A Comedian, An Actor and A Dog
The love of my life was undoubtedly my little dog Canoli, who not only stole my heart, but also managed to have a complete lock on it for the fifteen wonderful years we spent together. And so, on the anniversary of his birthday, August 10th, I decided to tell a story about Canoli and his Hollywood exploits. Specifically, his time spent with an Actor and A Comedian.
Where to start? Oh yeah…
One summer Sunday, I went to Malibu to meet up with my ‘soon to be ex-boyfriend’, to try and see if we could work out the issues in our relationship. As we strolled around the Malibu Country Mart, sipping our Starbucks, I couldn’t resist going into the ‘at the time’ socially acceptable pet store to check out the animals. I’ve always loved animals, and besides, who can resist looking at puppies and kittens? They are like little fluffy fur balls of happiness. It’s like taking a happy ‘Prozac’ pill each time you hold or look at one.
As I was checking out all of the puppies, the cutest little puppy in the world was looking up at me through the bars on the cages of his crate. He was staring directly at me, right in the eyes. And somehow, at this moment, I just knew that we were meant for each other.
I remember looking at my ‘then’ boyfriend saying “Oh my God this is the cutest dog I’ve ever seen. He looks human! I want to hold him!” As the puppy jumped all over me, and as I walked around the store petting and kissing him, my boyfriend said “Look, I’ll get the puppy for you. That way, if we don’t work out, you’ll still have a little friend.”
I was admittedly pretty excited, and as we were going through the store picking out his leash and his collar, I suddenly stopped and said: “I can’t get a dog, I live in an apartment, I have a job, I can’t take care of a puppy!” I had never anticipated getting a dog that day. Plus, the only dogs I had ever had before were farm dogs; farm dogs that lived outside.
My boyfriend looked at me and said, well, he said the kindest thing he ever said in his life… “So, you got his hopes up, and now you’re going to put him back?”
Well, of course, I couldn’t put him back after that comment. The next thing I knew, I had a puppy, a puppy crate, a dog bed, dog food, a dog bowl, and a leash and a collar, and we were checking out of the store. As Canoli was the last ‘item’ to get rung up, my boyfriend almost fell over backward when the cashier said that the dog was fifteen hundred dollars.
My boyfriend looked at me, and said: “Fifteen hundred, ah, that’s ridiculous.” And of course, I said: “You got his hopes up, and now you want me to put him back?”
Reverse Psychology Works!
Canoli and my journey began that day. When I first bought Canoli, and remember this was the pre-rescue dog era in LA, I was working for an actor, producer and director. The actor and I had a wonderful relationship. I adored him, and his kids. So naturally, I decided that the actor and his kids would also adore Canoli.
The next morning a 3-pound Canoli and I drove my little Honda Del Sol up to the actor’s estate in Brentwood. We were met by the actor’s two kids who came, as per usual, running out to greet me. “I’ve got a surprise for you guys”, I said, as I reached into my oversized handbag and pulled out Canoli. The kids went crazy and ran into the house screaming for their dad “Daddy, Janell got a puppy, Janell got a puppy!”
Yo?!? SAY WHAT??
As the actor came to see what all the excitement was all about, he found his son holding my puppy, and his daughter petting him. His son looked up and said “Daddy, this is the best day ever! When we come to your house we get to play with Janell’s puppy!” I remember him looking at me, shaking his head, KNOWING he was defeated at this moment and said: “Thanks a lot, Janell.”
Well, let’s just say, Canoli made himself at home Chez Actor I had an office above the garage. The office was beautifully decorated with some of the actor’s antique furniture. Antique furniture that, to this day, is still bears the marking of Canoli’s little teeth. You see, it turns out, that antique wood is much better to teeth on than the cheap stuff I had at my home! And, the carpets eventually had to be replaced as, no matter how hard I tried, the wee wee pads were not as fun to pee on as the soft wool carpet.
Patience! Guess what! There are patient men in Hollywood!
The actor was a gem, a mensch. He put up with not only me, but with my dog. A dog that came to the set with us. A dog that took baths with his kids. A dog that ruined his furniture and destroyed his rugs! But, after three years of working together, the projects we were working on came to a screeching halt. I tried to keep myself busy, but I had everything in place in his life, so I spent my days watching movies in my office. It was at this point that the actor told me it was time I started to look for a new job. I remember him telling me that he didn’t have need for an assistant anymore, and being that I was now caught up on the past ten years of Oscar-winning movies, I knew he was right.
