Monday, June 28, 2010

Enter, Stage Right: Career Change Dog Humbolt On Stage with the San Francisco Opera

GDB career change dog, Humbolt, a stunning 11 year-old white German Shepherd, was recently cast as a battle dog in the San Francisco Opera's production of "Die Walkure." Here's his story behind his fun adventure, submitted by his adopter and handler, Blancett Reynolds.

Humbolt pictured with Baritone Mark Delavan
Humboldt's career change from Guide Dogs over 10 years ago opened the door for him to be a competition agility dog and a demo dog for the competition agility classes that I teach at Ace Dog Sports in San Francisco. Humboldt has been retired from agility competition for a couple of years, but still does a little bit of agility for fun (you can see him in action during the half time show of the Stanford Women's Basketball Team on YouTube).

Humboldt's current adventure in San Francisco Opera's production of "Die Walkure" started when a student at Ace Dog Sports with connections to the opera asked me if I knew any German Shepherds who could run across a raked stage that was surfaced like a subway grate. I knew Humboldt would love to be in front of an audience (he had been on stage before in a comedy sketch), so I brought him down to audition. With all the different surfaces Humboldt had experienced while a puppy in the Guide Dog program, and the surfaces he was exposed to in agility prep, Humboldt didn't have a problem accepting the stage surface. He got the job of one of two dogs who run across the stage during the climactic battle scene in which Siegmund is killed by Hunding. (Humbolt is pictured here with Baritone Mark Delavan, who plays Woton in the production.)

Humboldt is getting the star treatment at SF Opera and loves it. He walks into the Opera House backstage area with his Kong in his mouth, greeting all his new friends and checks himself in for his performance calls. Right before he goes on stage there are thunder/lightening cues, and trombones blaring right behind him in the wings, none of which bother him at all. A moment before his entrance, Humboldt gets very excited (and sometimes barks!) and tries to pull the props person holding him in the wings forward before he is released (with his new dog friend and co-star, Milo) to run across the stage to his waiting handler. After their dash across the stage, the actors rush in behind the dogs and start fighting. There is always a murmuring response from the audience as the dogs run across the stage. Humboldt loves it and gets faster with each performance. Not bad for an 11 year-old German Shepherd!

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