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uggie, tail of a thespian

By GiGi, the Belgian Malinois as barked to Whitney Wilde


From the first moment I saw Uggie playing the stoked skateboarder in Disney’s Life is Ruff, I knewthat here was my soulmate and kindred spirit. He had me at his first “woof!” and I was panting at the thought of interviewing him.

A few months ago, Uggie released his paw-tobiography “Uggie: My Story.” This is an honest-to-dog true recounting of his life, his loves, his dark history with cats, and plenty of celebrity dog dish.

Uggie was a pound-bound hound when animal trainer Omar Von Muller took him in. The high-energy, pure-bred pooch with undirected intelligence got into trouble and made him difficult to handle. They don’t call his breed Jack Russell Terrorists for nothing! It was canine kismet and Omar brought out the best in Uggie.

Uggie has appeared in seven films, plus countless commercials and guest appearances. His part in Water for Elephants was too brief (IMHO), and I think the film would have won more awards with more on-screen time for Uggie. During filming, Uggie fell in puppy love with co-star Reese Witherspoon (crushing my dreams of being Mrs. Uggie).

The Artist gave Uggie the opportunity to show his acting chops; he wasn’t limited to tricks, but showed a full range of emotions. His bit part grew into near constant screen time and I’m sure Uggie was playing the title role. He won every paws-able award and, if not for a long history of speciesism in the Academy Awards, he deserved an Oscar along with castmates Jean Dejardin and Bérénice Bejo. Regardless, Uggie was the first canine to have paw prints immortalized in cement at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood (an honor that was not bestowed on his castmates).

During filming of The Artist, Omar noticed a tremor in Uggie’s legs. The vet confirmed White Dog Shaker Syndrome. Found in small dog breeds, it is not painful or fatal. Like fellow actor Michael J. Fox (Fox? he must be part canine!), Uggie has chosen to cut back his work schedule and approach life as the eternal optimist – enjoying each day to its fullest.

True to his Jack Russell roots, retirement has not meant that Uggie sits around counting his awards. Uggie wanted to use his popularity for pawsitive philanthropy and to repay his good “canine karma."

•New Year’s Day, 2013, Uggie rode in the Rose Parade on the Beverly Hills Pet Care Foundation float themed "Follow the Stars - Adopt a Pet."

•Uggie lent his paws to the cause again for shelter animals in the “Adopt, Don’t Buy” campaign for PETA.

•He was spokesdog for Nintendo’s interactive 3DS game “Nintendogs + Cats” that teaches kids how to share life with a dog or cat… training, feeding, clean-up, competitions.

•When Uggie heard about Senate bill SB 1221, outlawing the use of dogs to hunt bears and bobcats, Uggie wrote to Sutter Brown (Governor Jerry Brown’s Corgi), asking him to tell his dad that “signing SB 1221 is a doggone good idea.!” Hmmmm…. Uggie for Governor?


•Most recently, Uggie became the spokesdog for the Pets of Valor Awards given by the Humane Society of the United States. It gives recognition to adopted/rescued dogs and cats who have exhibited an extraordinary sense of courage by heroically helping a human in need.

•Uggie has not stopped appearing in front of the camera. He has a brief part in the film The Campaign and on Comedy Central’s Key and Peele. Uggie makes retirement sound exhausting, yet he still takes time to connect with his fans (called Uggie Huggers). He has more than 30,000 followers on Twitter and Facebook, his own iPhone app, and sends out daily Uggie-isms.

Uggie shares a home in Panorama City with Omar, mom Mercy and sister Terry, two cats, some performing doves, and six other canine actors:  Jumpy (Border Collie mix), Julio (English Bulldog), Gordo (Bulldog), Big Popeye (American Bulldog), Dash and Dude (Uggie’s stunt doubles). They all tour with The Incredible Dog Show. I predict that Jumpy is going to be the next big star in the family… look for Jumpy as a superhero in an upcoming film.


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