Schmitty the Weather Dog Combines Work and Charity
Photo by Margo Ann Sullivan
Hardworking Yorkie puts her celebrity to use for good causes.
NEWPORT, R.I. ─ She's been cuddled by Barbara Walters, hugged by Betty White, photographed with Oprah and interviewed by Ellen DeGeneres.
Katie Couric wrote her a fan letter; former President George H.W. Walker Bush corresponds.
All that adulation has not turned her head. Schmitty the Weather Dog is still hard at work, eager to throw her tiny five-pound weight behind good causes.
Now 11 and aging gracefully, she does the weather report and a little show almost every morning from the lobby of the Hyatt Regency hotel overlooking Newport harbor.
For the past two seasons, Schmitty, who first came to fame as The Real New Yorkie, has summered in Newport as the hotel's pet-in-residence. Her presence helps the hotel spread the word it's a pet-friendly destination, and it's also a chance for her owner, R.I. native Elly McGuire, to come home, visit her family and keep up with some good causes, like pet fashion shows to benefit the local animal shelter.
Last summer, for example, Schmitty walked the red carpet at the late Doris Duke's Rough Point mansion and modeled an outfit to help the Potter League for Animals.
This season, she's becoming the talk of the town. Invited to Newport Hospital's society gala last month in honor of philanthropist Noreen Drexel, Schmitty was a hit with the 600 guests. She even made the New York Times society page.
Then she went back to work. On a recent Saturday morning, the children crowded around as Schmitty made her entrance─ riding in a yellow New Yorkie wagon with her sidekick and stand-in, Pudge.
Schmitty and Pudge wore matching pink and white polka dot sundresses, and Schmitty looked out behind her trademark oversize hot pink sunglasses.
The two dogs sat patiently and waited for owner Elly McGuire to introduce them and meteorologist Ron Trotta.
The show features a lot of cute tricks, as Schmitty and Pudge perform for pieces of toast, while McGuire teaches the children about the value of adopting pets from animal shelters and the importance of obedience training.
Schmitty, she said, almost ran out in the street one day, but when McGuire shouted, "Down," the little dog stopped in her tracks and sat down. If she hadn't, a car would surely have killed her, McGuire told the youngsters.
By now Schmitty's story has been told many times. McGuire, who was living in New York City, one day decided she wanted a puppy.
"I was working in the radio business, and my life felt kind of unfulfilled," she said. "I had the urge for a dog." She looked at shelter pets, but soon realized she needed a little dog that could fit comfortably in a small apartment. After researching small breeds, she settled on Yorkies.
"They're just terrific dogs," she said. When she brought Schmitty home, they settled into a daily routine, highlighted by playtime at Central Park. Their walk down 77th street took them past a fire station where Schmitty made friends with the men of Ladder Co. 25.
They teased McGuire about "getting a real dog," she said, but they loved Schmitty.
Then on September 11, everyone's life changed, she said. Nine of Schmitty's Ladder 25 Co. friends died trying to save the people trapped in the World Trade Center towers.
When they walked past the fire station the next day, they found a shrine, Trotta remembered. But when the firefighters started a scholarship fund in memory of the fallen men, McGuire gave them a donation. She also gave them a picture of Schmitty in front of an American flag.
"It was classic Schmitty," Trotta said.
The firefighters put Schmitty's picture in the window next to the pictures of the nine firefighters. When McGuire saw people's reaction, she realized Schmitty had a chance to "give back" to the firefighters' families.
"People saw Schmitty, and they smiled through their tears," she said. Maguire took Schmitty for more pictures and then started a line of "New Yorkie Greeting Cards" to benefit the scholarship fund.
Schmitty became Schmitty, The Real New Yorkie. Then when Hurricane Katrina struck, Schmitty raised money again to help the small animal shelters in the disaster area.
The weather reports happened almost accidentally, she said. Trotta, a freelance meteorologist and producer for World News with Diane Sawyer, was helping Schmitty with the 2008 "Bark the Vote" tour. They traveled 8,000 miles from New York to L.A. in three weeks. This time, the cause was spreading the word that every vote counts; and Trotta was also broadcasting daily weather reports on location over YouTube. The scenery was spectacular, McGuire said, recalling one spectacular show at the Columbia River Gorge. Then Trotta realized his forecasts were better when Schmitty helped.
"Schmitty was rocking," she said. "So that's where Schmitty the Weather Dog was born."
Along the way, Access Hollywood named Schmitty a Hollywood hero, and even the foreign press started telling her story. She's been in newspapers and magazines all over the world.
Her pen pal, former President George Herbert Walker Bush, quipped he'd still be in the White House if he'd ever received that kind of good press, McGuire laughed.
"It's all about giving back," McGuire said.
Now that Schmitty is 11, Pudge is taking over many of her appearances, McGuire said. "Well, every famous dog has a stand-in," she said.
"Schmitty's the teacher now," Trotta said.
Pictured: Schmitty, right, and Pudge, left, wait in their New Yorkie wagon for the start of the weather show. The local NBC affiliate, WJAR- TV, is featuring Schmitty and meteorologist Ron Trotta on the Friday morning television broadcasts. (Photo by Margo Ann Sullivan)
Do you have any four-legged local celebrities in your area? Do you think your pet would make a good weather reporter? Tell us below!
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