EPISODE 3

On the Road with Jack

By Roman Marchuk

At the beginning of 2019, a group of us headed to Las Vegas, Nevada, to shoot a commercial for an electronics company. We began our trip not knowing that we would be adding one more to our crew over the course of the journey.

There were five of us: my friend Edgard, his wife, and their daughter Maya, as well as Ryan and Elayne. We were getting ready to travel over 2,000 miles on a loop through several national parks in a rented RV—from Las Vegas, we would head toward Pink Sand Dunes State Park, move on to Zion National Park and Death Valley, greet the giant sequoias in Sequoia National Park, and end the trip in Yosemite National Park. We had everything we needed for the trip and the shoot, save one thing: a dog. One scene in the commercial we were shooting required a dog, which posed a problem for our team. We were all based in Florida, so it made sense to add the dog once we landed out West. It couldn’t be that hard to borrow a puppy for a little while, right? 

Turns out it wasn’t so simple. We called local animal shelters to see if they would “rent” us a dog, with no luck. Taking to social media, we tried to find someone local to Las Vegas who would lend us a dog—but no dice. We were short on time and the pressure was building, but nothing was working. Eventually, we resorted to our backup plan and Edgard and his wife bought a dog. 

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I was both excited and worried about buying the dog, who we all decided to call Jack. He was a nervous puppy, with one blue eye and one grey eye. Everything scared him. After we picked him up, we headed to the pet store for puppy supplies: a leash, food, bed, and even a small carpet for extra comfort on the road. Now that we had everything we needed, we were ready to head out to Pink Sand Dunes State Park, where we would spend our first night. During that first night, Jack was quiet, which made me even more nervous. Would this pup like his new family?

We started shooting the first scenes of the commercial the very next morning. Early in the morning, Maya had let Jack out, and we could tell he was starting to become more comfortable around us—especially around Maya. The two of them bonded quickly. The more time we were together, the more relaxed Jack became. He was a source of joy in the RV.

After a successful shoot at the Pink Sand Dunes, we moved on to our next location: Zion National Park. Jack was with us every step of the way for the next ten days, exploring the natural beauty of our shooting locations: orange cliffs bright in the sunlight, massive rocks hanging off the mountains, dunes rising and falling across the landscape. It seems fitting, looking back, that the theme for the commercial was “a family adventure,” as Jack had started to become inseparable with his new family. 

Death Valley was next on our list of destinations, so we stopped to stock up on food before setting up camp in the desert. You could see so far down the road that it seemed like it would never end, and distant on the horizon were mountains: stark but smooth, and not as tall as I had imagined. We built a campfire to ward off the sharp chill of the desert at night. Jack loved it—and of course, I can’t fault him. Who doesn’t love a campfire? We all sat around the blaze swapping stories and sharing our adventures, patting Jack absentmindedly as he visited each of us around the circle, always looping back to Maya.

After we wrapped up the shoot, we flew back to Stuart, Florida—Jack excited to get to his new home for the first time. It’s crazy to think about how this little pup, being only a couple of months old, saw and explored deserts, mountains, lakes with crystal clear water, and ran around on dunes. It’s crazy to think about how he bonded with Maya and found his permanent home—all because we had to shoot a commercial and no one had a dog.

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