Zelda at the Wheel

Local dog celebrity still gets royalties for her Subaru commercials, even in retirement.
Zelda is enjoying relaxing during her retirement years.

Thirteen-year-old Zelda spends her days watching deer in the yard and going on walks with her family. This St. Louis Park resident is a golden retriever-terrier mix who is not a trained acting dog. In fact, neither Zelda nor her partner and friend Olive were trained in any way for the roles they were given. Then again, how does one train a dog to drive a car?

Zelda’s human companion, Brock Davis, was the art director assigned to work on the first of Subaru’s “Dog tested. Dog approved.” campaigns, which had a miniscule budget. This meant hiring local talent (and dogs) to save some money, so Davis nominated Zelda to be the driver.

No, Zelda does not have a license or permit, or really any idea where the gas pedal is located. Instead, Davis reclined in the driver’s seat with Zelda on his lap and navigated by looking out of the sunroof and receiving directions via walkie-talkie.

Olive, a shar pei mix, assisted Zelda in parallel parking, ordering from the drive-through and stocking up at the pet store. “They made a nice duo,” says Davis, remembering the late Olive.

“My favorites are the ones that are very simple,” he says, such as Zelda and Olive trying to find a parking spot, only to have it taken by a feline driver. The pair also did some Chinese fire drills at a stoplight and made donuts in the snow (which a stunt driver helped with). The “Dog Tested. Dog approved.” campaign has since brought in different dogs and even a dog family to enact the tasks we humans deal with in everyday driving.

Zelda still has star quality. As Davis points out, she always looks like she is smiling and “makes you feel good right away.”