Byline: Lenore T. Adkins Daily Herald Staff Writer
Perhaps while relaxing in front of the television recently, you may have snapped to attention when you learned "Lou" of Elgin watches "King of Queens."
Lou is a local German shepherd who is included on those campy promotions on WCIU-TV Channel 26 in which the company features local dogs plugging its shows.
For those of you who have never seen them, the Chicago-based independent television station, also known as "the U," runs spots with a close up of a dog in an easy chair with its name and town underneath.
Then the camera jumps to a far-away profile of the dog in the chair watching a television program aired on the station. A voice says which show the dog loves to watch.
In Lou's case, the voice said "Lou of Elgin loves watching 'King of Queens.'"
The 10-year-old station selects dogs based on their behavior and ability to follow basic commands, said Verna Soto, the station's advertising and marketing coordinator.
It holds open calls for the dogs and "interviews" them by ordering them to sit, jump in a chair and turn around.
According to Joel Keller, the marketing manager for WCIU-TV, 200 dogs auditioned for the spots; the network eventually selected 100.
When filming the spots, staff instructed the dogs to sit in a chair, stare at the camera and turn their heads to one side. They then edited the footage to look as if the dogs were watching television.
"The purpose was just to get people to talk about the station and do something unique to draw attention to us," Keller said of the promotion.
Lori Waters and her husband Ray Czubek of Elgin own and train Lou, so the producers' commands were no sweat for him or his roommates, Jane Doe, a mixed breed and Mitch, a border collie.
Jane Doe and Mitch also were featured in similar spots on the network. Jane Doe pitched "King of Queens" and Mitch pushed "The Insider," a new celebrity gossip show.
All three dogs have been shown in obedience clubs and have won a slew of prestigious titles, some of them national.
They also compete in the American Kennel Club's Obedience Trial Championship, a competition that's the Academy Awards in the dog- training world, Waters said. Judges invite 150 dogs across the United States to execute complicated commands.
"It's like a doctorate degree," Waters said. "They all have their doctorate degree."
Mitch, named the American Kennel Club's number three border collie of 2003, stands as the most decorated dog of the bunch, with at least 40 obedience trial wins and counting.
In fact, Waters is gearing Mitch up for the upcoming national competition in Tampa in four days. Waters and Czubek have six "children" in all, including three German shepherds, two border collies and one mixed breed. The remaining three dogs, Leo, Alivia and 5-month-old Loretta aren't ready to compete yet as they're still learning commands.
"We treat the dogs like kids; they're our family," Waters said.
It was Jake, a black Labrador mix Waters owned, who was responsible for her signing up for dog training classes 15 years ago. According to Waters, Jake was an "unruly pet who needed an obedience class," as the dog had taken to pooping in the house, jumping on furniture and ignoring her when she called him. …