Louisiana natives are taking over Hollywood this year. Gyth Rigden of Singer, La, was the first runner-up on NBC’s The Voice. Laine Hardy of Livingston, La., won the title of American Idol on ABC’s hit show. And now a furry little celebrity from Lake Charles could become the next American Humane Hero Dog.
While social media plays a big part in her notoriety, most people know her from her visits to local libraries, schools and hospitals.
She’s been on MTV, was Miss April in the 2015 Petco Calendar, and is the subject of several viral videos circulating through the internet. She’s even canoodled with soap opera stars and reality show stars.
And now she is in the running for the nation’s top therapy dog … again! That’s right. For the second year in a row, Jeanie finds herself in the coveted position of being among the top three therapy dogs in the nation in the American Humane Hero Dog Awards.
This little icon is the best kind of celebrity. She has never done drugs, she always stops for selfies with fans and she’s never trashed a hotel room. There’s nothing diva-esque about her. Well, most of the time.
Lagniappe Magazine recently had the chance to interview this famous little fur ball (mainly because the writer of this article lives with her). Even though she is a gal of few words, Jeanie somehow managed to answer our questions just as you’d expect her to … like a dog.
Lagniappe: Jeanie, let’s just start with the basics. What kind of dog are you?
Jeanie: I’m a rescue. A cute one.
Lagniappe: You certainly are! But what particular breed are you?
Lagniappe: Interesting. So let’s break that down… that’s Pomeranian, Yorkie, Poodle and Papillion. So basically, you’re what most people would refer to as a mixed-breed, or a “mutt.” Is that correct?
Jeanie: I prefer “multi-cultural.”
Lagniappe: Got it. So everyone knows you’ve been a therapy dog in your community for quite some time. Eight years! You’re a member of the Dr. Dogs Pet Therapy team in your hometown of Lake Charles. Can you tell me what it means to be a therapy dog?
Jeanie: Yes. People love to hug me.
Lagniappe: That’s true, they do. You gets lots of hugs when you visit Christus St. Patrick Hospital, the Children’s Advocacy Center, Family and Juvenile Court, nursing homes and such. And isn’t that what it means to be a therapy dog? To give love and joy to people who need it most?
Jeanie: Yes. There’s so many hugs, and they all have a scent. Some hugs smell like candy, some smell like flowers, some smell like mama, or popcorn or chicken nuggets. There’s also belly rubs. And on a good day, the hugs and belly rubs are simultaneous.
Lagniappe: Right. Well, there’s been a lot of buzz about your latest venture… How exciting that you recently played a starring role in one of the most famous musicals of all time, Annie! You played the role of Sandy, Annie’s dog, in the play, and your most important scene was the one in which Annie sings the timeless hit, “Tomorrow.” What was it like to be a part of such an iconic piece of Broadway theatre?
Jeanie: I don’t know about all that, but I do know this … if you see a little girl in a curly, red wig singing “tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you, tomorrow,” follow her! She’s got bacon in a ziplock bag in the sleeve of her sweater.
Lagniappe: Okay. Good to know. There are many reasons for the CYT (Christian Youth Theater) company to cast you as Sandy in the musical. You’re obviously well behaved, you’re well known in the community, and it helps that you’re insured. But why do you think they asked you to be in the play?
Jeanie: As it turns out, the nervous little actors enjoyed hugging a dog backstage. I’m pretty sure that’s why I was there. And since the hugs smelled like animal crackers, I didn’t mind that they called me Sandy. Besides, the girl with the curly, red hair needed someone to take that bacon off her hands, so there’s that.
Lagniappe: You were invited to meet the governor and First Lady of Louisiana and spent some time hanging out at the Governor’s Mansion. I heard that the First Dogs were there, as well. What was that like?
Jeanie: Lots of hugs and smiles. The house had shiny floors and smelled like cookies. I fertilized the rose garden and no one fussed. They even gave me a bag of homemade treats.
