The Stratford Festival Live Theatre has always been filled with cheers and applause from the audience until a crew of service dogs watched a live musical here.
A silent and well-behaved crowd of future service dogs took part in Ontario’s Stratford Festival and watched “Billy Elliot: The Musical.” According to head trainer Laura MacKenzie of K-9 Country Inn Working Service Dogs, this was a part of the dogs’ training as future service dogs. The dogs were expected to sit still and curl up at their handle’s feet while their human buddy is enjoying the show.
Apparently, all the dogs passed the challenge as they calmly watched the entire 162-minute musical without making any sound or moving about. They sat still in their respective seats, silently watched the live musical and stayed perfectly well-behaved.
This kind of training is essential for the dogs so they will be able to adapt to the environment for their future handlers. Specifically, the live musical show was a relaxed version of a typical performance so there are less flashing lights and less noise, allowing greater convenience for attendees with special needs.
Though the dogs were very silent and polite, it was apparent that they were also interested in the show. “Everybody in the audience was really interested,” Mackenzie said. “The theatre staff told us at first that even the stage people, the actors were kind of shocked when they saw the dogs. But, you know, the show must go on.”
The dogs’ interest in the live musical performance was not surprising since dogs have a musical sense, too. Psychologist Deborah Wells at Queens University said that dogs have definite musical preferences and a sense of pitch. “It is well established that music can influence our moods. Classical music, for example, can help to reduce levels of stress, whilst grunge music can promote hostility, sadness, tension and fatigue. It is now believed that dogs may be as discerning as humans when it comes to musical preference,” Wells explained.
More than their musical interest; however, what amazed Mackenzie the most was the way the dogs behaved. She said, “We were pleasantly surprised that all of our dogs did great. We had no problems. No barking, no restlessness; they did their jobs, so it made us feel great.”
Mackenzie also mentioned that they take the dogs to various places such as subways, crowded fairs and zoos as part of their training. It will take the dogs two years to complete their training and Mackenzie admits that training the dogs is not easy.
“We have a group of handlers and we try to take them to all different kinds of venues with different kinds of stimuli for the dogs. Once they’re certified, we know that they’re confident going anywhere with their owners,” Mackenzie stated.
In October, a new crew of canine buddies will come to the theater for another relaxing live musical performance and probably some theatrical magic. “The dogs were extremely well behaved. We hope they will join us for years to come,” said Ann Swedfager of the Stratford Festival.
A lot of people found this adorable event amazing and Mackenzie hopes that this will change the image of service animals and show just how dynamic they are.
Mackenzie said, “I hope that people just understand what a service dog is and what it can do for the community. There’s been lots of bad press about service dogs and face service dogs. There is a need for this. They’re not pets, they’re working animals.”
Photos : K-9 Country Inn Working Service Dogs