September 11, 2015 | Posted in Famous TV & Movie Dogs
Hollywood animal trainer Sue Chipperton had a dog named Gidget who was wildly famous as the Chihuahua in the Taco Bell commercials. She heard a new film was being cast starring actress Reese Witherspoon as law student Elle Woods and featuring a Chihuahua as her companion named Bruiser. She felt Gidget would work beautifully in the film, but the little dog was too busy. Two other trainers had come across a little Chihuahua puppy and thought that because of her success with the breed, Sue might be interested in training and submitting the pup for the film. She named him Moondoggie (classic film and television fans will appreciate the cuteness of Gidget and Moondoggie!) and brought him to live with her. At first, the two dogs didn’t get along too well, but eventually, they became happy roommates.
When the time came, Moondoggie (Moonie for short) auditioned, and he was hired for the role of Bruiser. He never met Reese Witherspoon until the first day on set, which accounted for some tension for Sue Chipperton. Not only was this the first true test of whether Moonie could perform without stage fright, but it was critical that he bond with the lead actress since his role was as her constant companion. The first scene being shot was Elle’s arrival, with Bruiser, at Harvard University.
Sue Chipperton took no chances. She decided to see if the actress would cooperate in working with “hot bait”, an animal trainer’s term for actual meat, preferably moist chicken, instead of a processed treat. “Shore”, said the actress with her Southern drawl. Chipperton says if one looks closely at still photos of that scene, you can see Witherspoon clenching her fist on one hand while holding Moonie/Bruiser. In that fist was her bit of bribery – the chicken.
Another important bit of business Moonie had to learn was how to happily sit in a purse, since Elle Woods often carried her dog in that manner. This he learned easily, and even after filming, would hop in the purse of visitors if they left it on the floor.
But another scene required Moonie/Bruiser to pick up an envelope that had been slid under Elle’s door, and bring it to her. This is a difficult trick for any dog to perform because there is no leverage for getting it in the mouth, so the envelope was bent slightly to allow the little dog to pick it up. The follow-up to that action was for the Chihuahua to hold onto the envelope once being picked up by Elle. Natural dog tendencies are to drop the item when scooped up. So Chipperton taught Witherspoon to hold Moonie away from her body in this scene.
When the film was released in 2001, it was a hit and people were talking about the little scene-stealer. Things went so well that when a sequel was planned for 2003 release, then 5-year-old Moonie continued his role, which was expanded considerably. Moonie was also trained to accept being dressed in a total of 23 costume changes in the course of filming. In the film, Bruiser’s mom is being used for medical experiments, and it’s up to Elle to help release the dog and suggest a bill to stop the animal experimentation. This time around, Gidget was available, and was quickly cast as the mom.
A bond had developed between Reese Witherspoon and Moonie by then. “Moonie is the best. He comes in, hits his mark, we shoot the take, and he goes back to his trailer,” she once smiled.
Following the second film, Moonie went on to star in a music video with Cher, and appeared on the television series “Providence” and “Three Sisters.”
Moonie and Witherspoon had one more reunion, in 2012, when the actress received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. For several photos, a slightly heavier Moonie was held by Witherspoon, but the little dog eventually jumped down and ran off. Ah, the fickleness of Hollywood!
Moonie’s retired today (as of the date of this article 1/2014) and is nearly 15 years old. His roommate Gidget passed away suddenly from a stroke at the age of 15 in 2009.