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Shy People Need Dogs


A few years ago, I noticed a yellow sign with “RP” in black lettering, attached to a telephone pole in my neighborhood. Mom had seen similar signs before, for location shoots for movies and TV.

These yellow signs are very exciting.

These yellow signs are very exciting.

My mother went to USC film school way back when, and worked as a film editor, so she was curious about what they were filming. She followed the signs and found out that the TV show Royal Pains was shooting scenes at the beach near us. The show is set in the Hamptons, which is further out on Long Island from us, and much (much) more expensive.

Cricket Loves the beach

Cricket Loves the beach

I couldn’t bring Cricket along when we stalked the set, because dogs aren’t allowed at that particular beach. I wished she could come, and bark, and draw attention to herself, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to talk for myself.

(Just so you know the show really does exist)

(Just so you know the show really does exist)

The main character on the show is a concierge doctor who diagnoses strange diseases on the fly. Royal Pains is like the happy, pretty answer to House, with a bit of MacGyver thrown in. But more than the show itself, it was one of the featured actors I wanted to see. I’ve had a crush on Campbell Scott since I was sixteen years old.

I almost met him ten years ago. He was giving a talk at a small cinema on Long Island. He’s smart and articulate and down to earth. If ever there was a movie star I should have been able to talk to, it was him.

This is Campbell Scott

This is Campbell Scott

I did my best to dress up, in a sweater and black pants and a clean pair of sneakers, and sat in the third row of the movie theatre, next to Mom.

            First we screened the movie, The Secret Lives of Dentists, which involved scenes of screeching drills, blood, and the uncomfortable intimacy of the inside of a stranger’s mouth. I focused, instead, on the scenes of Campbell Scott as the father of three little girls. He carried the five year old around so constantly that at one point he said she had become part of his body.

            As the movie ended, he sat down at the front of the theatre, munching kernels of popcorn as the credits continued to roll over his head. When the lights came up, he tapped the microphone to begin, and – nothing.

            “I’ll use my theatre voice,” he said, and his voice reverberated.

            “Use the microphone!” someone screamed from further back.

A woman in the row ahead of me took the traveling microphone. “I thought you did a wonderful job in this movie, of showing parenthood as it really is: a burden.”

            “You liked the vomiting scenes?” he asked, with a grin.

            One woman towards the back of the room asked, in a plaintive voice, “Could you talk for a minute about Dying Young?”

“What about it?”


I moved forward in my seat, afraid he would dismiss this movie I loved as commercial crap.

“In Europe they called it The Choice of Love,” he said. “Better title, don’t you think? A person could see a title like that in the paper and say, hey, let’s go see that movie. But, Dying Young,” his voice went down an octave. “Why not just stay home and slit your wrists instead.”

I wanted to raise my hand and tell him how wrong he was about the title. How those two words were exactly what drew me to the theatre, at sixteen. I was suffering, and inarticulate. The opportunity to see some of my own pain reflected back to me was the whole point. But I couldn’t say that to a room full of strangers.

The crowd gave him a standing ovation and then slowly moved into the café down the hall for refreshments.

“What should we do now?” I asked my mother, as we watched the majority of the audience get stuck in a traffic jam at the single exit door.

“Why don’t we go to the café and maybe you’ll get a chance to talk to him,” she said.

“What would I say?”

“You’ll think of something,” she said. My mother has an unreasonable amount of faith in me.

We followed the crowd into the reception hall and I stood at the periphery, with my arms and legs crossed, willing myself to move forward, reach out, and say anything. Hello, would be nice. People swirled around him, ticking him around like a clock, quarter turns at a time, for autographs and pictures and questions.

I stood about six feet away, a step outside of the circle created by braver people than me. I listened. I wanted so badly to speak up, to have a memory for the rest of my life of having actually spoken to him. He looked in my direction every once in a while, and I imagined myself touching his arm and telling him he was wonderful. But everything I wanted to say was raw, and I didn’t want to inspire his pity, or annoyance.

And then he was being led out of the room, in slow motion, by the owners of the theatre. I just stood there, frozen.

I try to accept my limitations and forgive myself for the wide variety of anxiety symptoms that run my life, but that moment stayed with me. I could see him seeing me, wondering why I was standing there and saying nothing.