To this day, I credit him with being my best boss. He was a wonderful teacher, a great mentor, and a valued friend. We are still in touch, and he wrote the introduction for my first book, ‘Where the Dogs Go’. Not many Hollywood relationships can say that they have withstood the test of time.
So thank you PARKER STEVENSON for getting me started in this crazy business, and for continuing to be a part of my life!
Hollywood Gig number Two with the Comedian
Eventually, thanks to the help of Parker and his manager, I was offered a job to work for a famous comedian. Part of my condition of employment, when I agreed to work for him, was that I could bring sweet little Canoli to work with me every day. The comedian lived in Encino, which is a 50-minute commute over the canyons. I knew Canoli would be lonely without me, as he was used to being with me every day. And, I would have been worried sick if I had to leave him at home alone all day to do God knows what. So, I accepted the job under the condition that Canoli could tag along.
The comedian was kind, and he agreed, and so Canoli and I got into my little Honda del Sol and braved the trip to the Valley every day. The comedian had a massive estate with a pool, a tennis court, and a huge yard equipped with all sorts of things a dog could do to amuse himself. It was a puppy paradise, especially for a dog that lived in a small apartment in the city.
Doggie Faux Paw Number One with the Comedian
One day, I was working as fast as I could to get my work done as I had requested to leave at noon that day. My girlfriend’s step-father was a biggie in the music industry, and she had just scored us backstage passes to the Grammys. I was so excited to go to the Grammys. I had my clothes and shoes laid out, my handbag assembled, all I had to do was to throw in some rollers in my hair (hey, this was before the days of the blow-dry bars), get dressed, apply some make-up and head to—what was sure to be— the event of a lifetime.
I guess I was preoccupied this morning because Canoli was outside amusing himself with the pool-man, who came every week. He loved to chase the pool-guy as he was cleaning the pool, and he ran around the pool howling like a psycho-dog the entire time. Unfortunately for Canoli, his antics caught up with him on this day, and as the pool guy was lifting the vacuum, Canoli leaped over it, tripped and catapulted himself into the pool.
I was unaware that my sweet baby dog had almost drowned in the pool until there was a knock on the office door, and a drenched pool-man and a soaked Canoli—cradled in his arms— stood in front of me. The dripping wet pool-guy told me what happened, and that he had yelled at Canoli to swim—even mimicking the dog paddle hoping he would use his canine instincts and swim himself to the side of the pool. Unfortunately, Canoli froze, and when his little head went under the water, the pool-man jumped in and swam him to safety.
I was visibly upset and started to cry and went to grab a towel to dry him off and cuddle him. When I returned with a towel for Canoli, the pool-man, who was also dripping wet and visibly upset, said: “Do you mind getting me a towel too, I am freezing”.
Yep, my whole focus had been on Canoli, and I had neglected his savior. I was pretty upset that Canoli had almost drowned, but once I dried him off it was time to head home and get Grammy ‘glammy’ and poor Canoli had to run around my apartment and air dry himself back to being a fluffy puppy while I was gone.
Of course, Canoli was no longer allowed near the pool. The comedian was so upset at how easily Canoli could have drowned, that he put up a fence around the pool. He wanted to make that neither of his little boys would get close to the pool when they were outside because chasing Canoli… was a fun game for them too.
So, Canoli’s wings had been clipped and little did I KNOW… he had one strike against him.
Sins of the Sandbox – Faux Paw Two with the Comedian
Canoli was banned from the pool area, but there was still so much more for him to do and explore in a massive estate’s backyard. We all know that dogs love to dig. And, Canoli found the comedian’s sons’ sandbox to be quite amusing. We would watch him from the window in the office dig ‘til he was practically exhausted’, then fill up the hole, patting it shut, burying some mysterious treasure hidden for none of us to ever find.
As you know dogs are territorial, and Canoli was no exception. He practically destroyed my sofa due to his possessive digging (see link). A few months into my job, Canoli became very territorial over the sandbox. When the comedian’s boys would go out to play in it while he was there, he would growl at them, pace back and forth, protecting his precious loot of buried ‘whatever’. The comedian’s sons actually became too afraid to go anywhere near the sandbox when Canoli was there.
Such a terror he was!
I found his ‘sandbox territorial behavior’ somewhat amusing. (And on a side note, ugh, do you see what a bad mommy I was, I relished in Canoli’s devilishness and had little regard for the COMEDIAN’s kid’s trauma of being bullied out of their own ‘sandbox’…geez, Janell the sandbox is for all the kids, remember???) Anyway, one day the comedian’s wife came into the office, visibly upset. Her kids had been playing in the sandbox—when Canoli wasn’t there—and had dug up some of his treasures.
