PLANT CITY ― As expected, Dunedin residents took pictures of Dean Cain whenever he walked the neighborhoods last month between filming scenes for the movie R.A.D.A.R.: Adventures of the Bionic Dog.
But, by day three of the shoot, the actor best known for portraying the man of steel in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman had to share the spotlight with another cinematic superhero.
“Beck couldn’t walk 10 feet without someone wanting a picture,” Cassie Kennedy said. “And when people found out she likes pizza, we couldn’t pay for a slice. It was free.”
Beck is the 17-month-old Belgian Malinois who portrayed R.A.D.A.R. Kennedy is Beck’s 23-year-old owner and trainer.
Both reside in Plant City, where Kennedy trains dogs and lives with eight, four of whom perform for live events, movies and television series.
According to online casting calls, R.A.D.A.R. is about a mad scientist who invents a “Remote Activated Doubloon Acquiring Rex” dog to find pirate treasure off the coast of Florida. But the dog develops emotions, befriends a boy and helps him find the gold. The mad scientist, played by St. Petersburg’s Paul Wilson, then seeks to get the dog and the treasure from the boy.
Cain, who played the mayor of Dunedin, has 192 credits on his acting resume.
R.A.D.A.R. was Beck’s big break.
“It was first time Beck did anything other than performing at the Strawberry Festival,” said Kennedy, who owns Ohana Dog Training. “She did great, especially considering she is so young.”
Kennedy previously trained dogs at Courteous Canine in Lutz, but was laid off during the pandemic lockdown.
“That was a tough time,” said Eric Kennedy, her father. “She lost the job she loved. But I told her to turn this into a positive. We live in the country and have land, so there is not an issue with staying six feet apart. Why not train dogs here on her own? It’s worked out. Her business is doing great, and her dogs are becoming celebrities.”
Stoke, her 9-year-old border collie, is a sought after performance dog, Kennedy said, booked at sporting events and festivals.
Renegade, her 3-year-old border collie, is better known as “Barkley” among fans of the Music Club Kids YouTube channel that remakes hit songs with a kiddie twist. Renegade stars in several of the channel’s music videos, including one for the song I’m In Love With My Doggy, which is an adaptation of Ed Sheeran’s Shape Of You.
Tiki, her 11-year-old border collie, will next be seen in a series titled The Advocate, which, according to IMDB.com, is about a child protective agent who uses supernatural gifts “to protect and rescue those in most need of her help.”
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Fathom, Kennedy’s 15-year-old golden retriever recently died, but will soon be featured in a Wells Fargo commercial.
To be a doggie thespian, a canine must handle long days without getting tired, Kennedy said. “Beck could go all day. She has plenty of energy. They also want a dog that’s obviously good with people.”
The dog must also learn new tricks quickly.
Digging a hole on command was among the skills that Beck had to master on two weeks notice for the movie.
To teach her, Kennedy hid a treat under a blanket placed on the lawn.
“Every time she pawed it, I used a clicker to let her know she was going to get a reward for that motion,” Kennedy said. “Eventually, I picked the towel up and she started to do it on the ground, in the grass and in the dirt and I’d reward her for doing it.”
Beck nailed the scene.
“She dug this giant hole,” Kennedy said. “She was kicking dirt all over the casting crew whenever she was digging it. And everyone started laughing because they just thought it was hilarious.”
But there was one skill R.A.D.A.R. has that Kennedy could not teach Beck.
“Beck cannot shoot lasers from her eyes,” Kennedy laughed. “They’ll have to use C.G.I. for that.”