There’s no limit to what Jumpy the Hollywood dog can do on screen.
In fact, this month Jumpy plays a female dog named Abby (short for Abeline) running to the Mexican border with her owner, Paul, in the new western “In a Valley of Violence.” Though he is playing along big human stars like Ethan Hawke and John Travolta, some might say Jumpy Dog steals the movie, and for anyone who knows him, it’s really no wonder. While human actors tend to specialize in one area, there seems to be no limit to what Jumpy can and will do.
The seven-year-old Border Collie/Blue Heeler mix understands English, Spanish, some German, and numbers. He can twirl, wink, walk on his front or hind legs, skateboard, dive, surf, Razor-scooter, ride horses, putt golf balls, play the piano, write his name, paint modern art and landscapes, and do parkour.
His talents have been featured in comedies, dramas, kids’ shows and commercials, and have impressed his co-stars time and time again. Current co-star Ethan Hawke, who plays Paul, is no exception.
“Jumpy was, like, on some other cosmic level,” Hawke said in an interview with MTV.
This was never more evident than the day a gust of wind blew Hawke’s cowboy hat off his head during filming. The crew immediately groaned at what they expected to be an unusable take, but Jumpy didn’t miss a beat. Instead he improvised, grabbing the hat and catching back up with Hawke.
“He was participating in the creativity of the film, which is insane,” Hawke said.
“Usually, even if the dog is really well-trained, he might do that if the trainer’s hat went off his head. Jumpy did it when my hat went off my head. And he didn’t bring it back to his trainer — he brought it back to me.”
Though that take wasn’t used in the final version of the movie, Hawke wasn’t the only one impressed with Jumpy’s control of the situation. Co-star James Ransone, who plays Deputy Gilly Martin, son of John Travolta’s Marshal Clyde Martin, was amazed as well.
“It was like a f**king Buster Keaton movie,” he said. “Without hyperbole, I can say that Jumpy is smarter than some actors I’ve worked with. If that happened with other actors, they would just freeze up and be like, ‘The hat!’ and look all crazy. I was like, ‘F**ck this dog, I’m going home.’”
The man responsible for Jumpy’s launch to stardom — though perhaps not his talents, as those seem to be somewhat natural — is Omar von Muller. Von Muller grew up in Barranquilla, Colombia with a love of animals, but these days lives outside L.A. with his roster of talented canines.
He found Jumpy while looking to add a Border Collie to his mix and came across a Craigslist ad from a teenager, selling an eight-week-old puppy for $50. Though he went to see the puppy, he was disappointed. It wasn’t a purebred, but a mutt, so he didn’t make the purchase.
The following day, however, the teenager called him back to say that the puppy wouldn’t stop barking and he was worried that his father was going to throw him out on the street. Von Muller agreed to take him for $20, if the teenager would meet him halfway.
When he got the puppy home, his daughter asked what a dog like that would be good at.
“Jumping,” he said. And so the crying puppy became known as Jumpy.
Von Muller knew Jumpy would not work in front of the cameras, since his face was black and too difficult to light. He hoped that he might work out for his small canine circus, The Incredible Dog Show, which went on tour in Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic. It was a shame about the cameras though, because the dog was intelligent.
“The look in his eyes is just, ‘Tell me more,’” von Muller said.
But as Jumpy grew, something crazy happened. Jumpy’s black face turned tan.
“He looks great on camera,” von Muller said. “He turned out to be a very good-looking dog.”
Jumpy began training for the big screen, learning jumps, catches and tricks, and waking up at 5 a.m. to go skateboarding in an empty Home Depot parking lot. The dog trusts von Muller implicitly.
“If he was on a fifth-story floor and I say, ‘Jump!’ he won’t hesitate,” von Muller said. “He’ll just fly. He’ll kill me and he’ll kill himself. But he will just do it.”
Because of this, von Muller knows he has to be cautious to keep them both safe.
Jumpy has been featured in roughly 80 ads, including car commercials for Mitsubishi, Volkswagen, Ford, Toyota, and GMC.
“In this business, some companies wouldn’t want to use the dog that was in another commercial, but so far, they don’t have a choice,” von Muller said. “If they really want a dog to do what he does, they want him.”
Jumpy seems to know it. Any new dogs von Muller adds to the pack these days are female, because Jumpy has a bit of an ego when it comes to his kingdom.
“I’m not gonna bring in other males,” von Muller said. “He’s territorial.”
When MTV’s Amy Nicholson met Jumpy, she brought him a stuffed toy of the kitten from the action comedy Keanu, like an offering to a god. She watched as von Muller placed the toy on the carpet, and made Jumpy earn it — a reminder of just why Jumpy is allowed to harbor that ego.
“Stay. Wait. Back up. Get close. Wait. Back up. Turn around. Turn the other way. Wait. I’m going to count to three. One. Two. Two and a half. Four. Five. Seven. Six. Five. Four. Three!”
Jumpy launched for the cat, and von Muller smiled.
“I think we’re just scratching the surface of what a dog can do,” he said.
All images via Jumpy Dog/ Facebook
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