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Dalmatians go from shelter to show business

101 dalmatians

The Walt Disney movie, “101 Dalmatians,” led to a pretty well-documented surge in their popularity, followed by a surge in members of the  breed being dropped off at shelters and rescues.

When it comes to the musical version of “101 Dalmatians,” though, some abandoned dalmatians actually got rescued — sprung to take part in the play’s final production number.

The cast of the musical “101 Dalmatians,”  includes 15 dalmatians, most of whom were procured at shelters by Florida animal trainer Joel Slaven oversees, according to the Los Angeles Time’s Unleashed blog.

The musical, which begins its national tour this month in Minneapolis, ends with a three-minute finale — a song written by Dennis DeYoung, a founding member of the band Styx — in which only dogs are on the stage. It’s the only time actual dogs appear in the play, in which humans play the roles of dogs.

Slaven said dalmatians were overbred to meet public demand for the breed after the Disney movie. As a result, the breed, health and behavior problems among them grew more prevalent. “People got the dogs, couldn’t afford vet bills, found the dogs untrainable, or didn’t get along with kids,” he said.

Slaven said he chose high spirited dogs, less likely to be adopted dogs for the performance. “These are the outgoing, playful, confident dogs — the dogs that aren’t going to be happy laying on someone’s couch each day,” he said. “They’re the ones chewing and barking because they want to be doing something.” 

Slaven hopes to find permanent owners for the dogs at the end of the tour, slated to run through at least June 2010. If  any don’t end up with homes, he says he’ll bring them back to his ranch.


Comment from Anne’n’Spencer
Time October 12, 2009 at 7:46 am

If you love dogs, and if the Disney stuff didn’t impress you, you owe it to yourself to find and read the original book, “101 Dalmatians” by Dodie Smith. It’s just so much better than the pablum-ized version. Fear, terror, adventure, romance, humor, cliff-hanging chapters, maternal love–it’s all in there. If you’re very fortunate, there will be a six-year-old around for you to share it with, but even if there isn’t–find it and read it anyway. My godfather sent me a copy from London when I was just six, and I still have it. It’s sitting on my bookshelf where I can see it right now. Having shared its delights with two children, I am saving it for future grandchildren, who aren’t born or even started yet. And if you love Pit Bulls, you’ll enjoy the book’s portrayal of the Staffordshire Terrier who helps in the massive rescue effort.