The story of A Dog’s Purpose continues with a heart-warming sequel, A Dog’s Journey, starring the lovable Odin as Bailey!
Following in the pawprints of Lassie, Air Bud and Beethoven, Odin is everything you’d expect in a canine movie star. He’s got the expressive eyes, the shiny coat, and most importantly, the charismatic personality that all great actors (both two- and four-legged) possess. Bringing life to Bailey, the reincarnated character from the 2017 drama A Dog’s Purpose (a different dog starred in this first movie), the great Pyrenees/Bernese mountain dog mix can be seen alongside Dennis Quaid in the follow-up film, A Dog’s Journey, which was released in May of this year. The on-screen chemistry between these two superstars is making quite an impact on dog lovers and Quaid fans alike, but their bond behind the scenes was equally touching.
In fact, Odin was adored by everyone on set, and vice versa. “Odin is a sweetheart,” says the film’s director, Gail Mancuso. “His favorite was Dennis Quaid. I think that’s because Dennis was always hiding treats in his pockets.” Given Odin’s weakness for treats, it’s no surprise that he took to his co-star. But there are many keys to a pup’s heart, and for Odin, the big one wasn’t food, but love. “The thing that motivated Odin the most on set was attention,” says his lead trainer, Bonnie Judd. “He would do almost anything for a big bear hug! I’m not saying he didn’t like food – you don’t get to his size by being a fussy eater. But he truly loved his cuddles.”
A lot of training goes into priming a dog for a film, so both Gail and Bonnie were happy to find a canine star that was eager to please. But before the training process could even begin, a level of mutual trust needed to be built. “The most important part of training a dog, whether it be for movies, dog sports or a family pet, is building a great relationship,” says Bonnie. “I look at training a new dog almost like dating. I spend a lot of time getting to know the dog, his likes and dislikes, and what he loves and fears.”
Bonnie first met Odin and his family for a meet-and-greet in a park. The second time, his family brought him to Bonnie’s farm. After that get-together, they began spending one-on-one time together, which is when their bond began to solidify.
Eventually, Odin started spending longer stretches of time at Bonnie’s training facility in Vancouver, British Columbia. He “moved in”, and his family visited him on the weekends until it was time to relocate to Winnipeg for filming. During this time, Odin was given a lot of love, and was taught all the skills he’d need on set using positive reinforcement methods.
When it came time to film, the only scene he couldn’t do was because of his size, not his ability. “Odin is a big boy, well over 100 pounds,” says Bonnie. “The scene where he had to jump off of Dennis’ back and catch a ball was done by Odin’s sister. She looks just like Odin, but is smaller, so she was a great stunt puppy. She was amazing and we didn’t have to worry about her getting hurt or squishing Dennis!”
In between scenes, Odin hung out in his very own trailer. Talk about a cushy gig…and a lucky one, at that! When the casting crew for A Dog’s Journey set out to find a great Pyrenees/Bernese mountain dog mix to match the dog that appeared in A Dog’s Purpose, they knew immediately on meeting Odin that he was a perfect fit for the role. And because they fell in love with him so quickly, they knew the audience would too. Throughout the film, Bailey’s thoughts are expressed by a human voiceover actor (Josh Gad, Frozen), and Odin was able to exemplify those thoughts like a pro by using body language. “Odin has very expressive eyes, and as we all know, dogs say so much with just a look,” says Gail. “I loved his temperament and the way he carried himself. He’s a star.”
It seems this is the general consensus among the entire cast and crew, including Bonnie, who teared up when asked about the bond she and Odin built. “To have the great privilege of knowing Odin…I just don’t think it’s possible to not love him,” she says. “He was the greatest therapy for a bad day! It was very gracious of his family to share him with us, and ultimately the world.” Working on a film set can be lonely but, as with most aspects of our lives, having a dog around makes it a whole lot brighter – especially when it’s a dog like Odin!
Of course, directing a dog on-screen comes with its fair share of challenges. “Unlike actors who take their cues off each other, dogs take their cues off their trainers,” says Gail. “We would be in the middle of a dramatic scene with emotional dialogue and all of a sudden we would hear ‘sit Odin’, ‘stay’, ‘hold it, got to pay him’, and the trainer would walk on set and give him a treat!” But even Gail admits that the biggest challenge was pulling herself away from the between-scenes snuggles to call “action”! “I had the best job in the world when I got to direct Odin on A Dog’s Journey,” she says.
Just like his famous four-legged predecessors, Odin is so much more than a movie star. He’s a lovable personality who likes giving hugs, receiving bum scratches, and being around people…especially Dennis Quaid! Now that A Dog’s Journey has been released, Odin has returned home to his family. But he’s been gracing the big screen since May, and his fans are barking with excitement. Indeed, it’s fair to say that the only thing more delightful than this highly-anticipated sequel is the lovable pup who stars in it!
Animal Wellness is North America's top natural health and lifestyle magazine for dogs and cats, with a readership of over one million every year. AW features articles by some of the most renowned experts in the pet industry, with topics ranging from diet and health related issues, to articles on training, fitness and emotional well being.