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I Spot Trouble
Why I think "The 101 Dalmatians Musical" is a bad idea.
My rescue Dalmatian, Jolie

When I first heard about "The 101 Dalmatians Musical," my first thought was, "Does everything have to be turned into a musical?" On a more serious note, I worry that there will be a surge in popularity for this breed just like what happened in the late '90s when Disney's live-action remake of "101 Dalmatians" came out followed by a popular sequel, "102 Dalmatians." Backyard breeders quickly took advantage of the demand, creating too many Dalmatians for too few appropriate homes. Also, since they were breeding indiscriminantly, aggression and health issues became increasingly common in the breed.

As the owner of two rescue Dalmatians and a member of the Dalmatian Club of America, I'll be the first to admit that these high-energy spotted dogs are not for everyone, especially families with young children. And yet, the "101 Dalmatians" franchise is geared toward kids. If you ever want to attract a child's attention, try walking a Dalmatian past him or her. All the kids in my neighborhood know my two Dalmatians by name but never fawn over my other three dogs (two mixes and a Catahoula). I try to use it as an opportunity to educate them about the breed's need for lots of physical and mental exercise. 

Do you think popular films and stage productions starring a specific breed encourage people to get a dog like that?


Julia Kamysz Lane, owner of Spot On K9 Sports and contributing editor at The Bark, is the author of multiple New Orleans travel guides, including Frommer’s New Orleans Day by Day (3rd Edition). Her work has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Poets and Writers and Publishers Weekly.

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Submitted by Jeanette | October 12 2009 |

Yes, they certainly do. People don't do their homework before buying a dog either for themselves or worse, as a "gift" for someone else. There is an overwhelming thought that all dogs come trained as well as the ones in movies....reality is, very few dogs can do what those in movies can and most dogs in movies are actually played by several real life dogs. Even when Marley was at an age where he was no longer growing, there were 3 or 4 doggie actors playing him in the movie.

Then again, look how popular breeds become after winning Westminster. I have more Beagles in my neighborhood now than I ever had before Uno won.

People need to realize that a LOT of work goes in to making doggie actors and that even they aren't perfect.

Submitted by Katherine | October 12 2009 |

As the owner of two rescue husky mixes, I know how you feel... I cringe every time a new "snow dogs"-type movie comes out. (When I walk my huskies past kids, that's what I hear: "Oooh, look! Snow dogs!") Like Dalmatians, huskies aren't for every household by any means, either, and so many of them end up either in shelters or inappropriately cared for by people who didn't do their breed research.

Interestingly enough, I don't remember a huge yellow lab craze as as a result of Marley & Me... is that because they were already so popular, or because Marley's behavior made people think again about the responsibilities of a puppy/dog? :D

Submitted by Angela | October 12 2009 |

I work with rescue group, and we feared the same scenario with the arrival of the Obama's dog. We are a dachshund rescue, but we listed one of our dogs on Petfinder as a Portuguese Water Dog mix...just to see what would happen...and we got HUNDREDS of hits in the first couple of days. Everybody was looking for an Obama dog! It is really sad that people don't research what they are getting into. It is so unfair to the dogs. We just pray they never make a movie about dachshunds!

Submitted by Anonymous | October 14 2009 |

Just so ya know, the man who provides the dogs originally did not want to have anything to do with the project because of the profound effect (you described) on the breed and it's propularity the movies had. But the production company told him that they would like to use rescue dogs, so he agreed.

The message is clear in all media I've seen regarding the musical, that the dogs are NOT for everyone, listing their specific needs and common issues. And encouraging that if they do decide a dalmatian is for them, to please check their local animal shelters first.

Just fyi =)

Submitted by Anonymous | October 14 2009 |

It's very important that folks get educated about how to obtain an animal for a pet. Best advice - get yourself educated! Find out what breeds you might be interested in, and research, research, research! Find out why the breed was developed, what health issues are known, what level of activity is required and whether the animal fits your lifestyle, including whether or not you can tolerate dirt, hair and slobber!

