Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Drew Hadra & Charlie

Who is in the photo at right?

My name is Drew Hadra, and I’m a documentary filmmaker. The cute little guy with me is my Chief Production Assistant (and also the chief of pretty much everything in our world), Charlie. Charlie is a six year-old male, Parson Russell Terrier.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Charlie and I are taking a break from the promotional schedule for our new documentary called Away To Me, a family-friendly, feature-length documentary about sheepdogs (Border Collies) and their handlers, and the cherished bond between Man and Dog. (Click here to learn about the movie and see the trailer.) Charlie’s been working hard helping me today, so he really deserves the break.

What's brewing?

It looks like it might rain today, so instead of walking down to Starbucks we’ve brewed our own pot here in our office. Charlie’s a real California dog and not so crazy about getting cold or wet in any way. He’ll no doubt let me know when the sun comes out and it’s time for a walk, though, so we might make it to Starbucks later.

Any treats for you or Charlie on this occasion?

Charlie’s mid-morning snack is half of a “Sam’s Yams Sweet Potato Dog Chew” (he just loves them!). I’m having a chocolate chip cookie (I just love them)!

How were you and Charlie united?

My girlfriend, Isabelle, and I have always been super crazy about dogs, and on January 1, 2007, our New Year’s resolution was to make a commitment to share our lives with either a Border Terrier or Parson Russell Terrier. Fourteen days later we drove to visit Annette Gilliam, a responsible, caring and reputable breeder (Blossom Valley Parson Russell Terriers) located just outside of San Diego. When we arrived, Charlie’s relatives were joyfully bouncing around, eager to get out and show us their stuff, but Charlie was quiet, sitting alone at the back of his kennel and watching everything and everyone carefully. His breeder had the intention of keeping him as a show dog, and so at four-months old all of his brothers and sisters had already been adopted, leaving Charlie behind. We enjoyed each dog we met, but we still wanted very much to meet Charlie. He was a bit timid at first, but once we made friends, he absolutely did not leave our side. He was clearly worried we might leave without him. Annette saw the strength of our bond and she couldn’t resist letting Charlie come home with us. We will be forever grateful to her.

How did your Charlie get his name?

We let Charlie pick his own name! On our way home in the car we held Charlie and suggested a few different names. It was really amazing because we said aloud at least 10 different names, and every time we said “Charlie” he’d look up, focus and wag his little tail. He didn’t do that for any other name, just for “Charlie”, so that was it!

Any aliases?

Boy, he has a lot, but there are some big ones. He is king of the castle, so he hears “King Charles” a fair bit. “Charlie Choo-Choo” and “the Chooch” and “Toot-Toot” are frequently heard in our house. And he has his own song called “Charlie-Barley, Harley-McFarlie”.

What did Charlie do while you were making your movie?

If Charlie were to answer this question directly, he would say that the actual making of the movie was his least favorite part. Away To Me took me on the road for a total of about 4 months off and on. I travelled to South Africa, Canada, Ireland, and across the US to film the uniquely fascinating lives of champion sheep herders and their amazing Border Collies, so Charlie had to stay home and guard his mom, all of his toys and beds (he has one in every room) and our house. Three of the competitors became the main focus of the movie, then I travelled to Utah where they compete against each other at the internationally renowned “Soldier Hollow Classic Sheepdog Championship”. We missed each other, but he did a great job of taking care of things in my absence. He was the man of the house while I was gone!

Has he made any contribution in promoting the film?

Charlie’s made a huge contribution! As an independent filmmaker I’ve foregone distribution offers to explore the model of “self-distribution”, and so Charlie’s role right now is Quality Control for Shipping and Handling [photo right]. Every morning we check orders from our website and from Charlie likes to carefully monitor where the orders are coming in from. He’s doing a great job – we finished the movie in 2012 and Charlie only started his Shipping and Handling role in January 2013, yet he’s already shipped our DVD to dog lovers in 26 countries around the world! Every day by 10:00 a.m., Charlie puts out a box full of DVDs, posted and ready to ship, then he waits at the window to let everyone know exactly when the mailman has arrived to collect them (thanks to Charlie, it’s very exciting around here when the mailman comes). Charlie’s convinced that his “vocalization” of our mailman’s arrival also ensures a speedy departure, which is most appreciated by those waiting to receive their orders!

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

If Charlie wasn’t in charge of Shipping and Handling, it would be “all soccer, all the time”. He uses his paws and holds one ball in his mouth (as an implement) to move another ball all over the house. He plays angles and blocks shots as well as any players (including the goalie) on Barca, his favorite team (from Barcelona, Spain). It’s amazing to watch him. We have to put something on YouTube soon to show you, because you have to see it to believe it – he’s a super soccer player. Charlie loves things that squeak, but he isn’t allowed to have squeaky toys because he maims them beyond recognition within 60 seconds of their arrival home.

Who are Charlie's best pet-pals?

Oh, that’s an easy one! Charlie loves the ladies! Two of his best girls, Ivy (Parson Russell) and then Lola (Yorkie) moved away, and for quite some time he was absolutely saddened when he’d walk by their house and they couldn’t come out and play. Once in a while Lola comes to visit her grandmother and Charlie is in heaven when he sees her. But when Layla (Labradoodle) moved into the neighborhood it was love at first sight. They like to play chase-game, walk side-by-side, and just lay around in the shade together taking the world in. Mind you, he’s happy to chase Annie and Abbey when they’re playing fetch (Golden Retrievers), and he likes to give Maui a little nose kiss (Black Lab). Snoopy is good for a sniff or two (Beagle), and Buddy who wags his whole body to say hello (Dachshund), but truly his best girl now is Layla. In contrast, the rabbits in our yard are his arch enemies, and he (like his mom) is very unhappy when they eat the peas, carrots or the radishes (his favorites).

If Charlie could change one thing about you, what would it be?

I can with all certainty imagine that Charlie would say I need to make more time to play more ball, more ball, more ball, and more ball, and that I would be a much improved person if I never ever left the house (so I could play more ball).

If Charlie could answer only one question in English, what would you ask him?

I’d ask Charlie if he knows how much we love him, and if there’s anything (besides more ball) that he can think of that we could do to bring him as much happiness as he brings us.

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which Charlie could speak, who should voice him?

The person who voiced Charlie would have to be super smart (Charlie is smarter than most people) and super good looking (like Charlie is) yet also someone who is concerned about world affairs (like Charlie is – he particularly likes the BBC), so “just maybe” we’d consider George Clooney. But we also both like the voice of Linus from the Charlie Brown animated movies – he’s smart, cute and wise beyond his years too! I guess we’d have to have them both read for the part, then let Charlie decide. Because truth be told, King Charlie-Barley Harley-McFarlie is basically the boss.

Learn more about Away To Me and view the trailer, and like the Away To Me Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue


  1. Sounds like you have really followed your passion in life and glad Charlie's there to help out! :)

  2. Yes to comment by "Loving Max" above. For sure my dad (Drew) definitely is following his passion. And I am following mine too - ball playing, barking at the mailman, chasing rabbits... life is good!