Saturday, January 15, 2011

A dog with the bow wow factor: We collar Harvey - the star of TV's funniest commercial


Do you like the new iron? It's a Jack Russell Hobbs...

When interviewing top celebrities, there is sometimes one question you are dying to ask but never quite dare, for fear of being mauled.

Today is no exception, as I prepare to interrogate ­Britain’s latest superstar. In his defence, Harvey doesn’t seem the type to throw a tantrum. Quite the opposite. He is bending over backwards — sometimes literally — to be helpful.

He is, frankly, a model subject. Which is all the more remarkable given that Harvey is no ordinary celebrity for another important reason: he has four legs, not two.

Still, when it comes to that killer question — ‘So, Harvey, what’s it like to lick Johnny Depp?’ — I just can’t quite bring myself to ask him. Perhaps it is the soulful brown eyes — trusting and pleading in equal measure.

Perhaps it is reverence. This is a star, after all, whose latest piece of work has been watched a million times on YouTube, and who has 10,000 friends on Facebook, and counting.

Cooking's a breeze with a pedigree chum like me around

If you aren’t a Harvey fan yourself, it means you were either out of the country for the festive period, or you simply don’t like dogs. For Harvey may well be on the way to becoming the most famous hound in Britain since John Noakes’s Shep.

Judging by the number of comments in foreign languages on his Facebook page, he could soon be up there with Lassie in terms of global recognition. Harvey is the dog who has captured the nation’s heart by starring in a TV commercial — now voted Advert of the Year — that is simply impossible to watch without going 'ahhhh'.

In the ad for Thinkbox — which was made to promote the benefits of TV advertising, and clearly succeeded in spades — Harvey plays the role of an unwanted mutt longing for a new owner as he waits in a rescue centre’s kennels.

No paws for the wicked. It's on with the Marigolds and in I go...

Playing unashamedly on the emotions of a young couple who are looking to take a dog home as a pet, he presses the play button on a short film he has supposedly made to demonstrate his extraordinary domestic skills.

There is Harvey doing the washing and the ironing, mowing the lawn, cleaning the shoes and windows. Just as you find yourself thinking ‘I wish I had a spouse that useful’, up pops ­Harvey to help with the cooking, play chess, fetch the children on the school run and tuck them into bed at night.

When the film ends, the couple look down to see that Harvey is sitting waiting for them, suitcase already packed, appealing look in eyes, fait most definitely accompli. ‘Every home needs a Harvey,’ says the caption. And a superstar is born.

Looks good... I could do with a bite

So it is with no small degree of reverence that I have come to pay homage to Harvey at home with his owner Gill Raddings in Deddington, Oxfordshire.

Has the adulation — he’s had ­marriage proposals on Facebook, for goodness’ sake — turned this seven-year-old ­mongrel into a snooty celeb?

The first impressions are contradictory. The shiny, jewelled bling-bling collar around his neck suggests a ­certain love of the luxury lifestyle.

But the fact that when I arrive he is already up at the ­window, eager to greet the Man from The Press, suggests he is no prima dogga.

I'm dog tired but there's still the lawn to mow... oh well I better put my bark into it

Within minutes, Harvey is showing off his home-making talents — and soliciting rounds of applause in the kitchen. Gill gets the ironing board and iron out and he gamely places a paw on top and holds the pose while the photographer snaps away.

Next he is up on a chair at the cooker, spoon expertly held in his mouth. Then it’s time for the dishes, so he slips his paws into washing-up gloves.

There is one problem with this domestic talent. It’s just for show. The iron is stone cold and the cooker is off. Somehow it’s crushing to discover that, while talented, he’s still — whisper it — a dog.

'I don't like to appear ruff and ready'... Sykes cleans his clothes

The fact that Harvey can’t really put out the bins and change a light bulb is not the only harsh reality to be faced here. Harvey, it turns out, isn’t even called Harvey. In real life, his name is Sykes, and he is one of the most successful stunt dogs in the business.

His extensive CV records that he can sit, stand, roll over, play dead, beg, dance, crawl on his stomach, limp, hide his eyes and shake his head. It doesn’t promise him to be a chess master but then, thanks to the miracle of TV technology, it doesn’t have to.

Was that the turn off for Barking? I'm not used to this car, normally I drive a Rover

Gill talks like a proud mum, but one who expects a certain level of co-operation from her young charge. For Sykes is not Gill’s only dog. She runs a company called Action Stunt Dogs And Animals, and it’s fair to say that dogs are her life.

Pictures of dogs line the stairs, while every sofa has a dog-proof cover and, more often than not, a dog. When night falls, Gill heads upstairs with her entourage, who all pile onto her bed.

Sykes does not have the monopoly on being the household’s star. Gill introduces each of her ‘celebrities’ by name and by the programme you might have seen them in. There’s Kyte, the 14-year-old Belgian Shepherd.

His favourite film is Where Beagles Dare, he confides. He’s a big fan of Pup Fiction. And Dogtor Who. And his favourite composer? Poochini, of course.

source: dailymail

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