A group of service dogs go viral for hilariously sitting through a live performance of Billy Elliot as part of their training
When the cast of a Canadian production of “Billy Elliot: The Musical” took their final bow after a recent show, the audience didn’t make a single…woof. But don’t be fooled, these adorable service dogs are actually in training!
Social Media has gone crazy for these hilarious photos featuring all kinds of dogs patiently waiting in their seats while they watched a production of Billy Elliot at the Stratford Festival in Southern Ontario last week.
ICYMI: We had some pawsitivly adorable audience members from K-9 Country Inn Service Dogs during last weeks Relaxed Performance of #sfBillyElliot. Our Next Relaxed Performance is #sfNeverending on October 2nd. https://t.co/xaBwx65W8J pic.twitter.com/otyNjm5pUS
— Stratford Festival (@stratfest) August 15, 2019
The service dogs, ranging from Golden Retrievers to poodles, were actually at the show to practice helping their owners move throughout a theater (but it helped that they looked super cute while doing so!).
“It’s important to prepare the dogs for any activity the handler may like to attend,” Laura Mackenzie, owner and head trainer with K-9 Country Inn Working Service Dogs, told CBC radio.
“The theatre gives us the opportunity to expose the dogs to different stimuli such as lights, loud noises and movement of varying degrees. The dogs must remain relaxed in tight quarters for an extended period of time.”
These dogs have to help their handlers navigate anything an average attendee would, such as fit into bathrooms, move through tight areas and safely navigate through a crowd, CBC reported.
For dogs, the harder part is to do all of this while ignoring the other attendees and, of course, all the food.
The Stratford Festival includes various shows for the public. Billy Elliot is considered one of the more “relaxed performances,” which CBC says is for “people who need softer lighting and gentler sounds, who tend to vocalize during the performances, or who need to move around, making the shows ideal for attendees on the autism spectrum, parents with infants or young children, or people who need to get up during a show.”
While the dogs pose a huge help for their handlers, having them in the audience is also helpful for the performers. For child actors, in which this particular show has many, bringing the dog trainees in is a good way to accustom the actors to seeing the animals in the audience.
“Everybody was so thrilled to see all these dogs at one time in the audience. It’s really exciting. And it’s thrilling to be part of something that is going to serve theatre-goers of the future,” said Stratford Festival spokesperson Ann Swerdfager, adding that many service dogs attend the performances each week.
“It’s wonderful that going to the theatre is considered one of the things that you want to train a service dog for, rather than thinking that theatre is out of reach for people who require a service animal, because it isn’t,” she continued.
Mackenzie told CBC that the pups were “fantastic and remained relaxed throughout the performance.”
She hopes to bring in another group of trainees soon, seeing that they loved the performance so much — “Some even watched through the cracks of the seats …. The dogs loved the show almost as much as their handlers.”