The comedian W.C. Fields famously said, "Never work with children or animals." That was the thought that went through my mind as I lay on the floor of The Kennel at Gonzaga University, trying to coax three English bulldogs into their place for a photograph to advance the NCAA tournament this week.
The Zags would be the "big dogs" of the tournament for the first time. So it occurred to me that a couple of bulldogs, the school mascot, might bring that point home. And I had hoped to put them well into the foreground of the picture and using the three players prominently posed in the background.
The dogs, however, were fidgety and I couldn't get them to quite behave the way I had hoped. And I wasn't sure what to do.
To my rescue came Gary Bell Jr., Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris.
DEAN RUTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Gonzaga stars, from left, Gary Bell Jr., Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris, enter the NCAA tournament as the No. 1 seed in the West Region and play Thursday in Salt Lake City.
About the dogs: With the Zags are Mary, Bob and Buford, English bulldogs belonging to Lisa Najera of the Bulldog of America Club Rescue. BCA rescues and finds homes for purebred English bulldogs. For more information, go online to www.rescuebulldogs.org Mary, Bob and Buford are not rescue dogs, but Najera's own.
All three loved the idea of the picture, and the players took it upon themselves to leash the pups, and take control of them for the picture. Particularly tough to do when you have to remember that once the dog is set, you have to get yourself set as well. In most of the frames it was either three well-posed players, or three well-posed dogs. In only two or three frames did it all seem to come together.
Harris especially showed promise as a dog whisperer, constantly repositioning Buford the bulldog every few seconds. Kelly Olynyk razzed Elias Harris, saying his inability to get Buford in sync with the other two was making them all look bad. Together the three were having considerable fun with it.
Whatever you may think about Gonzaga being swept up in their top ranking in the AP poll, know this: The players and the athletic department, and everyone at GU involved in this elaborate shoot was nothing but marvelous. Special thanks to Liza Najera, whose dogs were used in the illustration. Najera is affiliated with the Bulldog Club of America Rescue Network. Find out more about them at RescueBulldogs.org