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November 22, 2014

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A saga unleashed: Alicia Jacobs defends Star treatment at Danny Gans show

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KVBC Channel 3

Alicia Jacobs with one of her dogs, Sparkle, on the Channel 3 set.

It might be the biggest mess ever made by a 3-pound puppy. I barely know where to start scooping.

Let’s start with the purse. It’s not a purse, exactly. Maybe to a man, it’s a purse, because to many men any bag carried by a woman – be it handbag, bowling bag or golf bag – is a “purse.” So Alicia Jacobs, emotionally rattled as only a pet owner can be, stresses that the bag in which she totes her little puppy Star is a doggie carrier. A high-end doggie carrier that can look like a purse, actually. It’s fur-lined and ventilated and has as much living space as my first apartment.

“It’s like a martini bag, or a hobo bag. It’s meant to look like a purse, but it’s not a purse,” said Jacobs, one of the city’s more striking scenestresses as the entertainment reporter (and also pet reporter) for KVBC Channel 3. “You want something that looks stylish, but is good for the dog.”

Good for the dog, as in, a night on the Strip for the dog.

As anyone who read my blog from Friday’s Danny Gans opener at Encore, Jacobs carries her new 11-week-old puppy, Star, with her in this big doggie bag. When I bumped into Jacobs at the entrance of the Encore Theater for the Gans show on Friday, she had Channel 5’s Jason Feinberg on one arm and this big bag on the other. She swiftly and proudly opened the bag, and inside was this little doggie. Nice doggie. But I did not expect a dog to pop his little head out of this bag. I expected Alicia was about to show off some cosmetics, or maybe a new hairbrush. Instead, inside was the now-famous Cavalier King Charles pup that was purchased two weekends ago by “American Idol” producer and “So You Think You Can Dance” judge Nigel Lythgoe at the Nevada Ballet Theatre’s Black & White gala. The dog was snapped up for $10,000, and has become such a star it will soon need an agent, a publicist and maybe even an entourage of Great Danes as “muscle.”

Jacobs placed Star under her seat during the show and carried her around at the after-party at Blush. At one point she showed the dog to a few guests and I resorted to shtick – opening my wallet and saying, “Hey, meet my pet hamster, Jermaine.” The curious Jacobs-Star sighting begged (hah) many questions, the chief being, “Is this humane treatment of an animal?” and, “How is a dog allowed get into a Danny Gans show?” This is the most talked-about dog to inhabit a Vegas showroom since “Nebulae: The Life Force” was stinking up The Venetian.

Anyway …

The episode flew free yesterday when syndicated TV host Bonnie Hunt, who was actually in the audience during Friday’s show, read the column item on the air. The audience responded with a gasp as Hunt read the item, which did use the term “purse” to describe the bag. Hunt went on to talk about how Jacobs was swinging the purse around with the dog inside (which Jacobs says never happened), and further embellished the original written account with her own musings of observing Jacobs that night.

There is nothing like a little barb-laced derision on national TV to get the masses barking.

Almost immediately after Hunt’s comments (which aired during her noon broadcast on Channel 5), Jacobs started receiving e-mail messages and comments to her blog on the Channel 3 Web site calling her an idiot, a bitch and saying she “deserved to die.” In the hours after the show aired, Jacobs and I embarked on a series of phone conversations. At moments Jacobs was sobbing at what had happened, saying she had been crying all morning at the station. At one point Jacobs angrily said Hunt was “spewing nonsense to boost her pathetic ratings,” a strident accusation as Hunt’s show features a doggie adoption segment each week, and she is well-known for her passion for animals.

But what mattered most to Jacobs was that her own reputation as an animal lover had been tarnished.

“If she had said I was ugly or was a bad reporter, I wouldn’t have cared. This is so out of line. I have complete regard for my puppy’s safety,” said Jacobs, who carries Star with her to all sorts of events, including last week’s celebrity pizza cook-off at Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza. “I love her. She’s a new puppy. It’s crucial for her to be with me. I’m not home a lot and we need a period of bonding. I need to bring her to work and my bosses understand that. I’ve gotten special permission to have her with me, that’s how important she is.”

Click to enlarge photo

Alicia Jacobs, Chris Phillips and Marley Taylor, taking the heat in the kitchen.

Canine issues are hardly new at Channel 3, long the home of breezy weatherman John Fredericks and his ubiquitous on-air pet dogs, Jordan and L.J. The behavior of the latter pooch – who reportedly has more bite than even Channel 3 owner and University Chancellor Jim Rogers -- led to a companywide ban of employees bringing pets to work. Jacobs asked KVBC General Manager Lisa Howfield to make an exception for the station’s pet reporter, and there was no negative fallout regarding Star until yesterday.

As we went back and forth on this topic, Jacobs continued to stress her love for animals, reminding that she owns four dogs (including 8-month-old long-haired miniature Dachshund Sparkle) and dotes on all of them. “These dogs are my family. I would never harm them. (Star) wasn’t howling, crying barking or unhappy.” Actually, Jacobs said Star slept through the show, and the only one who might be concerned about that is Danny Gans.

To verify Jacobs’ contention that Star was not at risk of emotional trauma, I called Dr. Nancy Kay, doctor of veterinary medicine, animal behavior expert and author of, “Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life.” Kay practices in the Northern California city of Sebastopol.

I paced the good doctor through the Jacobs/Star/Encore Theatre/Bonnie Hunt issue.

First, she laughed.

Then, she said, “I always tell people that there is no place a dog would rather be than with their mom or dad. These little dogs, Cavalier King Charles, are such social beings, they need to be around people as much as possible. They are den animals, and if you leave them at home in a little crate, the dog would curl up. They become used to the sites and sounds of other people. I mean, look at therapy dogs that lead people around the streets of New York City. It’s an individual circumstance, but long as she can manage her dog going to the bathroom, and her own social schedule, she sounds OK.”

Kay also said that the problem with celebrities displaying their dogs as showpieces – Paris Hilton is the chief example – is there are many different handlers passing the dog around. “If you’ve got the dog in front of the cameras and then, when the cameras are off, it’s being passed among five or six people and they don’t know who to bond with. But this woman (Jacobs) in her bent and personality, sounds like a good parent, and I can’t imagine a more adorable creature on the face of the Earth than a Cavalier King Charles puppy.”

The doctor has obviously never seen the giant baby in “Mystere,” but I’ll allow for that.

What of bringing the puppy to the Encore Theatre? Jenn Dunne, spokeswoman for Wynn Las Vegas who needs dog-in-theater-issues like she needs an infected molar, said in an e-mail message: “Generally speaking, we are a pet-friendly resort. Having said that, we don’t encourage our guests to bring their small pets on property as we do not feel it is an appropriate place for them. But there are certain circumstances whereby we will accommodate pooches on property!”

So maybe one night I’ll arrange for certain circumstances and bring my 14-year-old cat to see Gans. Her name? Bonnie. I kid you not.

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