What it's like to be stage mom - to a DOG!

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Being a concert pianist and having the experience of performing in many countries and concert venues, I know very well what it's like to be in the spotlight and get lots of attention, and quite honestly, I never grow tired of it. However, my dog, Sanchez, obviously had enough of playing second fiddle to the limelight. Sanchez has always loved a great deal of attention and thinks the world should revolve around him. Keep in mind, he has never lacked getting attention. When he was a puppy in training for Guide Dogs for the Blind, he even wore a green jacket that said his job description, but it might have well said, "Look at me, I'm the cutest thing in the world". Teenage girls would come up to us screaming "He's SO cute!!!"

When he was career changed at 18 months of age, his day job changed to being the mascot at my music school and greeting students all day. As far as he is concerned, the more the merrier, and when they bring treats for him, well he thinks he's earned it with such a tough job. He also gets lots of attention at agility trials with his very unique quirks and style.

But, I am convinced that he finally found his calling when he auditioned for a local play as "Beau" - Helen Keller's dog in The Miracle Worker. Keep in mind that this was local theater, so not only were the actors not professionals (albeit very talented amateurs), but there certainly weren't any professional dog wranglers on hand. When I went to pick him up after the first rehearsal, I asked how he did. I was told he was great, until he ate the cake. I asked where the cake was and was told it was part of the scene and was left on the floor. My response, "Did you forget that he's a dog, and a lab at that?" Needless to say, the cake was taken out of the scene.

His job was to sit calmly on stage while he was handed to Helen Keller and she had her hands all over him and then eventually signed on the bottom of his paw and then dunked his paw in water. His guide dog training really helped here (minus the cake episode), as he could do that without any problem. After repeated nights of rehearsals, the play finally opened (for a month long run on weekends) and I saw him sit with his back to the audience (facing Helen Keller) and it's then that he realized there were people in the audience watching him. He moved his head slowly all the way around to the right, and then slowly all the around to the left, as if to say "You watching me?" He kept getting better and better at his role, and I couldn't really figure out why, except that I think the actors got better at handling him. Let's just say that they adore him, but their timing of delivering lines was a lot better than their timing of praise and rewards for him. What the audience didn't see, that I still find impressive, is what went on backstage. He was in a kennel backstage (in the dark) while he was hearing all sorts of raucous taking place on stage - furniture throwing, Helen Keller throwing extreme temper tantrums, food fights, and even a rooster call. He was as calm and unaffected as you could ever dream a dog could be. Even I was impressed. That's really where his Guide Dog training showed up. I like to think that the music of Through a Dog's Ear (www.ThroughADogsEar.com) has also helped him remain quiet and calm too.

Anyhow, all was fine until closing night, when the cake (in an earlier scene) fell apart and crumbs were all over the stage, in exactly where Sanchez was supposed to sit calmly. As soon as he entered the stage, I saw his eyes working like a magnet towards those crumbs. The woman playing Annie Sullivan saw him going for it and fell out of character with laughter. Keep in mind that the actors are supposed to be delivering lines when he's on stage, not giving him commands (except subtle hand signals). Then he just lied down, started licking up all the crumbs, and does what he does when he's happy and relaxed - he stretched his legs straight behind him in a frog position. Well, by then, the entire audience was cracking up. Somehow Helen Keller was able to pick up his paw and dunk it in water, but by then nobody in the audience could do anything except laugh. Now he's telling me that he wants to play Marley in the stage version of Marley & Me.