The most important part is to find yourself a responsible breeder if you are looking at a purebred. Be prepared to be 'vetted' by them. If they don't want to know everything about you and your family situation, run away - they are not responsible breeders.

Don't be swayed by pity for the poor little waifs in the pet store. You are asking for heartache, and if you buy one of these, it will be replaced by another poorly bred, poorly cared for product of a backyard breeder or worse - a factory farm for pets (aka 'puppy mill').

A rescue is a wonderful option for adoption, but remember that you are getting the dog's unknown history as well as giving him a home!

Submitted by Lacy | October 15 2009 |

I do think it encourages people who have no idea about the breed to get a dog like that, then end up taking the new dog to the shelter or dumping them because they don't end up like the well behaved dog actors. As a former owner of a dalmatian who passed on years ago, I can say the breed (like all of them) is definitely not for everyone and people need to do their research before bringing one into their home.

Submitted by Kris | October 15 2009 |

This is always a worrying scenario when a breed based movie(or musical in this case) comes out. Wouldn't it be nice if the makers would include some sort of warning in the program/ opening credits/ on the dvd box? I own two huskies and hold my breath every time they bring out a husky movie. Every time I walk them I do enjoy stopping to talk to all the kids who yell "snow dogs" over and over. But I also try and use that time as an opportunity to inform parents that while they are amazing dogs they are not for every home, and occasionally share the naughty stories of how my huskies ate the carpet, dug craters in the back yard, and of course the required daily running. I love my huskies and wouldn't have 'em any other way but I too wish people would learn about a breed before they pick one based on current popularity.

Submitted by lin | October 23 2009 |

I don't think it will make as huge an impact as a movie (or a presidential choice) since
1) Throughout most the show, the parts of the dogs are portrayed by humans (and the human characters will be on stilts so that they will be above the 'dogs'). The actual dogs will be featured in a three-minute finale

2)A theatrical production just doesn't reach as many people. At best, thousands, as opposed to millions, of people will see the show. I do hope they offer a disclaimer at the end of the show. That, in the intimacy of a theater, will probably have more of an impact than your standard PSA.

Submitted by Lacy | October 24 2009 |

This is horrible, I really hope they don't go through with this. I had a dalmatian years ago from a backyard breeder, because my parents didn't really know better about them at that time, and she ended up developing severe epilepsy and demodectic mange. I just see this musical making things as bad as they were after the Disney cartoon and live action movie. :/ And it's not fair to the dogs.

Submitted by Anonymous | October 28 2009 |

Now a musical? Ugh. Please leave the Dalmatians alone!

When people meet my Dal, they often say "you don't see Dalmatians very much any more" and after what happened to the breed when the Disney movies came out... I can't say this is such a bad thing.

My Dal was born & bred in Europe (and came to me after being rejected by the show circuit for being 1/2" too tall at the shoulder). In his country of origin, there are very strict regulations on breeding. This seems to have spared my spotted guy the health & temperament problems that plagued the breed after all that Disney induced over-breeding.

For the sake of spots everywhere, I hope the theater production is a flop.

Submitted by Anonymous | November 7 2009 |

I am always disappointed when a tv show or movie makes a dog breed popular because it is always the animals that suffer so a human can make a quick buck. Everyone should also know that the dogs in this musical are rescued Dalmations from various shelters and rescues. These people saved dogs and gave them a job so they could have an outlet for their energy. Kudos to them!

Submitted by Anonymous | November 8 2009 |

Not only is the musical just a plain bad idea, having real Dalmations IN the musical feels worse. Dogs, (and animals in general) should never be used for entertainment purposes. If you're against animals being used in the circus (you should be) you should be against dogs being used as performers in entertainment.

Submitted by Anonymous | November 8 2009 |

I agree that popularizing a specific dog breed is always a bad idea, but I don't agree that using live dogs in shows is. I work in theater and as a result, my Maltese has had several roles in operas and stage plays. All I can say is that he LOVES it.
Most notably, he had the chance to reprise an role at San Francisco Opera 7 years after he first did it and he remembered every bit of it-- no retraining necessary. He would run to the stage door from his dressing room when his call came over the intercom. So, what's so wrong with that?

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