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Arizona: Could be the water, could be the lack of it

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My New Chew Toy
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Why I Left Burning Man -- and Why I'm Returning

Electro-Pet: My New Chew Toy

by Deuce of Clubs

(First published in Planet Magazine, 18jul1995)


Some time ago I was flipping channels and stopped because I heard classical music—unusual anywhere on television, let alone on public access. What I saw was even more unusual than the music: a medium-sized dog—identified as "Sydney The Wonder Dog"- -contentedly gnawing a chew toy. For a full half hour. Somehow, just as with my other favorite cable access program, The All-Spanking Show, I couldn't tear myself away. From time to time the picture would dissolve, suggesting a change of scene. But no—the same picture would fade right back in. Genius! At the end, the classical music gave way to Kraftwerk, Sydney and chew toy gave way to a tiny terrier and a tiny chew toy, and superimposed titles announced:

Next time on... Electro-Pet: Volume II
Peanut's Revenge
Featuring Peanut the Wonder Dog

Of course I was hooked. I sent fan mail to the show's producers, Woody Harper and Alice Ford (who turned out to be behind The All Spanking Show as well). My New Chew Toy turned out to be Volume I of the Electro-Pet series, a series born of frustration, as Harper explains: "I was watching public access, and I saw a lot of crap, and literally said, `My dogs are more interesting than that!'"

Harper went to Dimension Cable, borrowed one of their videocameras, and learned how to use it by taping Sydney. "Syd had a new chew toy that day—we went to Petsmart and got new chew toys for all the dogs—and she was lying on the couch looking pretty cute. So I taped her."

I was a little disillusioned to learn that the fading in and out was not intentional—Harper was just learning to use the borrowed video equipment. "I was playing with all the different buttons on the camera," he says. Though unintentional, he says, "in editing, it came out perfect."

The Electro-Pet series has featured all three of Harper's and Ford's "Wonder Dogs," Syd, Peanut, and Cocoa. "They seemed to really like the camera," says Harper. "That's kind of odd. I thought they'd be scared of it." One Electro-Pet show featured a tape of someone else's dog. I don't know what that dog's name was, but my friends and I dubbed him "Randy," because he spent the entire half-hour attempting to polish the backside of a less romantically-inclined she-bulldog.

Electro-Pet ceased appearing not long after that particular episode, but—amazingly—there was no causal connection. "The only reason there haven't been more Electro- Pet [shows] is because I don't have the bucks for my own camera right now," says Harper. "Dimension gave me some grief because [of] one of the shows where Peanut went camping." One of Dimension's finest was watching Harper edit the tape and asked what forest they'd were taping in. When they found out it was Tonto National Forest, Harper says Dimension gave him "a bunch of crap for taking the camera out of the county and really railed on me for that. And I've been real sour on checking out their equipment ever since they did that." Not that Harper faults Dimension for enforcing their rules. "It's in their agreement, so I mean, that's cool—but the person was a real jerk about it though. She could have said, `That's bad—you're a bad person,' but she just went on and on and on about it. So I've had a little chip on my shoulder."

Having abandoned Electro-Pet, Harper got involved with the show Fusion Patrol, which airs on Saturday nights just before What's Next With Bob Baxter. (Harper once met Baxter when the latter was taping at the Arizona Renaissance Festival— if you watch What's Next you've no doubt seen that episode, because it's aired a hundred times, seems like. "He'd never heard of my show," Harper says. "I told him a little bit about what I thought of his show, and we gabbed like a couple of old women for a while.") However, Harper's current involvement with Fusion Patrol is minimal. Could there be a chance that he might revive Electro-Pet? "I could show them again," he says coyly. "We have all the master tapes...."

Serve mankind: send e-mail to Woody ( and beg him to returnElectro-Petto the small screen!



Woody Harper

11aug1963 - 09jun2004


(More information about Woody Harper)

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