An Actor’s Best Friend, Debbie Rochon remembers canine co-star Valkrie
Beloved genre veteran and longtime Fango friend/contributor Debbie Rochon just recently lost a dear friend and co-star. Here, she pays tribute to Valkrie Athena Liquori, a dog like no other.
Movie star canines have featured prominently in some of my personal fave cult and horror movies. Named simply ‘Dog’, THE ROAD WARRIOR featured man’s best friend as the last trustworthy companion Max had left in this world. As it turns out, he was right. The dog was played by an adopted shelter pup and trained to perform in the film. Because the sound of the engines upset him—and in one incident, caused him to relieve himself in the car—he was fitted with special earplugs. His breed was a Blue Heeler, sometimes also referred to as an Australian Cattle Dog. ‘Dog’ went to live with Dale and Max Aspin after the movie wrapped. Max was the stunt coordinator for the film, and his wife Dale was the animal handler and trainer, as well as being a stunt performer herself.
Another great canine performance was that of the lead dog in John Carpenter’s THE THING. The Norwegian dog in the film, a half wolf/half husky breed, was named Jed. Jed was an excellent animal actor, never looking at the camera, the dolly or the crew members, He was not the dog seen in the beginning chase scene, where the Norwegian is trying shoot the running husky from the helicopter. Per Carpenter’s commentary, this was another dog painted to look like Jed. This opening scene immediately grabs your heartstrings. Not knowing what was about to unfold in the film, you hated the sniper and were rooting for the dog.
I had a chance to work with, in my opinion, the best of the pack.
Her name was Valkrie Athena Liquori (pictured above). We made a movie called SAVAGED together, directed by Jason Liquori. It was just Val and I for 99% of the film. She’s been described as a Husky mix by some and a Chow/Shepard/Lab mix by others. Whatever she was, it was a perfect blend of all heart and great canine performer. While her arthritis sometimes dictated our shooting schedule, she was always ready to perform (unless someone was eating in the room).
We shot the scenes in chunks throughout the day, giving Val recovery time from having to tolerate our multiple takes. She was a total pro. Being her Godmother in real life, the only time that we had to “work with her” on a scene was during the finale, when we had to get in a physical fight—she kept wagging her tail. Val also enjoyed the scene where she took down the villain of the film. We had to make it look as if she was ripping his face off, and plastering peanut butter on the actor’s face gave her the right motivation. I can honestly say she was the best co-star any actor could hope to work with. Val went on to work in other films, including the award winning short, 2:22 by Steven Shea. In her later years, she suffered from various illnesses but they never kept her down. She played like a puppy until the very last day of her life. She will always be a star in the indie world to me. She will always be a best friend. Her memory will live forever on and off screen. We love you girl. Until we see you again.
Valkrie Athena Liquori, September 5, 1999 – June 26, 2013.
– Debbie Rochon
June 28, 2013