Diesel vom Burgimwald is No. 1 on the Hudson & Rex call sheet. That’s because he’s in almost every scene being filmed. And, unlike his human co-stars, Diesel—who is one of three German Shepherds who portray Rex on Citytv’s canine-and-cops drama—has someone helping train him.
Meet Sherri Davis, who has trained and supplied a menagerie of animals to the film and television industry for 25 years. We spoke to Davis about Diesel vom Burgimwald, and the work that goes into prepping him—and his nephews—for primetime TV.
Give me a little bit of background Sherri. How did you get involved in Hudson and Rex in the first place?
Sherri Davis: I’ve been in film for over 25 years and about seven years ago they came to me with the script for Hudson & Rex. They thought it might take off and it didn’t come to head. So, seven years later I got a call and they’re like, ‘You still got your shepherds?’ I was like, ‘Yep.’
They came out and we looked at the shepherds. My shepherds at the time were very black. I had just gotten Diesel a week prior to them coming out. He knew absolutely nothing. One of my staff brought Diesel up because I was going to start training him. Originally on the show, it was a very different looking shepherd.
I’ve heard that there’s more than one shepherd being used during production.
SD: Yes, there’s Diesel and Izzy and Iko. Izzy and Iko are Diesel’s nephews. This bloodline is a bloodline from Germany. The dogs are extremely consistent in looks. In fact, these go back 15 generations to the original Rex, which was a pure fluke. I did not know that. The breeder figured that one out.
What kind of a journey has it been from taking Diesel from not being trained to being trained? Is that a month journey? Is it a year journey? Is it still going on?
SD: It’s still going on. We were training every day for 10 hours a day. Even to this day, I’m teaching him to sneeze. So he’s learning new things every day and it’s been over a year now.
When you’re teaching Diesel how to sneeze, is that so that you’ve got something that you can say to showrunner Derek Schreyer? Or are you doing it because it’s in an upcoming script?
SD: It’s in a script and I’m like, ‘You want him to sneeze? Are you kidding me?’ I get the script and I break them down and then we work five days a week on set and they’re usually 12 to 14 hour days that we’re on set for. And then, on the weekends, we do about eight hours of prep for the upcoming script.
This is the first time the writers have written for a dog. Nobody really knew how far we could push Diesel. We’ve really worked on his training, so now it’s jumping out of the car windows and it’s traversing along a two by four and climbing a ladder. In any of the shows in the past, the dog has not been your key cast.
When did you find out that you had a relationship with animals?
SD: My grandparents, my great-grandparents, they always had animals and we’d go out to the farm and everybody would be in the house and I will be out with the dogs or the horses or the cows. I got my first dog when I was five and I’ve had dogs ever since. I work with dogs, cats, rats, mice, rabbits, skunks, raccoons horses, sheep. Maybe I’m part animal.
It just comes very natural and, and somewhat easy for me to relate to the animals and, and train them. And you know, I think it’s a respect thing. You respect me and I respect you.
Hudson & Rex airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on Citytv.
Image courtesy of Rogers Media.