By CRYSTAL K. WIEBE
Yesterday, the Lyric Opera held doggie auditions for a role in its production of La Boheme. Although the French script specifically calls for a poodle, the Lyric opened tryouts to any "beautiful toy dog." As the owner of a miniature pinscher named Scooby, I sensed an opportunity.
But considering that Scooby -- The Pitch newsroom’s unofficial mascot -- is a smelly old grump who knows few commands, I figured the opportunity would be for humor.
The audition forms called for dogs that knew basic obedience. Scooby’s a leader-of-the-pack kind of guy. He runs out to the end of his leash on walks, and he’ll only sit if he’s certain there’s a snack involved.
He does know one sentence pretty well. Ask him, "Scooby, are you hungry?" and he turns into a maniac, jumping and huffing and gnawing at your arm. He even once ate a chunk of ham as big as your fist. But I was pretty sure the Opera wouldn’t be impressed by this trick.
As I expected, most of the other dogs at the audition were fancier -- or at least better behaved. Some of them even had previous acting experience. There were four fluffy, white bichon frise types, a chihuahua mix and a tiny, shy chihuahua huddled in her owner's zebra-print purse.
Bella, the chihuahua mix, understood all sorts of commands. When her owner said, "Eyes," Bella would look up and sit at attention. The bichons just sat around calmly.
Meanwhile, Scooby had to be in the arms of my roommate Kenton or me. Otherwise, he'd start shrieking excitedly at the other dogs. Personally, I think Scooby really wanted the role, and he was trying to intimidate the competition. "Just be cool," I told him.
For a while, it seemed like he actually had a shot. Old Scooby was the first dog called to the judges' table. Oohing and ahhing ensued -- in spite of his gray muzzle and missing teeth, he's kind of a ladykiller.
But then one judge took a gander at his talons and asked when his last manicure was. "Oh, he's due for one," I chuckled nervously.
All was not lost, though. Katrina Thurman, the high-voiced actress who would have to carry the dog on stage, took Scooby into her arms and strutted around outside the Opera. He seemed to like her. And he didn't even seem to mind when she plopped him on a silver platter, on which he balanced as another actress walked around the area.
After all the other dogs went, Scooby even got called back so that Thurman could see how he responded to her singing. He looked slightly unimpressed, as he had the one time I took him into the Lawrence barn where my ex-boyfriend's rock band was playing.
In the end, the judges settled on Hercules, the bichon, for the role. Paddington, the other bichon, got picked as the understudy.
At first, Scooby seemed a wee disappointed. I told him gently that his German appearance probably didn't help in this situation. He looked up at me with eyes that said, "I could have worn a beret!"
But then I pointed out that he got a whole bag of goodies from Three Dog Bakery just for auditioning.
"What self-respecting canine wants to get carried across the stage on a platter -- like some kind of Thanksgiving turkey -- anyway?" I said to Scoob at home, as I pulled out a carob-coated snack. "Are you hungry?" I already knew the answer.