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Tag: production

Muttcracker? Sweet!

One of the ballerinas in this year’s Birmingham Ballet rendition of a Christmastime classic can’t turn her head, manages her pirouettes despite a fused spine, and finds her inspiration in bacon flavored treats.

Her name is Pig, and she is one of the dogs featured in “The Mutt-cracker Suite,” which the Alabama ballet company has been putting on for five years to raise money for the Birmingham Humane Society.

Pig, who wears a pink tutu throughout the performance, was born with a rare affliction known as short spine syndrome.

Despite that, “She’s a petite, dainty package of joy,” said Cindy Free, director of the Birmingham Ballet.

pigtheunusual“We love having her in the show. She was perfect for the [role],” Free told Inside Edition.

A portion of every ticket for “Mutt-Cracker” goes to the Greater Birmingham Humane Society.

Pig plays the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy’s on-stage companion, and she’s one of 29 dogs in this year’s production.

The three-year-old border collie mix also appeared in last year’s “Mutt-Cracker” production.

“She has been working on her pirouettes since last year, and she’s gotten them pretty well,” Free said, “especially if you offer her bacon-chicken strips.”

You can learn about Pig at the Pig the Unusual Dog Facebook page.

(Photo: Facebook)

The carbon pawprint: Time to tax the dog?

Hummer ace11

A tax on dog ownership? Perish the thought.

But before we perish the thought of a dog tax — an idea being bandied about at the same time that giving pet owners a tax break is being pushed — we’ll at least afford it some further discussion.

The toll dogs take on the environment — their carbon pawprint, so to speak — is the subject of two recent books, Time to Eat the Dog and Eating Animals. The case that the family dog — primarily because of what it takes to make his dog food — puts a bigger strain on the environment than a road-hogging SUV received some further discussion this week on the website, Ohmygov!

 Ohmygov! (no relation to ohmidog!) is a news website founded by a government executive, a government contractor, and an  investigative journalist to “capture the passion and frustration that only government inspires.”

The ohmygov! piece says the numbers cited in “Time to Eat the Dog” appear solid. “The math may check out. A preliminary independent study has confirmed the claim, much to the chagrin of hippies everywhere. Man’s best friend is Mother Earth’s worst enemy … 

“All told, a 50-pound dog monopolizes two acres of land every year for food production alone. If you feed your dog beef or lamb, that figure is even higher.”

That means my dog is monopolizing five acres a year. Then again, he is supporting the American farmer, not to mention the city of Baltimore. Those of us who pay to license and register our dogs are under the impression we’re already paying something pretty close to a tax, even if it’s not called that.

Still, the ohymgov! piece makes some valid points, and in a pretty level-headed manner — one that even gives a nod to all those “priceless” components of having a canine companion:

“A vehicle won’t lower your blood pressure, or give you an excuse to get out and exercise.  A vehicle doesn’t help fight against depression or protect you from an intruder, and try as you may, you simply can’t teach your SUV to fetch.  Is it time to tax our dogs?  Probably not.  But perhaps it’s time to look beyond the old evils when searching for the answers to our ecological problems.”

Chitty Chitty Woof Woof

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the whimsical musical that opened at Baltimore’s Hippodrome this week, features eight dogs in the cast — all owned, in real life, by a former circus performer who turns abandoned dogs into show biz dogs.

Joanne Wilson is the trainer, handler and owner of Samantha (who stars as Edison in the play) and the other seven dogs with supporting roles.

The musical, which runs through Jan. 18, focuses on a whimsical family of inventors trying to harness the powers of a magical car. That has little to do with dogs, admits Ray Roderick, the director who adapted the Broadway show into the touring production, but he decided to include them as an homage to the 1968 movie, which was peppered with pooches.

“Everyone says never work with children or dogs,” Roderick told the Baltimore Sun. “Clearly, I disagree.”

In the show, the pack of dogs bursts onto the stage and sprints across it at full speed, controlled by a hot dog that Wilson is holding offstage.

Wilson, a longtime animal trainer, began rescuing dogs from the streets after leaving the circus, which led her and her sister to establishing Wonder Dogs, a program that rescues dogs from shelters and turns them into show dogs.

Any dog that can no longer perform remains with the Wilson sisters after retirement, their website says. 

The canine cast of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang includes Buddy, a rat terrier; Penny, a a Pomeranian, as well as Lucky, Bear, Cory, Percy and Sugar.

Wilson and her husband follow the show from town to town in their dog-filled van — including the eight dogs in the show, five more of Wilson’s other dogs and another that belongs to a cast member.

(Image from wilsondogs.com)

Stray dogs star in Croatian play

Stray dogs are playing star roles in a groundbreaking Croatian show that has won rave reviews for raising awareness about abandoned canines and homeless people.

The play is based on Paul Auster’s 1999 novel “Timbuktu,” a dog-narrated tale of a hobo poet and his canine companion, Mr. Bones, whose wanderings come to an end in Baltimore. (Auster was profiled in Salon about seven years ago.)

The Croation production, directed by Borut Separovic, premiered in Zagreb earlier this month.

The director cast a dozen strays from a Zagreb animal shelter, with the main role of “Kosta” (Mr. Bones) played by Cap, an eight-year-old champion border collie.

The play consists mainly of a 45-minute monologue by Mr. Bones, with narration provided by an actor from his chair in the audience. Mr. Bones, according to an AFP article, receives quiet orders from instructor Alen Marekovic in the front row as he recounts the story of his life with his deceased master Willy.

“It’s a story that emphasises the incredible love between a dog and his master, a homeless person,” Separovic told AFP.

“Timbuktu offers a therapeutic insight into how not to interpret democracy solely through rights, but also through responsibly and solidarity towards others.”

At one point, the 12 stray dogs come on stage, a net falls between them and the audience and the play switches to the style of a documentary. The narrator tells the audience: “These dogs have a story which resembles that of Kosta’s. We call on you to provide them a home. You can contact me after the show.”

“For me it was extremely important that real, abandoned dogs appear in the play and be given a chance to be adopted,” said Separovic.

Separovic stressed the play also aimed at focussing attention on the fate of homeless people, 12 of whom play a role from the audience.

The team hopes that all the stray dogs involved will be adopted during the 11 performances in October.

Separovic said he set out to enlighten audiences through the project, which he says he created for his 10-year-old daughter Katarina and dedicated to his 13-year-old black labrador Max.

“I would like young people to understand that it’s important to take care of others, those who are in a worse situation then we are,” he said.