I’m hoping that Royal Pains will do some location shoots near where I live now, because the village main street is often used as a stand in for the Hamptons. And maybe I could walk down the hill with Cricket and Butterfly and meander near where the actors and crew are set up, and see if the dogs can act as my social bridge. Maybe Butterfly will bat her eyelashes and draw a crowd. And maybe Cricket won’t bark and lunge at a cameraman.

I'm sure the girls will make the walk down the hill easy for me.

I’m sure the girls will make the walk down the hill easy for me.

Who could resist Butterfly?

Who could resist Butterfly?

Maybe by the time the weather cools down, and they come back to my neighborhood, I’ll have figured out something to say.

About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

58 responses »

  1. By all means, take the dogs the next time you have an opportunity.
    Campbell Scott: You have the cutest dogs.
    Rachel: Thanks – you have the cutest smile. I’ve watched it for years and thought it is so expressive. Maybe you’d like to have a cup of coffee with me after filming?
    See? That’s what you can say. 🙂

    • I may have to take some Xanax before doing something like that. Even imagining that scene is going to give me hives..

      • I am with Sheila: go for it! And take your compact with you to hide any upcoming hives ;0)

      • Oh boy, so much pressure!

      • I agree with you about the Xanax, there might not be enough of it in the world to give me that much courage

        And it makes me crazy, because guys have been known to bring along dogs to meet women all the time, but it’s not as common the other way around.

        I know I’ve seen Campbell Scott in something other than “Dying Young”, will have to hit ImDb after this.

      • Interesting, are men as drawn to other people’s dogs as women are? Because I’m in danger of jumping out of cars to meet random dogs I see on the sidewalk. Does that qualify as a mental disease?

      • I hope he won’t disappoint, Rachel. Dogs (and cats, too) are able to go “off script” remarkably better than most actors. Forget the Xanax — just smile and say “hi.” And offer him a cookie. Better yet, offer him cookies to give your dogs. 🙂

      • I just have to remember not to offer him the same cookies I would give to the dogs. I’m picturing myself handing him chicken treats and saying that they are very yummy and go well with kibble.

  2. I think @sheila mirris is right – that’s a very good idea. Please keep us informed what you said :o)

  3. Thank you for sharing this. As a sufferer of anxiety for all of my life, I know how frustrating it is to want to say something so BADLY, to express yourself, but getting choked up by fear. And I know for a fact, having your dogs with you does make you braver. I’d be lost without my babies.

    Oh, and when I saw Dying Young years ago, I totally had a crush on Campbell Scott for a while. 😉

    • Sometimes I’m tempted to pick up the dogs and use them as puppets, to speak for me. That probably wouldn’t make a good impression, though. I’ll have to come up with another plan.

  4. Rachel . . . thank you for acknowledging in writing that people NEED dogs. Animals matter. They make a difference. I’m currently volunteering with Canines with a Cause. The dogs they place make a big difference for people with anxiety.

    • I remember seeing a woman on Oprah a couple of years ago, and she had a small dog on her lap, which they called her “anxiety dog.” That was the first time I’d heard of such a thing. But since then I’ve heard so many stories about dogs being certified as therapy or emotional support dogs. Butterfly would be great at that job. Cricket’s great talent is that her anxiety makes mine seem small and manageable by comparison.

  5. I don’t know what to say because shyness isn’t something found in Scotties.

  6. OMG. Campbell Scott…Dying Young! Swoon.

  7. Laurie Nichols

    How many times have I wanted to say something to someone and just could not and lived with the regret. For me it was the actor David Canary at an airport, Robin Williams backstage at the theatre and John Kennedy Junior at N.Y.U Law School while I was an undergraduate at N.Y.U. Frozen is precisely the word. I empathize with you completely.:)

  8. I find dogs and animals in general are a wonderful communication bridge…I regularly talk to people and their pets that otherwise I would not feel comfortable doing…animals give us the chance to breakdown social speak through the comfort of like mindedness…best of luck 😉 Fozziemum

    • I went to the vet a few weeks ago with Butterfly and ended up having long, detailed conversations with a number of people about their dogs and training and health, but I have no idea what their names were, or anything significant about the humans. Hmm. I’ll have to work on that.

