Adorable photo of dogs attending a Stratford performance takes off online

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A photo that appears to show the Stratford Festival going to the dogs is winning hearts online.

The picture shows a group of pooches ranging from poodles to golden retrievers sitting patiently in their cushy seats, taking in a production of Billy Elliot at the Stratford Festival last week.

But while the photo may be fun, it turns out the dogs’ mission is serious: they’re training to be service dogs, and they’re practicing what it’s like to help their handlers navigate through a theatre.

“It’s important to prepare the dogs for any activity the handler may like to attend,” says Laura Mackenzie, owner and head trainer with K-9 Country Inn Working Service Dogs, who led the Stratford Festival outing.

One of the service dog trainees attending the Stratford Festival. Says head trainer Laura Mackenzie, “The dogs loved the show almost as much as their handlers.” (Stratford Festival)
“The theatre gives us the opportunity to expose the dogs to different stimuli such as lights, loud noises and movement of varying degrees. The dogs must remain relaxed in tight quarters for an extended period of time.”

In the process of the training, the dogs and their handlers do everything an attendee would do: navigate safely though crowds, travel along narrow aisles, fit into bathroom stalls — all while ignoring distractions, including food and the other attendees.

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🐶 @k9countryinn joined us for our Relaxed Performance of #sfBillyElliot Yesterday! Check out the link in our bio to learn more about accessible performances! __________________________________ Posted @withrepost • @k9countryinnservicedogs Thank you Stratford Festival @stratfest for welcoming us to Billy Elliot – The Musical! – It was a phenomenal show, all of our teams had a fantastic time. We greatly appreciate the assistance from the staff and local goodies for our service dogs from The Barkery! – – #k9countryinnservicedogs#servicedog#assistancedog#firefighter#endthestigma#healing#ptsd#ptsdservicedog#ptsdrecovery#ptsdawareness #veteran #canadianarmedforces #ivegotyourback911#firstresponders#911dispatcher#posttraumaticstressdisorder#goldenretriever#billyelliot #mentalhealth #k9cisd #paramedic #medic #toronto #ems #labrador #standardpoodle #stratfordfestival #poodle

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