90s sitcom Frasier may have done wonders for the careers of its human stars, but the sitcom also proved a career landmark for a canine performer named Moose. Aged two when Frasier began, the Jack Russell Terrier portrayed Eddie, the beloved pet of John Mahoney‘s Marty Crane.
Although leading man Kelsey Grammer had initially protested that he didn’t want a dog on the show, Moose wound up becoming every bit as pivotal to Frasier as any of his human co-stars, and wound up becoming one of the most highly paid non-human performers on 90s television.
Moose was born on Christmas Eve, 1990 in Florida, and was the youngest and most badly-behaved pup from his litter. His energetic nature proved a problem early on: though initially owned by the family of Sam and Connie Thise, they found Moose impossible to house train, and had no success in deterring the impulsive young terrier from ripping up furniture, chasing cats and birds, running off up trees, digging up the garden and barking constantly.
Such boisterous behaviour in a canine wouldn’t seem to bode well for a potential career in show business. Even so, Moose eventually wound up in the ownership of the manager of animal talent agency Birds and Animals Unlimited. Soon thereafter he was sent to Los Angeles and put in the care of one of their trainers, Mathilde de Cagny, who had worked with the dogs on such films as The Firm, Steel Magnolias and the Back to the Future sequels.
De Cagny, who clearly proved to be a mentor to Moose of Mr. Miyagi-esque proportions, considered the dog’s impulsive nature to be a help rather than a hindrance. “He was so hyper and energetic, it was obvious he wanted to do something. Moose had a great disposition for training. He loved it right away… it calmed him down a little. It’s as if all of a sudden he had a purpose in his life. You can see in his eyes that he’s very sharp. He’s also very curious and is always moving around.”
Around the same time that Moose hit Hollywood, work was underway on Frasier. Though initially conceived as a standalone project for actor Kelsey Grammer with no relation to his previous role on the recently cancelled Cheers, it was decided the new sitcom would work better if Grammer reprised the character of highly-strung psychiatrist Frasier Crane.
Grammer had three key stipulations when he agreed to do the series: that Frasier should not be married, have kids, or have dogs. The first two points were largely adhered to; while Cheers had established that Frasier was married and had a child, the new series had them divorced, with his now ex-wife Lilith (Bebe Neuwirth) and son Frederick (Trevor Einhorn) only making occasional guest appearances.
However, Grammer was over-ruled on the ‘no dogs’ demand. Series co-creator David Lee explained the addition of Eddie was simple: they had been informed that a good way to get higher scores from test audiences was to “use a baby, cute child, or dog. So, we cynically thought, let’s put a dog in to get the scores up.”
Moose had been in training with Mathilde de Cagny for six months when the Frasier audition came along, and the show runners soon decided he was the dog they were looking for. The media agreed, as was demonstrated in December 1993, when Moose – rather than any of his human co-stars – made the cover of Entertainment Weekly, less than two months after Frasier premiered.
Given Grammer’s aversion to having a dog on the show, it was fitting that there was an animosity between the characters of Frasier Crane and Eddie, demonstrated by Eddie’s knack for staring out Frasier. This prompted such a good response from the audience that it became a running joke on the series.
Moose’s popularity was reflected in the salary he was able to command. The Eddie actor is said to have earned a remarkable $10,000 per episode, and he is credited as having appeared in 164 episodes of Frasier – meaning he ultimately made $1.64 million from his tenure on the sitcom. (At the show’s peak, leading man Kelsey Grammer was earning almost as much per episode.)
As well-trained as he might have been, Moose could still be a handful to the Frasier cast and crew. Daphne actress Jane Leeves describes the dog as “a complicated little fellow. There were many times when he just improvised or went completely nuts, rolling around on the couch with his legs in the air, making funny noises.”
Even Marty actor John Mahoney, whose character had the closest connection to Eddie, often found his canine co-star troublesome. Kelsey Grammer recalls “I was directing an episode and told John to put Moose on his lap. John said, ‘No! The son of a b***h always bites me.’ We had to put sardine oil on his hands.” Just as sardine oil was a deterrent, Mahoney once revealed that dabs of liver pate behind the ears were required for scenes when Eddie was meant to be affectionate.
Even so, the Marty Crane actor had nothing but kind words to say for Moose in public, once declaring the dog to be “a consummate professional who works hard learning his tricks.” Others agreed, as Moose made a few appearances outside of Frasier: after making one-off appearances in TV shows The 5 Mrs. Buchanans and High Society, Moose also took the title role in 2000 film My Dog Skip.
So beloved was his performance as Eddie, that Moose even had his own book, My Life as a Dog. While presented as an autobiography, you might be surprised to learn it was in truth written by Brian Hargrove – who, in a pleasingly familial link, is the real-life husband of Niles Crane actor David Hyde Pierce.
Of course, just as every dog has his day, so too does the day come for that dog to stand down. Eventually showbiz took its toll on Moose, and in 2000 the role of Eddie was recast with none other than Moose’s own son Enzo (with whom he had also shared the lead role in My Dog Skip). Frasier co-creator Peter Casey remarks, “Moose and Enzo hated each other… it was one of those classic parent-child Hollywood rivalries.”
After passing the torch to his pup, Moose retired from show business, and lived another six years with Mathilda De Cagny, Enzo, and another celebrity dog named Jill (best known for As Good As It Gets). Moose died of natural causes in June 2005 aged 15, and his owner and trainer praised him as a dog with “an incredible charisma… [who] was a such a free spirit.”