There’s an indelicate term that persists in my business - a two word rhyming phrase used to describe those impromptu camera clusters you see in courthouse hallways and on bad made-for-TV movies. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you...the gang-bang. Usually, these lightning rounds of elbow fiesta are played out around accident victims, politicians and the freshly convicted. But today me and three of my camera-swinging buddies rendezvoused at a secret location for a far more important V.I.P. That’s right, we’re here for the dog.
But not just any dog. Sadie, a golden retriever and licensed therapy pet, has spent the past six years bringing joy and diversion to patients from across the Piedmont. From Child Oncology to the Alzheimer’s Ward, this inherently lovable pooch has made very sick folks’ days just by showing up. However, at the ripe old age of eleven, her energy level just isn’t what it used to be. Now, her owner Joe Gangloff says it’s time for Sadie to cut back her schedule and pursue a life of leisure. So he notified the several hospitals Sadie visits and spread the word. You guessed it - the retriever is retiring.
Before the senior pet goes off to learn shuffleboard, there is the matter of the send-off. That’s where me and the rest of the lens-jackals come in. Eager for show-ending fodder, each newsroom dispatched a photog with the same mission. ’Bring back something for the anchors to chortle about while the houselights fade!' No problem, thought all - until we each arrived to find three motley reflections staring back in annoyance. Still, we all played nice, making small talk while the PR ladies insisted we stay hidden. You know, so we wouldn’t tip off the dog…
It must have worked, for Sadie didn’t seem any the wiser when she and her owner stepped off the elevator and into the spotlight‘s glare. She just panted agreeably as we swarmed her with our lenses, microphones and silly questions. With a squint and a backpedal we rotated positions, from the outstretched overhead pan to the move known to millions of chop-socky fans as Crouching Photog, Hidden Hernia. By the time the cameras’ top lights faded, each shooter had what he came for: footage, interviews and a just a trace of warmth in our cold, cold hearts. Of course, we’ll all regain our well-honed callous status the next time we all gather at the edge of some tragedy and chat about something innocuous, like the time we chased that golden retriever through that hospital lobby. What WAS that dog’s name, anyway?