Electro-Pet: My New Chew Toy
(First published in Planet Magazine, 18jul1995)
Some time ago I was flipping channels and stopped because I
heard classical musicunusual anywhere on television, let alone
on public access. What I saw was even more unusual than the
music: a medium-sized dogidentified as "Sydney The Wonder Dog"-
-contentedly gnawing a chew toy. For a full half hour. Somehow,
just as with my other favorite cable access program, The All-Spanking Show,
I couldn't tear myself away. From time to time the
picture would dissolve, suggesting a change of scene. But nothe
same picture would fade right back in. Genius! At the end, the
classical music gave way to Kraftwerk, Sydney and chew toy gave
way to a tiny terrier and a tiny chew toy, and superimposed
Next time on... Electro-Pet: Volume II
Featuring Peanut the Wonder Dog
Of course I was hooked. I sent fan mail to the show's
producers, Woody Harper and Alice Ford (who turned out to be behind The All Spanking Show as well). My New Chew Toy
turned out to be Volume I of the Electro-Pet series, a
series born of frustration, as Harper explains: "I was watching
public access, and I saw a lot of crap, and literally said, `My
dogs are more interesting than that!'"
Harper went to Dimension Cable, borrowed one of their
videocameras, and learned how to use it by taping Sydney. "Syd
had a new chew toy that daywe went to Petsmart and got new chew
toys for all the dogsand she was lying on the couch looking
pretty cute. So I taped her."
I was a little disillusioned to learn that the fading in and
out was not intentionalHarper was just learning to use the
borrowed video equipment. "I was playing with all the different
buttons on the camera," he says. Though unintentional, he says,
"in editing, it came out perfect."
The Electro-Pet series has featured all three of
Harper's and Ford's "Wonder Dogs," Syd, Peanut, and Cocoa. "They
seemed to really like the camera," says Harper. "That's kind of
odd. I thought they'd be scared of it." One Electro-Pet
show featured a tape of someone else's dog. I don't know what
that dog's name was, but my friends and I dubbed him "Randy,"
because he spent the entire half-hour attempting to polish the backside of a
less romantically-inclined she-bulldog.
Electro-Pet ceased appearing not long after that
particular episode, butamazinglythere was no causal
connection. "The only reason there haven't been more Electro-
Pet [shows] is because I don't have the bucks for my own
camera right now," says Harper. "Dimension gave me some grief
because [of] one of the shows where Peanut went camping." One of
Dimension's finest was watching Harper edit the tape and asked
what forest they'd were taping in. When they found out it was
Tonto National Forest, Harper says Dimension gave him "a bunch of
crap for taking the camera out of the county and really railed on
me for that. And I've been real sour on checking out their
equipment ever since they did that." Not that Harper faults
Dimension for enforcing their rules. "It's in their agreement, so
I mean, that's coolbut the person was a real jerk about it
though. She could have said, `That's badyou're a bad person,'
but she just went on and on and on about it. So I've had a little
chip on my shoulder."
Having abandoned Electro-Pet, Harper got involved with
the show Fusion Patrol, which airs on Saturday nights just
before What's Next With Bob Baxter. (Harper once met Baxter
when the latter was taping at the Arizona Renaissance Festival
if you watch What's Next you've no doubt seen that episode,
because it's aired a hundred times, seems like. "He'd never heard
of my show," Harper says. "I told him a little bit about what I
thought of his show, and we gabbed like a couple of old women for
a while.") However, Harper's current involvement with Fusion
Patrol is minimal. Could there be a chance that he might
revive Electro-Pet? "I could show them again," he
says coyly. "We have all the master tapes...."
Serve mankind: send e-mail to Woody (email@example.com) and
beg him to returnElectro-Petto the small screen!
11aug1963 - 09jun2004
(More information about Woody Harper)
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