Forget the Mel Gibson look-alike.

Not that actor James Andrew isn't convincing as Utah's answer to the Australian hearthrob's popular "Road Warrior" character, cruising around the state in a specially modified '69 Chevy Malibu.But it's his sidekick - a mixed-breed dog named Hoover - that steals the spotlight in a series of Utah Department of Transportation anti-litter television commercials scheduled to begin airing Monday.

The role of trusty companion was a natural for Hoover, who has served several seasons with the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Search and Rescue team alongside his owner, Dan Davis.

Hoover teams up with actor Andrew in three television commercials, riding in the Malibu through some of Utah's most spectacular scenery as the stoic Road Warrior surveys the trash accumulating along the highway.

His scene-stealing comes in the first commercial, when a human passenger, whose punk-style hair makes him look more like an animal than Hoover, tosses a soda can out the car window.

Hoover swings his head toward the window and whimpers. Alerted, the Road Warrior slams on the brakes, throws the car into reverse and boots the passenger out of the car.

Here's where Hoover really struts his stuff: He jumps out of the car and retrieves the can as the dazed passenger watches. Back in the car, Hoover gives the Road Warrior the can, which is promptly deposited in a litter bag.

In the other two commercials, Hoover is limited to sitting between the Road Warrior and a young lady who accepts a ride in the Malibu rather than go home with a litterer and staring sadly at a pile of trash at a road stop.

Hoover behaved like a professional throughout the shooting, even though it was his first appearance before cameras, according to Fotheringham & Associates, the advertising agency handling the campaign.

He even allowed his fur to be doused with hair mousse and spray, and a mechanic's bandana to be tied around his neck to give him a more "mongrel" appearance.

Davis, who works as a marketing representative when not on duty with the search and rescue team, said Hoover got his break because of a newspaper classified ad Davis saw while searching for a new job.

Now, Davis hopes that Hoover has found a niche in acting that will be profitable for both of them. Not bad for a dog due to be destroyed when an old girlfriend of Davis' decided he would make a great gift.

Even Davis thought of giving up Hoover - named for the vacuum cleaner brand because of his eating habits - but thought better when he saw how quickly Hoover picked up tricks.

Besides the traditional "sit, lie down and roll over" school of pet tricks, Hoover hits the ski slopes with Davis, riding up a ski lift and jumping onto Davis' back when they reach the top.

Hoover has also participated in several search and rescue activities, leading Davis and other searchers to stranded hikers and the bodies of two drowning victims.