Cutter, The Show Dog
Cutter gave one thump of his tail when Pa John walked up to his winged back chair and sat down with his cup of tea. The old man reached down and scratched the old dog’s head which was resting on his front paws on the floor at the foot of the chair. Thump went the tail once more.
Just then, Sarah came running in to the living room and clambered up into her Pa John’s lap with a squeal of excited laughter. She gave him a big hug around his neck. “Whoa, what’s all this about?”, said Grandpa as Sarah kissed his cheek.
“ We’re going to auditions today!”, said Sarah. Sarah’s dad walked into the room buttoning up his coat.
“Dad, why don’t you take Cutter for a walk while I take Sarah into school. You could both use the exercise.”, said Sarah’s father.
Pa John looked up and smiled. “We don’t do exercise. My knees hurt and Cutter is older than I am. Not a pup any more are you, Boy.” Thump went the tail on the floor.
“Why don’t you come with us and watch me sing?”, said Sarah putting on her coat.
“Well I wouldn’t miss that for the world.”, said Pa John pushing himself out of his chair. “Can Cutter come? You know how he loves to ride in the car.”
“It’s not exercise…”, said Dad ”but ok, let’s go.”. So Pa John, Sarah, Sarah’s dad and Cutter loaded in the van and headed to the audition.
Sarah was so excited. The community theatre group was going to put on Annie, the musical, and Sarah wanted to play the lead role Annie so much she could barely breathe. When they called her name, she walked up and on to centre stage. As the pianist began to play she began to sing. Sarah’s dad beamed with pride. Pa John nodded his head and wiped a tear from his eye. Cutter sat up in the aisle and thumped his tail two times. When Sarah returned to her family, her father hugged her and whispered in her ear,” You are the best.”.
Later, after the last singer finished, the director’s assistant walked up the aisle to their row. “Very nice audition, Sarah.”
“Thank you.”, smiled Sarah.
“Is your dog ready to audition now?”, he asked.
“Oh, he isn’t here for that.”, said Pa John. “He’s too old…just along for the ride really. Cutter is no show dog.”
“He looks like the Sandy we need if he’s not too excitable.”, said the director’s assistant.
“Oh he’s not excitable at all!”, said Sarah as she took Cutter’s lead and headed to the stage.
But to be Sandy, Cutter had to be able to walk onto stage from the wings up to an actor playing the part of Annie and sit next to her on centre stage without being distracted. The director’s assistant told Sarah to hold him offstage in the wings and let him go when she called for him. Sarah knelt next to Cutter in the wings and said,
” Ok, Cutter, I want you to walk out there and be a star.”
When the director’s assistant called,” Here Boy, come on, here Boy!”, Cutter took three steps onto the stage, stopped to look at the vast open area of the theatre, and then turned around and walked back to Sarah.
“Oh well,”, said a voice from the back of the theatre,” He did look the part.”.
“Wait.”, said Pa John walking up the aisle to the director’s assistant. “Give him one of these. He’ll do anything for a cookie.” And he handed two small snack treats to the woman at centre stage.
She walked back into the wings, knelt down next to Sarah and Cutter, and gave the dog one of the treats. The assistant scratched Cutter behind his ear and told him,” All right Boy, let’s try this once more, ok?”. She walked back to centre stage and called,
” Here Boy, come on, here Boy!”. This time Cutter walked three steps onto the stage, stopped and looked out into the vastness of the theatre, and walked straight up to the director’s assistant, and sat down. When the assistant knelt down and put her arm over his shoulder and said, ”Good Boy!”, Cutter raised his paw to shake hands and thumped his tail on the stage once.
As she gave Cutter the second treat, the director in the back of the theatre said,
” Right. Looks like we have our Sandy.”. Sarah clapped from the wings and the other actors in the audience applauded. Cutter smiled and thumped his tail again.
Pa John leaned over to Sarah’s dad and said,” I never saw him shake hands before. Who taught him to do that?”.
So Cutter got the role of Sandy in the musical Annie and Sarah became one of the orphan girls in the Chorus. Pa John drove them to rehearsals every night. During the show many strange things happened to Cutter. He’d get very excited every night to go to rehearsals and actually run and jump into Pa John’s car. At the theatre, he’d wag his tail and say hello to all his new actor friends. Even his old dog coat improved. His hair glistened a beautiful golden tan like a puppy. And like a puppy, he’d bring his leash to Pa John every day so they would take an exercise walk. Even Pa John’s knees didn’t hurt anymore. Cutter always made his cues during the show. He always shook hands with Annie on centre stage. And he always barked once and thumped his tail when the audiences gave the cast a standing ovation.
After every show, Cutter would come home, slowly step out of the car and walk stiffly to the foot of Pa John’s chair and curl up for the night.
When the curtain came down on the closing night of Annie, Pa John and Sarah’s father were a little worried that Cutter would go back to being his old dog self. But that never happened. Sarah decided to audition for every show put on by the local theatre company. And through the years, as it turned out, there were many plays and musicals that had parts for old Cutter.
In Brigadoon, Cutter walked sadly behind Harry Beaton’s funeral procession with his head and tail down. When they laid Harry Beaton’s body on the stage, Cutter laid down and crossed his paws on Harry’s chest as the bagpipes started to play. There wasn’t a dry eye in the audience.
Cutter was Petruchio’s dog in Taming of the Shrew. When Petruchio brought Kate home after their marriage to the disarray of his palacio, and started throwing plates of food on the floor, the servants would run from Petruchio in terror. Cutter would scuttle back and forth on stage barking at the servants.
In Peter Pan, Cutter played the part of Nana. He wore a nurses floppy hat, and would sheppard baby John around on the floor. He whined pitifully when Father dragged him offstage to be chained up.
In the musical Camelot, King Pellinore’s rather seedy mongrel named Horrid was perfect for Cutter. The costumer put leaves, twigs and bits of netting and flotsam all over his coat. He looked as ragged as King Pellinore’s rusted armour. And the best part of that show, as far as Cutter was concerned, is that Pa John played Pellinore and Sarah played the beautiful Queen Guinevere!
So, Pa John had been wrong so many years earlier when he said that Cutter was too old…and he wasn’t a show dog. Old Cutter turned out to be the best show dog around.
And he always barked once and wagged his tail whenever the audience gave him a standing ovation.