My old black lab was a handsome fellow, as labs go. He was also a crazy-ass maniac who could definitely teach Marley a thing or two.
My mother, Joan Howard Maurer, daughter of Moe Howard, recently got an email from a Three Stooges fan who told her that someone was putting together a Three Stooges virtual cemetery, complete with a list of supporting players. Included on the list was Moose, my old black lab who had a supporting role in the Stooges’ last project. The fan asked if there was any info our family could add to Moose’s bio. So to fill the void and let one of the craziest dogs on Earth take his deserved place in the pantheon of Hollywood canine stardom, I decided to write this short “celebrity” bio.
When the Stooges did their last feature film, The Outlaws Is Coming!, they shot the buffalo scenes on the B-Bar-B ranch in Wyoming. The ranch was owned by, D.C. “Bud” Basolo, Jr., who was the first to successfully crossbreed buffalo with cattle, or the beefalo. Our family became close friends with the Basolos and I spent a few summers on their ranch. They had a chocolate lab named Lucky and I quickly fell in love with labs.
In 1968, it had been about 10 years since we had our last dog and I desperately wanted another. So I went out with my dad (Norman Maurer) to get a pure-bred Labrador Retriever. We went to a breeder in the San Fernando Valley. There weren’t any browns, so I got an eight-week-old black. He was the chubbiest of the litter and they’d already dubbed him Moose. It fit, so we kept it. He quickly grew out of his baby fat and became a trim, handsome fellow, as labs go.
He also became a crazy-ass maniac who could definitely teach Marley a thing or two.
How crazy was Moose? Perhaps his wackiest trait was his reaction to the bathroom that connected my brother’s and my bedrooms. There was a door on either side of the bathroom. For some God-only-knows reason, whenever Moose would walk into the bathroom with someone behind him he would stop halfway through with a look of panic on his face and immediately start to back up. You couldn’t force him to go forward out the other door if your life depended on it. He would back into you and continue backing up so that he literally walked backwards right up your legs and into your crotch.
Like most labs, Moose would eat anything. But whereas most labs would eat any edible thing, Moose would eat ANY thing. I once found him happily chewing away on something. “Whatcha got there, Moose?” I asked. He wasn’t interested in showing me, so I pried open his jaws and found a pushpin, the kind with the aluminum handle. The aluminum was totally mangled. But the steel pin was unscathed. Not Moose’s gums. They were totally bloody. But he was happy as a clam. And he wanted his pin back!
Another time I found Moose chewing away on a shard of broken Coke bottle glass. Again, the glass was intact, his gums were bleeding and his tail wagging.
One day I bought a bag of marbles. I put them down to go do something and when I got back the bag was gone. I found Moose with the bag. Only one problem. It was empty. Where did all the marbles go? I wondered. I found out the next day when they popped up in his poop. I used to joke that his was the only dog shit with cat’s eyes.
Knowing that Moose loved to chew on things, one day I impishly flipped a quarter at him and he caught it. But this time he didn’t chew on it. GULP! He swallowed it. Thinking it was inadvertent, I flipped him a second one. GULP! He was swallowing them on purpose! I used to joke that this time he pooped out a pack of cigarettes and change.
In the summer of 1969 it was time for Moose to enter the family business—show biz. Our whole family packed up and went to Wyoming and Idaho to shoot the last Three Stooges project, a pilot for a comedy TV travelogue entitled, Kook’s Tour. Because the whole family was going we took Moose with us. This led to what has to be the most amazing and funniest story of Moose’s storied career.
We arrived at the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone where we planned to stay for the night and shoot the next day. We headed into the lobby and were immediately intercepted by the manager. He was expecting the Stooges, but not Moose. “I’m very sorry,” he apologized, “but dogs are not allowed in the inn.” My father explained that Moose was a very expensive, highly trained show dog and there was no worry about him causing any problems (all of which was a complete fabrication). The manager apologized and took us up to our suite. After showing us the amenities he left the room and as if on cue, Moose lifted his leg and peed on the couch. I couldn’t have timed it any better if I shot it on film and edited it.
As I noted, we brought Moose along as a member of the family without much thought. But once we began shooting, my dad thought it would be cute if he was the Stooges’ dog. So we included him in some shots. Things changed after one particular scene.
Before we left for Wyoming, my dad made a deal with Chrysler for some product placement. They were nice enough to give us four vehicles, including a Dodge camper, Chrysler station wagon and Chrysler Imperial (their Cadillac). We drove them all up to Wyoming. The fourth vehicle was a Chrysler boat. In the film, the Stooges drove the camper and towed the boat.
So during a scene of the boys fishing, in typical Stooges fashion my dad set up a shot of Larry, Moe and Joe screwing things up. The Stooges got into their positions, Moose was told to stay put and my dad called, “Action!” Joe baited his hook, then whipped the rod back to cast it out, snagging Larry’s hat. He proceeded to yank it off his head and cast it into the water. End of shot.
The moment the hat shot away, Moose leapt overboard and swam after it. The camera kept rolling and Moose retrieved the hat as if it were a wounded duck.
A star was born.
The shot was so perfect that my dad decided to write Moose into more shots. In one shot we sat him at the campground table with the Stooges with his own silverware and plate of food. I had previously taught Moose the old trick of staying with a piece of kibble on his nose. So we sat him in a folding beach chair at the camp table. I told him to stay. Then, on “Action!”, I gave him his cue: “Go get it!” He jammed his snout into the plate and started eating with the Stooges.
