Northwest NEWS

May 7, 2001


Local pooch hears the roar of the crowd, smells the greasepaint

by Deborah Stone
   Features Writer
   He'll do anything for a cookie, including jumping through tires, running through chutes, playing on a teeter-totter, barrel racing, dancing, spinning, flipping and a whole array of other amazing stunts. He loves to do tricks and aims to please with his high-spirited energy and outgoing personality.
   At age 2 1/2, weighing six pounds, he is already a star and headed for a career under the bright lights.
   He is Tigger, Woodinville residents Robin Cohen's and Robin Kletke's Papillon dog, currently on stage in "Gypsy" at the Fifth Avenue Theatre.
   A Papillon, for those unfamiliar with the breed, is a toy Spaniel with erect ears and fringe cascading down the face.
   Papillon is butterfly in French and according to Cohen, Tigger has a cute butterfly face and likes to happily flit around.
   She says, "He's a true social butterfly, perfectly matched to his breed's name. His ears are incredibly expressive and he responds to everyone and everything, always curious and interested in what's around him. He's very people-oriented and seeks them out, wanting to play with them."
   Tigger has been with Cohen and her husband since he was 7 months old and began agility training when he was 11 months.
   He began entering agility competitions at 1 1/2 years and has completed his Excellent Levels, currently working on achieving his Masters Levels.
   "Agility training involves a variety of movements to test the agility of the dog and his ability to be directed without the use of a leash or collar," explains Cohen. "The dogs do many different movements to get through an obstacle course."
   Tigger has also appeared on "Super Dogs," doggie entertainment shows involving handlers and their canines. Cohen hadn't given much thought to Tigger's career beyond the events he already participates in, but on a whim, she responded to an ad for a dog to play the role of Chowsie, Gypsy Rose Lee's pooch in the musical "Gypsy."
   "I called and they told me that they had just cast a dog for the part. Then just about a week and a half before the show was to open, they called me and asked me to audition Tigger, as the original dog they had cast was not working out well," says Cohen. "I told a friend to bring her silky terrier too, because I knew if Tigger was cast, he wouldn't be able to do all the shows due to other commitments we previously had made."
   Tigger and his friend Scooter (a dog from Issaquah) got the part and are now sharing the billing.
   In the show, the dogs get to be carried around in Mama Rose's handbag, they are passed around from actor to actor and they also simply sit, looking cute for everyone to ooh and ah over.
   The requirements for such a role include a social personality; the ability to sit still for a period of time and a lack of fear of people, bright lights and loud noises.
   Tigger had just three rehearsals before preview night, but according to Cohen, he is ready for his stage debut.
   "All anyone needs to do is give him a bit of a dog cookie," comments Cohen, "and he will do what you want him to do, with pleasure!"
   Tigger is Cohen's first Papillon, but she is no stranger to dog ownership.
   She says, "I grew up with a dog and then once I was older, I started having dogs of my own, particularly Afghan hounds. That's the breed I'm most familiar with and I do agility work with them, too.
   "The Papillon, however, is a really neat breed. They're lots of fun because they're great with everyone and have such high energy. They're so charming and endearing. You just fall in love with them when you see them."
   Whether Tigger continues on to do more stage work in the future remains to be seen, but in the meantime, he's having a great time getting his ego massaged with all sorts of positive attention.
   "This is the life for him," comments Cohen. "He gets treats, plays and is doted on. What more can you ask for?" The show "Gypsy" plays through May 20 at the Fifth Ave. Theatre.
   Call (206) 625-1900 for ticket information.