How a fluffy little dog from a Hay River shelter is becoming a movie star
‘She had the most beautiful eyes. And those ears are completely irresistible with one up and one down.’
An animal trainer for the film and television industry predicts a little dog he and his wife adopted from the Hay River, N.W.T., animal shelter will be walking the red carpet in Hollywood next year.
Steve Woodley and his wife Darcy are based in Vancouver and have been training animals for movies and television since the early 2000s.
They adopted Lexi from the Hay River Animal Shelter in 2018 when she was four months old.
The cute, fluffy family dog only recently started her film and TV career, appearing in four Hallmark movies, two episodes of Supernatural and is currently working on that feature film Woodley believes will eventually land her on the red carpet.
"She just has everything," says Darcy. "She's got the look. She's got the attitude. She's got the intelligence. She's got the kindness. She's so sweet. You can trust her with anything."
The couple was looking for a malamute for a TV show in 2018. As they often do, they started looking on the websites of different animal shelters to find one when Darcy landed on the Hay River animal shelter site and saw Lexi.
"She just had so much character and her face was just so expressive. She had the most beautiful eyes. And those ears are completely irresistible with one up and one down," said Darcy.
She made arrangements with the shelter's staff to have her flown to Vancouver, through Edmonton.
When the Woodleys arrived at the Vancouver airport to pick her up, Steve was shocked.
"I was not looking for a fluffy dog with one ear up. ... Of course, once I saw her, it was fantastic. But, you know, it's not what I was looking for.
"I knew she would be the perfect Hallmark dog, though," he said.
Life before the movies
The Woodleys developed Lexi slowly, having her just as their family pet, and exposing her to many to many film and tv sets so that when her training started, she would be familiar with cameras and sound booms and all the action that happens on set.
"When you're on set with 200 people, there is a lot of action. It's a big, big place," says Steve.
"We definitely took the time with her to have a bond. And we have a very, very close connection with her now. And all that kind of happens because you just take it slow," added Darcy.
'Misfits and naughty ones'
Steve says Lexi is a natural for TV and the movies.
She was advertised as a hyper dog by the shelter, but that's what the Woodleys look for.
"We like to call the misfits and the naughty ones because they tend to be the best dogs on film," says Steve. "When you give them something to focus on, they really go for it.
"And this dog loves to work."
He says what sets Lexi apart from other dogs is that she isn't always staring at him during filming.
What he normally does with dogs on set is teach them a behaviour called "away," where he trains them to walk away from him and have their back to him so it looks like they're interacting with the actors during the shooting.
"[With] this dog, I don't have to do that. She does it all naturally. So anyone [who] talks to her [during filming], she reacts to them like she's their dog," says Steve.
Steve thinks the recent Hallmark movie Lexi was in, If I Only Had Christmas, is the one that really launched Lexi's career.
"It made me have to take the time to, you know, ... put more effort into the training. And she just absorbed it like a sponge," said Steve.
Lexi was then selected to appear in the final two episodes of Supernatural, a fantasy horror television series that is wrapping up a 15-year run.
"It was a very, very big role … [and] a pretty big deal," Steve said.
Darcy said Lexi loved working with both co-stars of the show, Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles.
"In a couple of the scenes where she's walking with [Padalecki], she'll just stop and look up at him. And it was just so natural the way the two of them work together," said Darcy.
In the movie Lexi is filming now, the one which Steve thinks will garner an Academy Award nomination, she's working with three actors, a man, a woman and a young boy who together play a family.
The lead actress in the movie commented to the Woodleys that it was like Lexi was their real family dog.
Darcy added that Candace Cameron Bure, who played the female lead in If I Only Had Christmas, told them she fell in love with Lexi.
And the producer of the Hallmark movie told the Woodleys he would like to write a feature film about Lexi and feature her in it.
"She just has that ability to make people smile. She really does. She's unique," says Darcy.
'Not your classic breed dog'
Darcy said although she and Steve were looking for a malamute at the time, she had been looking for a dog with Lexi's look for a long time.
"I never dreamt that I could find something as perfect as what she is," she said.
They're not easy to come by, she added.
"She's not your classic breed dog," she said. "She has the best 'family' look."
Darcy said trends in the movie and TV business, including types of dogs and other animals used in them, come and go.
But the Woodleys don't think the fluffy little dog they adopted from the Hay River Animal Shelter will ever go out of style.
"A dog like Lexi is, yeah, she literally is timeless. She will always have a place in a family film."
And maybe even on the odd Hollywood red carpet or two.