We also got some product placement items from Honda, including a gas generator and a Honda Mini Trail, a tiny 50cc trail bike that looked ridiculously small when big ole Joe tootled around on it in the film. When we got back to Los Angeles after the shoot I would zip around Cheviot Hills on the Mini Trail. Then one day I did something stupid. I invited Moose to come along with me. While I raced down the sidewalk on one side of the street, Moose ran along the sidewalk on the other side. This was great fun. Then I saw a big Cadillac coming our way. I stopped. Moose stopped. I looked at Moose. He looked at me. I thought to myself, this moron is going to run straight toward me at precisely the wrong moment. He did.
The Cadillac broadsided him right smack in the middle of the front bumper. The woman driving the car smashed on her brakes and stopped. Moose was gone. I was sure he was dead. I dropped the Mini Trail on the sidewalk, ran to the Caddy and looked underneath. There was Moose, a mangled mess, pinned under the gas tank at the rear of the car. His legs were coiled around him like bailing wire holding hay together. I could see one eye staring at me past one of his legs. I got on my chest, slid under the car, grabbed hold of him as best I could and gently pulled him out. When I picked him up he was limp, like a bag of broken bones, and smelled of death. The woman was nice enough to offer to take us home. I got in the back of her car, holding Moose in my lap, and she sped up the block to my house. I got out and gently set Moose down on the grass and ran for the door to tell my mom and dad. Moose leapt to his feet and ran after me, panting happily and wagging his tail. WTF?! He was perfectly fine. We took him to the vet to make sure and were told there was nothing broken, but he might be sore for a few days. They shouldn’t have named him Moose. They should have named him Armadillo.
It was a few years later, in 1971, when Los Angeles was hit by a big earthquake. What could be funny about an earthquake? you ask. Moose, of course. It was night and I was asleep, face down, with Moose sleeping on the floor beside my bed. Then the room shook. I knew it was a quake and, though it was substantial, wasn’t scared. The same can’t be said for Moose. He instantly sprang upwards like a frightened cat and landed on my back, gripping me tightly with all four legs. It was as if I was wearing a 75-pound hairy black backpack. He was shaking like a leaf and wouldn’t let go. I could barely get him off.
That same year, my folks were out one night and I went on a date, leaving Moose alone in the house. When I got home I noticed something odd. There were some things laying on the floor before the front door. I immediately realized we had been burglarized and the burglars must have seen me coming and made a hasty retreat, abandoning stuff they’d piled at the door for later removal. But where was Moose? I called but he didn’t come. I was worried they’d taken him. I was relieved to find him locked in my bedroom. One of the burglars must have gone to my bedroom window, tapped on the glass and lured him into the room, while another locked him in. This was ironically lucky for me. The burglars had taken most of my parents’ valuables, while leaving all of mine behind—including Moose. Of course, I’ve always wondered if Moose didn’t lock himself in the room. He was that much of a scaredy-cat.
Moose’s fame continued on as the fourth Stooge when, the following year, my dad created The Little Stooges comic book and included Moose as their dog. That’s his butt sticking out on the below cover.
So Moose will go down in ciema history with other famous Three Stooges supporting actors like Lucille Ball, Lloyd Bridges and Adam “Batman” West.
To make sure I hadn’t forgotten any epic Moose stories I emailed a draft of this post to a childhood buddy of mine who knew Moose quite well. Sure enough, he reminded me of one of the most comical Moose stories. Actually, it was more comic-tragic. I used to walk Moose at Rancho Park, across the street from Twentieth-Century Fox studios, near my home. I’d let him run wild. He loved it. Back then there was a casting pond at the park where fishermen used to practice casting into hula hoops. The day I was walking Moose the pond was drained. There was a guy sitting on the sloped edge, staring into the empty asphalt pond. Moose was running around, sniffing everything and peeing on it as labs will. He made his way to the guy at the pond. My “spider sense” warned me just like it did the day Moose ran in front of the Caddy. I knew what was coming. Sure enough, Moose walked up behind the guy, sniffed the back of his shirt and lifted his leg. Fortunately, I was right behind him. Before he could release a drop I swung my leg back—and kicked Moose right in the crotch so hard he flew sideways. The guy looked back to see what was going on, oblivious to what almost happened to him. I just smiled and walked away. Moose limped.
They say all dogs go to heaven, and I’m sure Moose is up there now with Lassie, Asta and Rin Tin Tin. It was a bit sad the way he died in 1981. My mom and dad went on a short vacation. For some reason they didn’t bother to ask me to take care of him, which I would have done in a heartbeat. Instead, they left him at the kennel. I think he was too old, and the loneliness of being locked in a small, strange dog run was too stressful for him. I got a phone call from the kennel and was given the bad news. I let the city dispose of his remains and kept his choke chain. Then I went back to my folks’ house and neatly placed the collar on my father’s desk with a note that read, “I’m in doggie heaven now.” When my dad found it he was in denial and thought it was a joke. Alas, despite his years of making us laugh, Moose’s exit was no joke. But there is no question that Moose was a Stooge at heart. He must have taken quite a few laps in our crazy Howard gene pool.
©Jeffrey Scott, All Rights Reserved
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