food and do exactly what their masters tell them to do, it was only natural for them to make the leap from hunting to acting, where the beautiful and tenacious succeed with the right training.

“Jack Russells are highly intelligent dogs, and they’re bred to work,” said Catherine Brown, chairwoman of the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America and author of three books on the breed. “They’re very willful, and have a lot of drive. Once they’re trained, which can be difficult, they’re very loyal and hardworking if there’s something in it for them.”


Uggie visits the Empire State Building with his trainer Omar von Muller on Jan. 24. (Andy Kropa/GETTY IMAGES)

Like hot dogs. Bacon. The simple pleasures, really. Which is why on “Ellen,” for instance, the delightful Uggie from “The Artist” didn’t mind skateboarding across stage in exchange for a whopping seven pieces of vegan cheese for just two minutes of performing.

Alongside Uggie, Cosmo of “Beginners” became the scene-stealing sidekick of cinema this season, helping his two-legged friend Christopher Plummer win the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor. Both pups helped solidify Oscar nominations for their films, making these Jacks so popular that their human colleagues even manufactured a Team Jacob-v.-Edward-style feud between the duo.

“They are great performance dogs,” Brown said. “They have a sense of humor and need mental exercise. They don’t like to be bored and they’re fiercely loyal to their owners.”


Kelsey Grammer, in his ninth year in the title role of the NBC sitcom "Frasier," posing with Frasier’s father's dog, Eddie. The 16-year-old Jack Russell, whose real name was Moose, died of old age in 2006. (BILL REITZEL/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Frankie Munoz in "My Dog Skip" with Enzo, son of Moose. (Getty Images)
Katherine Boyle reports on arts, museums and culture for the Style section.

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