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Uncertain criteria

Could you love a dog with a Steve Buscemi face?

(MCT) — That dog with the face of Steve Buscemi has stuck in my mind and it won’t leave.

Buscemi is the famed, weird-looking character actor who plays a gangster mayor in “Boardwalk Empire.” He’s been in many productions, from “Reservoir Dogs” to “The Big Lebowski,” but the first thing I saw him in was the miniseries “Lonesome Dove,” in which he played a creepy buffalo hunter.

According to a strange, cultlike practice on the Internet, people keep posting pictures of ugly dogs while insisting that the pooches look just like Buscemi, down to the curled lip and sad, baggy eyes.

This leads me to ask:

Would you want a dog that looked exactly like Steve Buscemi? Or is that just too creepy?

“It would creep me out,” said a young woman who appreciates Buscemi’s acting talents but not his face on a canine. “Dogs do things to their behinds, and it would just be creepy.”

“You’ve got to do a feature, the 10 human faces you wouldn’t ever want on a dog,” said a guy. “But a Steve Buscemi-faced dog (jumping) on your leg? I couldn’t take it.”

A reader, Jerry Oreluk, called to chat about the Jackson scandal, but I steered the conversation to the Buscemi dog against his will.

“OK, OK, OK,” Oreluk said. “Yes. It would freak me out. You give me a hypothetical about a dog with Steve Buscemi’s face (grooming his hindquarters), it creeps me out. Wouldn’t it freak you out?”

As a dog lover and proud owner of Zeus the Wonder Dog, I’m exempted, since the noble Zeus looks nothing like Steve Buscemi.

So I called the one person in Chicago who could give a definitive answer:

Susan Olsen, chairman of the long-running International Kennel Club’s dog show that took place over the weekend at McCormick Place.

I’ve been to that dog show many times, and I just love it. Visitors are encouraged to walk through the benches of beautiful, purebred dogs, and talk to the owners and breeders. Steve Buscemi — the actor — is welcome, too.

If you love dogs, you know about it. The IKC has been running its show in Chicago for more than 100 years. Thousands of people visit each year.

“No, I’ve not seen a dog with Steve Buscemi’s face,” said Olsen. “I have nothing against Steve Buscemi, the actor. But you’re asking me if I would try to buy a dog with Buscemi’s face?”

Kind of.

“It all depends on whether the dog with Buscemi’s face would fit into my lifestyle,” said Olsen. “We have many sweet-faced dogs.”

None of whom co-starred in “The Big Lebowski.”

Olsen has spent 40 years in the dog world, as owner and breeder and trainer, lately with Dalmatians and border collies.

And for the last 14 years she’s been the boss of the show.

At the IKC show there are show rings where dogs are judged as to how close they approach the established standard of a particular breed. There are also obedience trials.

But for anyone even thinking about purchasing a dog, I can’t recommend the IKC show highly enough, because you can also walk and talk and meet the dogs.

Check for show information.

You can’t purchase a dog at the show. You may set an appointment later with a breeder, but there is no impulse buying.

That’s good for the prospective buyer, so they can think things through. And it’s vitally important for the dog, because some people forget that dogs are living things, with living hearts, and the easiest way to break a dog’s heart is to send it to the wrong home for the wrong reasons.

“In a bench show, dogs are required to be in assigned position from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.,” Olsen said. “People can walk up and down the aisles, talk to the handlers, breeders, see the dogs, and put their hands on dogs, but please, please ask the owners first.”

Why is meeting breeders so important?

“Because breeders care about their animals, and they want to be sure that the prospective owner can handle them,” Olsen said.

“Some people think we’re too picky, but we need to make sure the dog will go to a loving home for their entire lives. A good breeder will not only tell you the good points about a particular breed, but the bad points, too.”

“No dog is perfect. We all have our flaws,” she said. “And if there’s a problem at home, it’s usually not the dog’s fault, but the owner’s.”

A husky or a Dalmatian needs to run, and so do pointers, but happily I have two high school soccer players who run Zeus almost every day. He needs that to relax, as he does not drink whiskey or smoke cigars or receive soothing encouragement from his editors.

“If you’re a couch potato you need a toy dog,” Olsen said. “If you’re active, get an active dog, but all dogs need a job of some kind. Talk to the breeders and do your homework.”

A sweet little puppy can’t train itself. It needs guidance. If you have infants or toddlers at home, you might want to wait.

“If you’re looking for a dog that looks like Steve Buscemi, I’m sorry but there are none,” said Olsen.

At the show, you’ll realize that what makes a good dog is a good human. Even if both dog and man look like Steve Buscemi.


John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Readers may send him email at

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