One man’s treasure is another….
And his treasures were… POOP!!! Canoli had been pooping in the sandbox and burying his poop. The sandbox had become a cushy place for him to pee and poop and dig and bury his Goddamn poop! It was as if he had discovered his own version of a bidet. He had found a fun and fancy place to poop, pee and dig, dig, dig.
Well, as you can imagine, the sandbox had to be drained and cleared of all of Canoli’s treasures. Canoli was no longer allowed to go outside without MY direct supervision. So now, poor Canoli: no chasing the pool-man, no sandbox digging, and he was under ‘house arrest’ with only supervised ‘Warden Janell’ visits to the backyard.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, Canoli was on thin ice… he now had two strikes against him… Would he get three?
Canoli and the COMEDIAN – Missing Pet Posters
Canoli was a bit sad about being stuck in the comedian’s house and he would sit and look longingly out the window waiting for when I could take a break and take him outside. However, he still had free run of the comedian’s home, which at 7000 square feet was not entirely a punishment to a dog whose normal stomping grounds were a 600 square foot apartment.
Normally, he stuck close to me, or he followed the comedian’s little boys around playing boy games with them. One day, I started to call his name to head outside and he never came running. I walked through the entire house calling for him, but he didn’t come running to me or even woof. I started to feel a little nervous, but when the comedian’s boys said they hadn’t seen him in a while, I became visibly upset. Within five minutes, a search party was assembled with the housekeepers, the kids, the wife and me, sectioning off the house and the yard to search for my missing puppy.
Search and Rescue…
One hour later, after an exhaustive and extensive search, Canoli was nowhere to be found inside or outside the house. The only thing we could think of was that he had maybe slipped out the front door when a delivery person had come to the house. As such, I started a frenzied search of the streets, running through the streets of Encino calling his name, bawling the entire time. By the time I got back to the comedian’s home, I was physically exhausted, emotionally drained, and basically hysterical. I felt sick to my stomach worrying that Canoli had been hit by a car, was lost, injured or dog-napped.
I sat in my office chair calling the local shelters, crying so hard that the words that came out of my mouth were indiscernible at best between my heavy deep sobs. Then, about three hours since the start of this horrible ‘Canoli-is-missing’ ordeal, the comedian’s wife called me on the intercom to come up to her bedroom.
I was initially irritated by her request as she was taking valuable seconds away from my ‘search-and-rescue-Canoli-mission’. When I went upstairs to her bedroom, she was in her large walk-in closet. And, as I walked into her closet, there was Canoli, snoring away. She said he must have followed her into the closet and when she shut the closet door, he had become trapped in there. He was just patiently waiting in the dark, to be rescued, so he decided to have a little doggie nap.
I almost collapsed from happy relief. The whole household was also exceptionally relieved that Canoli was safe, but also somewhat traumatized as you can’t even begin to imagine the panicky-mommy that I had become. Canoli and I decided to call it a day and headed home, as no one could work the rest of that day, especially me.
Truth or Consequences for Canoli and the Comedian
That evening, the comedian called me at home and said that, although Canoli was adorable, that the ‘liability’ of him coming to work had outweighed his cuteness.
It was done… Three strikes and Canoli was out. However, I was always grateful to the comedian, and his family, who had given the two of us a serious try. In fact, the comedian let me do some of my work from home, and shortened my workday so I wouldn’t have to leave Canoli at home alone for such long periods of time. The comedian’s name was DAVID BRENNER, and he was really a mensch.
I started to get up early to take him on a two-mile walk every morning, so he would sleep most of the day when I was at work. Canoli and I eventually adjusted to not seeing each other 24/7, and such is life. In life, you either sink or you swim. And although this was one puppy who couldn’t swim, he was not planning on sinking any time soon.
So the moral from this story Actor and Comedian Hollywood Doggies Story is…
- Not everyone in Hollywood is bad. My first two bosses were amazingly talented, kind, and PATIENT men.
- Dogs become human in our eyes, and you know what… I think they know that. They milk it… they work it… Or, at least, my dog did. FOR FIFTEEN YEARS!!!
- Love is a gift, it doesn’t matter what you love. All that matters is that you love. I still love Canoli, and I still miss him. But loving doesn’t stop when the body gives out, the magical connection between two souls is there for eternity.
Check out my book, Where the Dogs Go, if you love your dog! And for those of you who read the book, can you spot the ‘real life’ stories that I used in the book?