From Cage to Stage: Day 1 - Meet the Chihuahuas
This April in Columbia, MO Stephens College will be producing Legally Blonde: The Musical. The show has multiple roles for humans, and one role for a chihuahua. Stephens College partners with Columbia Second chance in a program that allows students to provide foster homes for rescue animals. I am a theatre major at Stephens College that has been living in the pet dorms for all three years I have been in attendance. Columbia Second Chance has provided me with two foster chihuahuas to train for the role. The goal is to have both performance ready so that they can both have a weekend of shows to be seen and adopted. One may emerge as a better candidate for the stage, and if this is the case the other will act as the dog version of an understudy. Columbia Second Chance and the Stephens College Theatre Department also hope to organize an adoption event in correlation with the performance, boosting the number of audience members for the theatre and hopefully resulting in a large number of adoptions. The two chihuahuas selected for this task will serve as ambassadors for rescue dogs, highlighting the idea that with the right attention a dog that may not be initially perfect can rise to great heights.
Gertie and Maude
Gertie and Maude (whose name is shared with the famous actress Maude Adams, whose picture has a permanent place on the back wall of the Macklanberg Playhouse where Legally Blonde will be performed) are the two chihuahuas selected for this project. They were both mama dogs for a commercial dog breeder who recently decided to relinquish 40 animals to Columbia Second Chance.
Both dogs have no training prior to this project - they are not even house trained. They also face additional difficulties because of their limited exposure to a world outside a cage. For instance, today Gertie learned to walk down a flight of stairs for the first time.
Gertie appears to be the older of the two, and definitely thinks she's in charge. She is a bossy little dog, but she is as sweet as can be to people. Since we arrived at my dorm room at she has been eating up every bit of attention she can get. One of the main challenges with her is that she has separation anxiety - she barks when I am not in the room. Hopefully this will abate as she realizes that I return on a schedule and will not leave her alone for hours on end.
Maude is going to be more of a challenge, but the results have the potential to be tremendously rewarding. Maude is terribly shy around people. She gets very shaky and runs away if you try to pick her up. Once you are holding her she does not struggle, but she remains tense. However, she is very good with my own dog, Lily, and even approached Lily to play when they first met. I have seen glimpses of a wonderful little personality in Maude and I can not wait for more of that personality to emerge,
Today was a long day for all four of us (me, my dog Lily, Gertie, and Maude). Gertie and Maude were transported from the commercial breeder to a wonderful little pet store on the corner of Nifong and Providence called Lizzie and Roco's Natural Pet Market. The store is locally owned by Jessica and Kyle Schlosser. Jessica, who is redistributing seven dogs to foster homes today, was wonderfully helpful. After coaxing Gertie and Maude out of their kennel (and trying to determine which one was which), Jessica let the dogs explore the pet store until they were comfortable with their new surroundings. By the time we were ready to leave Gertie and Maude were trotting confidently around the store and Lily had decided she was in doggie heaven.
Let me tell you something. Trying to walk two chihuahuas that have never seen a leash and a puppy who has had the laws of leash walking pounded into her poor ADHD brain simultaneously is trickier than one might think. I ended up with a chihuahua under each arm, football style. Gertie and Maude will also be going on a much needed diet while in my care. Much needed for their health and the well being of my weak little arms.
Everyone got a hearty meal of dry dog kibble (yum yum) and there was only minimal growling and carrying on. Then one at a time they all got a bath. Gertie put up a heck of a fight, and it is when you have a slippery wet chihuahua doing everything in its power to leap out of a bathtub elevated four feet off of the ground that you realize how delicate the balance between life and death is for an animal of that size. Fortunately my soothing words made her chill the heck out (maybe I should be a dog therapist?) and we got through the bath with everyone's life intact. My bad for thinking bathing a 4 pound animal would be easy. Maude was too scared to put up any sort of fight. So that was a real treat after what Gertie put me through. And then my lovely dog loves water so that was even better.
Whew. So then we all went out on a nice walk. Gertie in her shining moment discovered her ability to conquer the stairs. Maude discovered her ability to conquer standing absolutely still while being dragged by a leash across a concrete sidewalk. Needless to say I gave up that fight very quickly and carried her the rest of the way. My arms are strengthening as we speak.
Once we got inside all that walking made the critters need to pee. Which Gertie did. On my floor.
Got that cleaned up. Got the chihuahuas situated. Everyone (except me! I'm still truckin') passed out into a deep sleep.
I wanted to share with you what the future holds for these doggies, so that you can join us for the ride. Here is a list of things I would like to achieve with the chihuahuas before they make their stage debut.
>no anxiety in regards to sudden movement, large crowds, loud noises, etc.
>no anxiety of strangers
>pottying will only happen outside
>no "chihuahua-ing" (standing on back legs with paws up in the air to get attention) unless asked to do so
>nice leash manners for Maude
>master the stairs for Maude
>Hit a specific mark
>Do all of this in the midst of a large number of singing and dancing actors
>Achieve a healthy weight
>Increase muscle mass to a normal level
There are 51 days until the opening of Legally Blonde: The Musical on April 26. There is a lot of work to be done. Follow our progress here as I update you on the latest achievements of our two chihuahua friends. I hope to include videos and photographs in all my posts. Let's see what these rescue pups are made of!
Interested in adopting Gertie or Maude? They will be available to go to a new home on May 3, 2013. Fill out an application at columbia2ndchance.org!
Want tickets to see Gertie and Maude on stage? Call the Stephens College Box Office at (573) 876-7199 to reserve tickets.
You can also follow Gertie and Maude's progress on my blog , which will be updated regularly between now and May 3, 2013.