Lagniappe: So congratulations! You’ve been nominated for the top award in the nation for your therapy work. Every year, American Humane honors the top dogs from all over the country in seven categories: law enforcement/arson, guide/hearing, military, search and rescue, shelter and therapy. The competition began with 360 well-deserving canines and now only 21 dogs remain, three in each of the seven categories. But only seven dogs (the winner from each category) will attend the awards show in Hollywood. I’m sure it’s quite an honor to be representing therapy dogs, not only from your home state of Louisiana, but from all over the nation. How does it feel to be honored with other hero dogs who have saved lives, found missing children or served military tours in Iraq and Afghanistan?
Jeanie: Tilts head with a panting smile.
Lagniappe: OK, so tell me about the actual Hero Dog Awards show. It will be held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, an iconic permanent fixture steeped in Hollywood history. Merv Griffin once owned it and Marilyn Monroe loved to sunbathe next to the pool. It’s famous for its glamour and glitz — a place where presidents stay and movie stars play. And every year, the Golden Globes are held in the same ballroom as the Hero Dog Awards. What do you think about that?
Jeanie: Do they have bacon?
Lagniappe: I’m sure they do. But it’s been said that this awards show is like the Oscars for dogs! It will even be televised, airing on the Hallmark Channel. Do you realize there will be movie stars and rock stars attending the awards show just to see you and the other Hero Dogs?
Jeanie: They want to hug the dogs?
Lagniappe: Probably, but let’s move on. You’re kind of a celebrity now. Louisiana has produced all kinds of celebrities: Britney Spears, Tyler Perry, Faith Ford, Lil Wayne, Terry Bradshaw, Harry Connick, Jr., and Ellen DeGeneres all hail from Louisiana. And recently, Gyth Rigden and Laine Hardy dominated the two most popular talent shows on prime time television. What is it, do you think, that makes these people so special?
Jeanie: They love dogs.
Lagniappe: I suppose so, yes. Speaking of Ellen DeGeneres … Louisiana artist, Candice Alexander, painted a portrait of you with the famous talk show host. Have you met Ellen? Or did Candice simply bring the two of you together on canvas.
Jeanie: I’ve not met Ellen, but I hope to. I imagine her hugs smell like money.
Lagniappe: Yes, she’s done quite well. And she donates a lot of her money to animal charities, just as you do. You’re the star of two children’s books, and a portion of the proceeds from those books go to local rescues. Your first book, I Don’t Need Four Feet!, won several literary awards. And your new book, Jeanie the Three-Legged Therapy Dog, explains what a therapy dog does and how to become one. It also includes photos of some of your actual friends and patients. Why do you think the books are so well received?
Jeanie: Maybe because I’ve pawtographed each one?
Lagniappe: Oh, that’s true! Every book is stamped with your actual paw print. And you have more big news … there are Little Jeanie plush toys available now. You’re actually a toy! Tell me about it …
Jeanie: It’s soft, small, and cute. But this toy is different. The first thing I like to do when I get a new toy is to perform a squeaker-ectomy. And unlike my other toys, there’s no squeaker. Believe me, I’ve checked.
Lagniappe: Well, the toys are not for dogs, they’re for kids. But about the award … There would certainly be lots of perks, should you win this competition. Not only would you receive the American Humane Hero Therapy Dog title and a trip to Hollywood, but the exposure would certainly elevate your platform. It would bring awareness to the important programs that you and the Dr. Dogs Pet Therapy Team are a part of. Other communities may be inspired to implement programs like Fun with Fideaux, in which little readers gain confidence as they read their favorite books to therapy dogs at the library. Or perhaps other law enforcement agencies will utilize therapy dogs in their community as our agencies have with the Children’s Advocacy Center here in Lake Charles. That’s where you and your colleagues comfort children who are questioned by forensic interviewers in abuse cases. And the fact that you’re a rescue could encourage people to adopt a dog from a local shelter, maybe even one with special needs like yourself. Right?
Jeanie: Another smiling head tilt, wags tail.
Lagniappe: But aside from all these reasons, what do you hope to gain with this win?
Jeanie: Hugs. Belly rubs. Maybe some bacon.
Readers can help Jeanie get to Hollywood by voting at herodogawards.org/dog/Jeanie-2019/. You can vote once a day through July 18. Winners will be announced in August. Daily reminders are posted on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (@jeanie3legs). Visit jeanie3legs.com for more information.