Josh was a good old hound who went bad, but love, of course, is an ever-fixed mark, so 75 persons of the sort who think that if a dog eats somebody up, there's probably a good reason for it turned out yesterday to see Josh do his thing in Rock Creek Park.
"We found Josh in an animal shelter. Abandoned. Nobody wanted him. So we made him a star," said his trainer, Karl Miller, who can see stars in almost anything that creeps or crawls or barks.
Josh is the star, the leader of the pack, in what is evidently one of the more horrifying films of the year. "The Pack" in which savage dogs claw through the convertible tops of cars, get blown to smithereens by elephant guns and so forth. But they're just actors.
In real life they are regular lambs, just as Iago on the stage can be a first-rate fellow on a hunting trip.
"The Humane Society people read the book," said Miller yesterday afternoon, with Josh panting at his side snapping flies, "and they came from Florida, they came Oregon, to supervise the filming. There was flat no way this picture could be made, they were certain, without badly hurting some dogs."
Well, they came, they saw, and presumably they fell in love with Josh, the meanest redbone of 'em all, and Swans, the Labrador (who gets killed in the picture) and maybe with Miller, a 37-year-old fellow with hazel eyes and a Heathcliff-type soul, if you remember "Wuthering Heights."
"I don't call them animals," he said, trying to keep both sterness and contempt out of his voice, when somebody asked him about training the "animals".
We ourselves are animals, but we don't call ourselves that. We call ourselves humans. Well I call these dogs. Not animals."
He leaned over and kissed Josh-who had temporarily stopped snapping at flies-on the nose, and all the little (most of the audience was post-toddler but perpubertal) went Uggghh. What is to become of a nature where children disapprove of kissing dogs? Now that was scary, but sweet Josh was not.
Miller inserted a vinyl mouthpiece that gave Josh fangs and wrinkled up his muzzle. He had smeared with petroleum jelly, 7-11 blood (red vegetable dye that makes a hound look like the day after Shiloh), brown and black hair spray, talcum powder and corn starch - but not too much.Miller is an artist and doesn't like to overdo it. Besides, he said, Josh doesn't like makeup-a very straight dog-and Miller uses just enough on him to give the general idea.
On command, Josh attacked Miller convincingly, making a lot of holes in a heavy rubber sleeve Miller wore.
"The mouth pressure hurts a little, but not the teeth," said Miller once Josh returned to fly-snapping, "though once he made a mistake and got me in the neck an inch from the jugular."
"The humane forces approved the filming," he said, as Mr. Rockfeller might say the Corn Exchange kindly cashed his check for $20, and they could not at first believe Swans could get blown to kingdom come (in the picture) without getting hurt.
"Down, Swans," Miller said. Swans obeyed, snaggling against Josh, who had gone into his suffering routine (which consists of rolling over, letting his jaw open, feebly pawing the air, etc.)
"Discipline, yes," said Miller. "But love.Do you think Josh does this just to get a piece of meat?"
No more than Shakespeare wrote to use up all his extra paper.
Josh, spectators suspected, would gladly die for Miller or kill for him.
Mr. Miller-why take chances-said it was no problem at all to rain Josh or Swans or any of the numerous dogs now resident with him, his wife and two kids in the San Fernando Valley. (They keep them in kennels, rotating them in the house so they don't start thinking they are just kennel dogs).
"For me it does not take patience. It takes time. For me what takes patience is painting a house, not training a dog. I love dogs best, but domestic cats are the greatest challenge, and birds are the greatest triumph. You try to discipline a bird and he's over the rainbow. I've also worked with eagles, badgers and snakes. I grew up in an orphanage and I was the only one they ever let have a dog. He was a beagle.
"My own dog-the family pet-is going on 14, and can't do anything but beg. It's like the cabinet maker who makes beautiful furniture for others, but eats off an orange crate.
"Chuckles (the pet in question) attended an obedience school I was conduting and flunked. I felt sorry. So I married the girl who owned the dog" (and got Chuckles).
Many guys do worse and get less.