Friday, December 16, 2005

From shelter to stage, an American success story

This morning I had the privilege of escorting Brian, dog trainer extraordinare, and Lola (aka Sandy in ANNIE) to a classroom at the Metropolitan Ministries Charter School. Twenty of these students were TBPAC’s guests at the Wednesday night performance of Annie. The kids were so well behaved, learned a lot and asked some great questions.

I learned a few things myself:
1. Lola clearly doesn’t answer to the name “Sandy.” So, on stage, Lola responds only to hand commands.
2. Marissa, the actress who plays Annie, has regular training time and play time with Lola to make sure that they are friends both on stage and off.
3. In the scene where Sandy appears to be lost in NYC, they get her to look from side to side (as though lost), by having two humans (one in each wing) use her favorite squeaky toys to get her attention from one side to the other and back again.
4. To make it look like Sandy is “injured” when Annie finds him, they put a small piece of tape on Lola’s foot. She doesn’t like the tape sticking to the floor, so she won’t put her foot all the way down. When Annie rescues him, she heals him by removing the tape.
5. You might notice my jumble of pronouns – that’s because Lola is a girl dog, who plays Sandy, a boy dog. What a great actress that dog is, to pull that off every night!
6. Lola was rescued from the Humane Society in Connecticut at 1 year old. After training for six years, she is on stage performing eight shows a week in ANNIE.
7. Lola has an understudy named Mike (also a rescue). Mike is only four, and Brian the trainer hopes that Lola doesn’t need the services of her understudy anytime too soon. Mike might not be 100% ready for a live show.

I am in awe of both Brian and Lola’s ability and dedication. I have one dog that I can’t even teach to sit. The other two, are only slightly more impressive. They get by on cute really. And, none of them bring home a paycheck!

But, I digress. It was a really cool way to spend the morning. It almost made me forget about my miserable head cold. A lot of other folks have much bigger challenges to contend with this holiday season, and thankfully, we were able to bring a tiny bit of Christmas joy to some kids who could really use it.

--Summer B.

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