September 11, 2015 | Posted in Famous TV & Movie Dogs
Trainer Mike Alexander had auditioned many dogs when he got the word that a 2008 film titled “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” was being planned. But he didn’t find a Chihuahua in the bunch that he felt comfortable with for the role. He began searching the internet for animal shelters where a likely candidate might be found, and came across a Southern California shelter with a dog named Rusco who looked perfect. He’d been found wandering the streets and was brought to the shelter, but no one claimed him and he was scheduled for euthanization. Mike Alexander raced to the shelter to save him, but they were closed. He hoped Rusco would be alive the next morning, and he was. One look and he knew he’d found “Papi”, the lead character in the film. Alexander couldn’t be sure of the little dog’s age, but fell for the big ears, bouncy personality, and huge range of expression – Rusco had it all.
Alexander took Rusco home and began training him. Rusco was slightly larger than a typical Chihuahua and his run was more like a hop – another fun trait. Rusco was presented to producers and the director, and hired for the film. He eventually met with actor George Lopez, who would be doing the voice of Papi. Lopez has three Chihuahuas himself and bonded with Rusco because he loves the breed. He said he loves them because even though they’re small, they feel they can take on anything.
In the film, Papi falls in love with another Chihuahua, Chloe, and the plot centers around him rescuing her. Lopez felt Rusco was the right choice for the role, too, because “He’s a romantic dog, but he’s got a little bit of street in him,” he said after their meeting. They would meet again while doing promotional tours for the film when it was due to be released. It was a huge success.
Sequels would follow. These days, Rusco is older and deserving of a lighter schedule. He’s doing the Pet Expo circuit, where the public gathers for entertainment, celebrity meetings, informational lectures and booths offering adoption possibilities and health info on all dog breeds. Also on the circuit are Uggie from “The Artist” and Stella from “Modern Family.” Little Rusco/Papi is still a crowd-pleaser during these appearances. And he enjoys his off-hours, living with Mike Alexander in the Los Angeles area.