We’ve all had the misfortune of suffering through some inconsiderate audience members while enjoying ourselves at a theatre. There’s that one person that has to spoil main plot twists or the ever-annoying social media addict that’s glued to their phones with screens blasting on a 100% brightness. But have you ever met a dog in the audience?
The Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada hosted a very special kind of audience, a group of adorable service dogs. On August 15, the Stratford Festival shared a gallery of photos on their Twitter account with the caption, “We had some pawsitivly adorable audience members from K-9 Country Inn Service Dogs during last week’s Relaxed Performance of #sfBillyElliot.”
The team of canines were from K-9 Country Inn Service Dogs, a Service dog training Program that specializes “in programs for first responders, front line workers, and victims of trauma with PTSD”. The working dogs probably enjoyed the music and pretty sights, but they were actually on a training plan. They were brought to the Relaxed Performance of “Billy Elliot the Musical” to learn proper theatre behaviour which involved a lot of sitting, quietly.
Laura MacKenzie, the woman behind K-9 Country Inn Working Service Dogs, revealed she’s been dog training for over 35 years. “I made the move to training service and guide dogs years ago because I wanted to give back to society and found a great need within the service dog industry,” she revealed. MacKenzie previously trained police dogs, personal protection dogs, herding dogs, etc. “It’s important to prepare the dogs for any activity the handler may like to attend,” she said.
Who are the Service Dogs Watching Billy Elliot?
This adorable canine pack are from the dog training provider, K-9 Country Inn Working Service Dogs. K-9 Country Inn aims to support first responders, veterans, and civilians suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The performance that the pups were observing was also special and as the theatre calls it, relaxed. Their site describes the relaxed performances like this:
“Relaxed performances are specifically designed to welcome patrons who will benefit from a less restricted audience environment. Patrons of all abilities are welcome, including but not limited to those with intellectual or learning disabilities, sensory processing conditions or autism. There is a relaxed attitude to noise and movement within the auditorium, and some minor production changes may be made to reduce the intensity of light, sound and other potentially startling effects. Babes in arms are also welcome to our relaxed performances.”
It’s not the first time that dogs have been seen having a good time in weird and wonderful places.
A cinema in Planto, Texas, became the first in the world to allow dog-lovers to attend the movies along with their pets.
With this in mind, having the service dogs there is actually a huge help to the performers. In Billy Elliott, there are tons of child actors. This specific situation helps the child actor get used to seeing animals in the audience. It’s a win-win!
A Stratford Festival spokesperson told CBC that the festival hosts guests with service dogs several times a 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,” the spokesperson said.
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