Downward Dog Martin: From Shelter To Stardom

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Joanne Grana

The ABC comedy, Downward Dog, based on the web series of the same name, chronicles the life of Nan, a Pittsburgh millennial trying to make her mark in the world of advertising. Alison Tolman plays Nan, whose story is told through the eyes of her canine companion, Martin, played by Ned.  Martin looks directly into the camera as he gives his opinions on Nan’s life choices, the evil house cat and life in general.

The producers didn’t want Downward Dog to be just another talking dog show. “We just wanted to have an animal be on-screen in an incredible, realistic and emotional way,” executive producer, Michael Killen explained. “It hadn’t been taken seriously before.”
 
They wanted to find a special dog. Producers ‘launched a nationwide search.for the perfect dog to play Martin. They found the perfect dog at PAWS Chicago. Ned was originally from a shelter in Mississippi. He came to the Chicago shelter in 2014.  He’d been waiting to be adopted for over a year. Ned had even been returned to the shelter because he “wasn’t a good fit.”
 
Ned was diagnosed with possible generalized anxiety, noise phobia, separation anxiety, fear/territorial aggression and kennel stress. His medical history shows that when he was assessed, he “repeatedly turns quickly away when touched, or repeatedly spins toward the touch, and repeatedly tries to exit.”
 
Ned had to be taught socialization skills. The show’s producers chose Ned because of his longing look and soulful eyes. Ned completed six weeks of acting school. The skills needed to play Martin are behaviors a dog normally exhibits.
 
The biggest thing Ned had to get used to was his new sense of confidence.
 
The show is about what it is like to be a dog. It’s about the emotional attachment between dogs and humans. Is there a better combination than that?
 
Downward Dog airs Tuesdays at 8 P.M.
Catch up on episodes at http://abc.go.com/shows/downward-dog
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