Therapy dogs are show stoppers at Westport Playhouse
It was "ruff" getting around town because of Sunday afternoon's snow, but that didn't stop scores of families from heading out to see performances of "Dog Loves Books" at Westport Country Playhouse -- and visit with therapy dogs on hand for the occasion.
Based on The New York Times bestseller by Louise Yates, the musical production tells the story of a dog who loves everything about books and even opens his own bookstore. But no customers come and "Dog" is alone in his store. But he comes to realize that as long as he has books, he is never alone. After Dog reads many of the books, he knows which ones to recommend when, eventually, people begin to visit.
Between the two performances of the show, patrons were invited to visit nearly a dozen therapy dogs in the Lucille Lortel White Barn Center on the playhouse property.
Those canine stars included: Sadie, a 2-year-old Golden Doodle recently named the winner of the annual Westport "Top Dog" contest by Westport Animal Shelter Advocates; Brasil, an 8-year-old dog that works with autistic children and who has been featured on television four times, and Zoey, a 5-year-old retired racing Greyhound that will soon be visiting patients at Griffin Hospital in Derby.
Among the other dogs were puppies in training to become therapy dogs, like Cashew, a 6-month-old Labrador who will join a Guiding Eyes for the Blind service team, according to his handler Debbie Fritz-Bradeen, who raises and trains puppies for that organization.
Peter Chenot, the theater's new director of marketing, was among those at the event. Chenot, who previously worked at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, said of the playhouse: "It's a very attractive place to come to. Very reputable, a beautiful place. I have admired the programs here, particularly the work Mark Llamos and Michael Ross have been doing."
Chenot said that Beth Huisking, the playhouse's general manager, had suggested bringing the therapy dogs to complement the musical performances. Chenot, the owner of a 7-year-old dog named Rhody, embraced the idea.
"I love waking up and the dog is there, or coming home from a long day and he's excited to see me," said Chenot of Rhody. "It's a grounding moment of the day."