NO one in our family had ever been on TV before. So when my brother Bill, a sheriff's deputy, said that several stations had covered his graduation as police dog handler, we were glued to the set. I learned that the prospect of seeing a relative on TV can stir up a household. For one thing, we watched the news in a way we never had before. We kept turning away from important stories, frantically switching back and forth between channels, searching for anything mentioning dogs.
``Why do they keep telling us all this about the budget deficits?'' I said at one point. ``Don't they know that what people really want to see is a nice police dog segment for a change?'' I was afraid the spot might not air.
Then a phone call came from Bill. He said, ``Turn to Channel 4. Quick!'' That was the extent of the conversation, because it didn't seem like the right time to inquire how his lawn was doing.
I raced to the set. Channel 4 was just returning from a commercial break. After a few brief news items, it cut to a field reporter, and he spoke of the sheriff's department's new recruits (the dogs), who ``are sure to add a new dimension to the force.''
They showed close-ups of several of these German shepherds. The hands of the dogs' masters were visible in several frames, and it's quite possible that Bill's hands might have been televised at this point.
The segment lasted only about 30 seconds, but it did include mention of the seven sheriff's deputies who had completed their schooling as dog handlers and would now work in partnership with these trained German shepherds. At one point the camera began to sweep slowly across the line of seven graduates, but it cut off after showing only five and one-third of them. We believe Bill was the one-third.
When the segment was over, a phone call came from my brother John. ``Did you watch Channel 4?'' he said. ``I think we saw Bill's left arm. We have it on videotape.''
``Great,'' I said, by way of holding down my end of the conversation. I didn't inquire about how John's lawn was doing, either; I had to get back to the set to see if Channel 7 had anything.
And it did! Its segment was luxuriously paced, compared with Channel 4's, since it used all of about 45 seconds. The woman who did the field reporting stood in front of a line of seven police cars. A handler and a dog were by each vehicle. We knew where Bill was in this line, but he was obscured by the reporter's hair. As the reporter spoke into the mike saying, ``The dogs will add a new dimension to the force,'' we kept hoping for a gust of wind to blow her hairdo a little to the right so we could see Bill.
Up to this point, Bill's was a rather piecemeal television debut. Possibly the various fragments of him that had been shown could be isolated from videotape and could be shaped into some sort of composite that we might recognize. But just as we were despairing of ever seeing him fully assembled, the Channel 7 camera scanned the line of all the graduates. And there was Bill.
Now everyone was proud and happy.
I later heard that my dad, who had attended the graduation, was also visible on the Channel 7 segment. I didn't see him. Most likely he was briefly glimpsed between strands of reporter's hair. That's not to cast aspersions on her hairdo; it looked very nice. But it seemed to have sufficient breadth to hide my entire family, or so I perceived it in my anxious state.
It's quite an exciting experience to see a brother appear on television. At times I have thought of getting rid of my set, but now I think I will keep it -- as long as they continue to show my relatives.