  9. So sorry ladies, but a) I have never heard of him ( I know, banned from the net for life!!) and b) I never heard of the show either. But having said that, he looks a reasonable person and when he does come back to your neighbourhood, I hope you do get to meet and talk to him. Does he have a dog or dogs – you could find out and use that as your opening line as S. Morris suggests. Excellent post.

  10. I agree! I am someone who rarely strikes up a conversation with people I don’t know, and it was thanks to my two basset hounds that I now have a wonderful friendship with my neighbors, who also happen to have a dog. In fact, I might approach someone with a dog rather than someone who is alone because at least the dog offers some sort of communication bridge. You start talking about the dog and then you can move on to other topics.

    • I go up to almost anyone if they have a dog and start asking questions and giving compliments, without even thinking about it. If I’m alone, though, there’s a lot of thinking and self consciousness and what ifs. I think dogs may have some kind of force field going on that blanks out a portion of my brain.

  11. It takes a very brave person to have told the story you did about Campbell Scott, Rachel. More than brave enough to go up to talk to the person you think he is. If he isn’t receptive – and I doubt that, unless “handlers” get in the way – then he wasn’t worth talking to in the first place.

  12. I do hope you have the chance to meet Campbell Scott in the future and that you find the courage to speak to him. My crush was Jeremy Brett, a British actor, who played Sherlock Holmes on both stage and screen. I saw him play Holmes in Chichester, England, and, after waiting at the side door following the play, I was able to speak to him and have my photo taken. My mother was with me and we floated back to our hotel room. Sadly Jeremy Brett passed away but I will always have my memory from that night.

  13. No one could resist Butterfly’s face!!!!

  14. I can’t imagine anyone resisting Butterfly’s little angel face…but practice Sheila’s idea, too!

  15. Well, I know I couldn’t resist him!

  16. I can so relate to your anxiety! I’ve suffered from painful social anxiety for most of my life. I’d get anxious just talking to normal people, let alone famous people. I’m a lot better now than I used to be, but I’m certainly not a social butterfly. My husband is shy too, and when we first got married we didn’t have any friends. We wanted an animal and were debating between a dog and a cat. We decided on a dog because we thought he would get us out of the house and interacting with others. It worked, now we have lots of friends. My dog has also helped me to deal with my elevator phobia, but that’s another story that I won’t go into here. Anyway, wonderful story!! Celeste 🙂

  17. This is such a lovely post and you are a lovely person. I think it is quite normal to feel anxious when meeting any person you have a crush on, much less a celebrity. Of course with me, memories of former crushes are distant in my memory banks from time and galaxies long, long ago……Be that as it may, it might be better to get tongue tied and not speak, than to babble and say dumb stuff which is what I tend to do. Plus what if you did speak with him and he was a crashing bore? I’m not saying this publicly or anything, but celebrities often are.
    Cheers to you and your sweet little doggies. Personally, even though I hate to give any advice unless its unasked for, I would let your dogs start the conversation. Let them check out the celeb in question so to speak. Then you can chime in later when you feel comfortable and if you still have the motivation.
    You rock ma deah. Anxiety makes you human and kind and you write beautifully which takes more talent than just blabbing~

    • Ooh, I could let Butterfly do all of the talking, then no one could resist me. Maybe the best plan would be to write a note and attach it to her collar and then send her over to do her charming thing. The only real downside would be the stress peeing, Butterfly’s, not mine.

  18. (tail wags) Woof! I think you’re great, Rachel! Besides…I’m pretty quiet myself (dogsmile)…the best things will happen when they are supposed to happen, whether or not you can get a word out. Love, Maggie

  19. Well sounds like me I wouldn’t know what to say ..lost for words but hey those beautiful Dogs could help you along the way I’m sure. Great Post.
    Sheila x

  20. Oh wow! Royal Pains is one of my favorite TV shows. I didn’t realize Campbell Scott was the actor in Dying Young with Julia Roberts. I hope you get to meet him one day Rachel!

  21. You said it here. That counts

  22. It’s amazing the relationships that can come from strangers commenting about dogs. 🙂


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