“If you don’t own a dog, at least one, there is not necessarily anything wrong with you, but there may be something wrong with your life.” —Roger Caras
The first sounds I heard when the waiting room door opened were simultaneous. A single bark, quick pattering, sniffing. And then my interviewee was at my feet.
Qualities: compact beauty of royal lineage
Best features: wide-eyes, horizontal abundance
Likes: schmoozing, popcorn
Age: is just a number (but hers is 8)
The perfect day: her chair, challenge sprints to the mailbox
Several things led me to the KWCH waiting room in Wichita. It began April 14—when all the tornadoes came through—and the days following. The weather was the news at the time, so all meteorologists, including Channel 12’s Ross Janssen, got a lot of airtime. If you watch that channel, you know that if you see Ross, you’ll probably see Millie the weather dog.
A month or so later, I ran across a calendar that showed Friday, June 22, as National Take Your Dog To Work Day. Millie came to mind. Then the 100-degree days hit us. Weather came to mind.
As my own dog’s birthday got closer, making me a little more sentimental toward her and pets in general, Millie came back to mind. These nudges and my curiosity got the best of me, so I appreciate Ross humoring me and my random questions about shedding and a day in the life.
Millie is a Pembroke Welsh Corgi from Oklahoma. Prompted by a cousin’s suggestion, Ross drove down to pick out one of these puppies, the last female of the litter. He knew he wouldn’t return alone as her name was already decided on the drive down. Whether Millie knew it or not, she would be moving to Kansas.
I asked about her transition from Millie to Millie the weather dog and got the feeling there really wasn’t much of one. She just became a part of the scenery.
Introducing any dog into a new atmosphere, in particular an office moving at the pace of breaking news, could prove to be a challenge. But Millie fit right in. While the breed’s natural temperament likely contributes, Ross credits her calm demeanor to his relationship with her. And that relaxed nature helps her handle all of the hands that reach for her at school visits and public appearances. But it didn’t happen without the normal puppy mishaps. The only difference in this case is that a camera might be rolling when she decides to “be a puppy.”
Ross said as a pup, still learning the ropes, she was playing near the green screen while he was on air. As he was giving the forecast, the screen began rippling from her rooting around behind it. Resisting a joke about the weather forecast going to the dogs, Ross crossed his fingers that she wouldn’t cause a scene, until a camera man was able to lure her out, off screen.
As for Millie’s partner, he is doing what he had always planned to do. His passion started young, fourth grade to be exact. His roadmap to meteorology spans the state he now forecasts. The super condensed version would be: Geneseo to KU to Topeka. Then in 2004, the year Millie was born, he moved to Wichita.
And now he gives weather talks to fourth graders and on this particular day, a tour to me. Coming from a newspaper office, I had fun seeing a television team at work behind the scenes. Just like in print, it’s interesting to see what goes into creating the final product.
During the newscasts, Millie is always calm, kicked back in her chair or crashed out in front of the news desk. She was perkier during my visit and as they showed me around the station, she was a pro at work—like a doctor on rounds—following a path she has taken a thousand times before.
Apparent by the plethora of “Come here, Millie” I heard around every corner, she is well- loved at work. In the newsroom I had a momentary flashback of how it is to bring a baby into a room. Everybody wants to see the kid; the parent is just the mode of transportation.
Millie has no doubt grown the station’s fan base by leaps and bounds, if I can be cliche. (Or barks and wags, if I can be cheesy.) She may be an unofficial employee, but is definitely pet first, weather dog second.
I admit to walking out of the building a Corgi fan and maybe a little star struck. The thing to remember is that even though she lives her life on screen, Millie latches her collar one notch at a time, just like every other Welsh Corgi/Weather Diva mix.