The costume supervisor for the Big Stone Gap movie, whose job is already quite labor intensive, added to her workload immediately upon arriving in southwest Virginia by rescuing a stray dog.
Nancy Gould has been doing wardrobe work for 25 years. She’s worked in theatre, TV (on the set of Friends, Heroes and more) and movies.
“We haul a lot of clothes around! It’s a hard job with long hours, but it’s a fun job,” said Nancy.
Her job on the set of the Big Stone Gap movie took Nancy about 2,300 miles from her home in California.
“We had a lot of fun in Big Stone Gap,” said Nancy. “The people there couldn’t have been nicer and more helpful.”
Big Stone Gap is a romantic comedy written and directed by New York Times bestselling author Adriana Trigiani, who grew up in Big Stone Gap. The movie stars Ashley Judd, Patrick Wilson, Whoopi Goldberg and Jenna Elfman.
Just as Nancy was getting off at the Big Stone Gap exit, a little black dog darted across the highway in front of her.
“I saw him run into the gas station, he started drinking gasoline water,” said Nancy.
Nancy and her 18-year-old son, who was there as a production assistant, talked to the gas station owner. It turned out, the dog had been coming there since he was a little puppy. They had been putting food out for him.
“He was still only about six months old,” said Nancy. “We scooped him up, bought him a collar, bought him a leash and he became our trailer dog. Such a cutie pie.”
Picking up strays is routine for Nancy.
“I’m a pretty big rescue person,” she said. “I have 2 dogs and 4 cats. I’m just that person. If you’re that person, you just are.”
And the Big Stone Gap pup just became part of the movie set.
“He was a sweetie pie,” remembered Nancy. “He was so young and so happy. He was very personable. We snuck him into the hotel and we’d bring him to our trailer with us every day. We moved to a little cottage at one point and he went there with us.”
However, having a puppy at work comes with its hurdles. Potty training. Chew patrol. Endless energy.
“He was challenging,” laughed Nancy.
It became a team effort during the 6-week shoot.
“We got to walk him a lot and everyone got on board,” said Nancy. “My crew would walk him. The truck drivers would walk him. Everybody’s kids would come visit.”
One of the transportation workers, Jesse Smith from Wilmington, N.C., stopped by often.
“I would go into the wardrobe trailer to check on him during the day and take him for a walk and make sure he had enough water, as did many crew members,” said Jesse. “He did not lack attention. He would hear me outside the trailer and get excited to see me. If I didn’t go in to say hello, Nancy would open the door and say, ‘He wants you to visit.’ I’ve learned he loves to socialize and loves new people and old friends.”
Jesse was the driver for what’s known as the honey wagon on the set of the Big Stone Gap movie.
“That’s the truck that has dressing rooms and crew bathrooms and a production office,” said Jesse. “I also was responsible for all the trailers in basecamp, make-up/hair, and wardrobe trailers as well as the actors’ trailers.”
But Jesse always made time for the Big Stone Gap movie mascot. The two were forming a bond.
“He has a great disposition and is very smart,” said Jesse. “He is a very gentle, sweet dog who loves to be touched, petted and loved.”
When it came time for the movie to wrap up, Nancy had a dilemma. Big Stone Gap actor Paul Wilson had asked to keep the dog, but her son didn’t want to give him up.
Then reality sunk in and the logistics of it all became a major factor.
“At the time I had 3 dogs,” said Nancy. “I started thinking about how I would get him back to California. Paul Wilson had left. There were just a few of us around.”
Then Jesse showed up to say he wanted the pup.
“He had such a connection with the dog,” said Nancy. “We all had tears in our eyes when the dog drove away. Everyone in the movie and everyone in Big Stone Gap knew the dog and about the dog. He was a love dog. He was so special. He was “that” dog. He was the perfect dog. The whole movie was so meaningful in so many ways for everyone involved in the movie and the dog just had that vibe. And it became like a whole vibe.”
And while the Big Stone Gap pup had found his forever home, he still had a 8-hour road trip ahead of him to get there. But clearly worth the drive.
“He is always in my lap or within arms’ length, just in case I get the urge to pet him,” smiled Jesse. “He doesn’t want me to have to reach too far. The only time he is not by my side is when my children are near. Then he is in their lap.”
Jesse named the pup Coal, in honor of Big Stone Gap.
“I wanted him to have a name linked to the area,” said Jesse. “The first thing that came to my mind was Coal because he was all black and the history of coal mining in the area.”
Coal has adjusted well; from mountain dog to beach dog.
“However, I don’t think he realizes he is still a dog,” said Jesse. “He stays inside and is a bit spoiled. His favorite thing to do is ride in the truck. He wants to go everywhere I go. And if I don’t take him he pouts. He will lie at the door when he thinks I’m about to leave just to let me know he wants to go too. He likes to attempt to herd us when we play in the yard. I suppose that’s the Collie in him. He also loves riding in the boat but is suspect of the dock for some reason and it’s a chore to get him down the ramp to the boat. But once he’s on board, his nose is raised high, sniffing the salt air and low tide.”
Jesse is grateful the plot of this rescue story took the turn it did.
“Thanks to people like Nancy, who are so generous and caring of stray animals and finding good homes for them, the animals and the people like me, both have a better life,” said Jesse.
A picture perfect ending.
“It was one of my happier rescue stories,” said Nancy. “Sometimes you just know where a dog is supposed to be.”
Do you have a rescue story to share? How did your dog become part of your family?
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