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 sound – not even a woof.
A polite crowd of about a dozen future service dogs attended an August performance at Ontario’s Stratford Festival as part of their training. While a silent curtain call might disappoint actors, the dogs’ spellbound stillness is a great sign for their future handlers.
The event was part of a two-year training program by K-9 Country Inn Working Service Dogs, head trainer Laura MacKenzie told CNN. The future service dogs have toured zoos, subways and crowded fairs to acclimate them to the unfamiliar lights and sounds, rapid movements and bustling crowds they might encounter with their handler, she said.
At the theater, the dogs are expected to sit under the seat or curl up at their handlers’ feet while their humans enjoy the show, she said.
They stayed calm and quiet throughout the performance, but a few curious pups peeked their furry heads over the seats to catch a few minutes of the show, she said.
Ann Swerdfager of the Stratford Festival told CNN that many of the theater’s patrons bring their service dogs to performances, so the company was “thrilled” to host the dogs for training.
The non-profit theater company hosts “relaxed performances” designed for audiences sensitive to light, sound and noise – a perfect training ground for service-dog hopefuls.
A new crew of canine companions will return to the theater in October for another relaxed performance and maybe a glimpse of theatrical magic, Swerdfager said.
“The dogs were extremely well behaved,” she said. “We hope they will join us for years to come.”