Bringing Butley, Part II

March 5, 2013  

A couple takes their pit bull with them while touring cross-country with the theatrical production of ‘Spring Awakening’

By Todd Cerveris

Part I of Bringing Butley is here.

Traveling with a dog is not unlike traveling with a child. You’re often the focus of added attention, for good and for ill. Your concerns in looking for housing are centered around the needs of this being for whom you’re responsible. And you’re always cleaning up their poop.

Of course, you can’t leave a child in the room for hours at a time. Just like you can’t take the dog with you to the restaurant. So you have to coordinate your schedule accordingly.

Traveling with a pit bull, you would think, would be more complicated. In fact, we found that – so long as the dog is well-behaved and friendly – it really wasn’t much of an issue. Butley is a great ambassador for the breed: easy-going, very sociable with people, ready with a smile or a head tilt (especially when there’s food involved). He made friends with hotel staff all over. We took a few precautions, nevertheless.

We checked for company housing options that were pet friendly first, naturally. Then we looked for other factors, like price and whether there was parking (we were driving the tour) and how much it cost, whether there would be a pet deposit or fee. And we’d try to stay within a certain budget, after everything was said and done. Sometimes, we’d end up with a hotel that was a really great deal, but they didn’t accept pets. So we’d call them and talk to their manager, explain that we were touring with the very large company that would be giving them all our business and given that our dog was a therapy dog (registered with Pet Partners, formerly Delta Society) and had passed his Canine Good Citizen test, perhaps they might be willing to make an exception. That actually worked, in a couple instances.

When it didn’t, or when we just didn’t like the options, we had our car with us, which afforded greater flexibility in where we could stay. Craigslist was a ready resource for us. Also Vacation Rentals By Owner. And lately, we’ve been using AirBnB. Those, coupled with Google Maps and Google Street View, proved to be a good combination for alternative housing options. We found a cozy little ground-floor apartment in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood. We found a carriage house apartment in Houston. We found a whole, entire house in Des Moines for $250 a week! Livin’ large!

We’d look at the listings online, and if we were interested, we’d send them a note explaining our circumstances, having a dog, what was parking like, yadda, yadda. … If everything still seemed OK, we’d ask for an intersection or an address so that we could go to Google Street View and look around the neighborhood. We’d take a virtual tour of the area – any fun cafés nearby? Busy traffic intersections? Sketchy areas?

Also, renting private accommodations is always a great way to economize. You can cook your own food, usually there’s free parking, and you’re not paying tax. And you certainly get more room for your money.

Butley Becomes a Concierge

That said, it was also fun to stay at the hotel with the rest of the company sometimes, too. Butley is a very social dog, and I think he’d rather that Angie and I quit touring and just open up a B&B of our own. He’d be the concierge, greeting everyone at the door, visiting their rooms every morning and evening, saying “Hello” and “taking out the trash.” And while it was always a welcome treat to have time to ourselves (when you’re on tour, it’s easy to adopt a “pack” mentality), it was also good to have social time with our castmates that wasn’t at the theater.

Butley’s favorite places for visiting company members were the hotel bars, hands down. At the end of the night, we’d come home and take him out for his nighttime walk. And if there was a bar downstairs, unless it was a restaurant as well, the hotel staff was often flexible with the rules and would let Butley come in to greet everyone enthusiastically. Everyone would still be very talkative after the show, they’d be excited to see him, and … inevitably … there were bar snacks! On more than one occasion, a crew member would “drop” a basket of popcorn and watch Butley perform his impersonation of a Hoover vacuum.

And of course, we kept a blog about our travels. Cheekily titled “Rude Awakening,” it chronicled all our foibles.

Oh yes, we had foibles.

One night in San Diego, while we were visiting a friend, Butley found and ate a couple very dark, rich chocolate bars that our friend had kept up on a high shelf – presumably out of range. After a trip to an emergency vet, he was on the mend. But that was a wakeup call – our little fireplug could apparently leap to Olympic heights when food was in sight.

One night in Los Angeles, his boredom got the better of him – and with his pit bull jaws, our not-really-much-of-a-chewer decided to obliterate Angie’s cycling helmet. (Why a cycling helmet? You tell us.) He didn’t eat any of it, he just decided to tear the thing into a million little pieces and scatter them all over the apartment.

In San Francisco, he decided the stone lions at the gate entrance of Chinatown were some kind of super evil threat and decided to let eveyone on the corner of Grant and Bush know that “THESE THINGS ARE DANGEROUS! EVERYBODY BEWARE!” It was actually pretty funny, as we all watched Butley barking and bellowing and making all kind of noise at these twin motionless monoliths, staring out into space. He never charged them or bared his teeth – he just couldn’t understand why nobody was doing anything!?!

And he repeated the same behavior in front of the statue of a California bear by the San Francisco shoreline, the statue of the Iowa Hawkeye mascot in Des Moines and an outdoor sculpture outside the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City, Mo. Our dog has made his views known – he is not a fan of outdoor art.

Making Conversation

One great thing about traveling with a dog is that, as any dog owner knows, a dog can be your ticket to wonderfully spontaneous conversation just about anywhere. Two people who would otherwise have no reason to say so much as “Hello” to each other will instead find themselves talking about the dog. “He reminds me of my dog,” or “I love animals,” or “Can I take his picture?” All of these comments were ridiculously common. Admittedly, Butley is a handsome fellow, in my completely biased opinion. But people would stop their cars in the street. They would come out of their shops. They would show us photos on their cell phone of their own dog. Once a telephone pole technician came down from his cherry picker to say “Hi.” Butley was a natural conversation starter. And he loved it – the more the merrier, in his opinion.

Just the same, there were those who would, literally, cross the street when they saw him coming. It’s funny, when you think about it. Unless they were somehow highly allergic to dogs, crossing the street probably put them more in jeopardy than anything Butley might have done. Butley, of course, didn’t look twice – he just kept plodding on. I know, I know – some people might have been attacked by a dog in their past, or maybe they were less concerned about the dog than they were about an owner who would be so “careless” as to walk one out in the open, on the street. Who knows? We’d just keep walking on.

After a year on the road, Butley could have kept going easily. Every drive, he would just jump in the back of the car and settle in. He’d be asleep inside of half an hour. And when we slowed down to get gas or food, he’d wake back up. “Hmm … any grass anywhere? I could use a pit stop, myself.” But as long as he was where we were, he was happy. And he would have stayed with us on the road forever, but then I got cast as a replacement cast in Lincoln Center’s production of “South Pacific.” Angie ended up staying on the road for another nine months, while Butley and I headed back home. Separations like that are always hard, and Angie and I would each find occasions to visit with each other on our days off. But I’m sure it was harder on Angie than on me. I was home. I wasn’t living out of a suitcase. And I had a buddy to share the apartment with me.

Which is why, when she finally finished the tour and came back home, we were both pretty excited. But I knew I would be second in line for a big hug and kiss. Because her first customer was a wagging, wriggling, drooling ball of fur that was very happy to have Mom home again!

This article was originally published on October 17, 2012.

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8 Responses to “Bringing Butley, Part II
  1. barbaraleeanderson07090 says:

    Todd, I just knew that Part II of Butley’s story was gonna be good, but it turned out to be amazing.  Thank you for the helpful traveling hints.  My Diva travels with me too, or I don’t go.  (Personally, I’d rather travel with a dog than a small child any day.)  The pictures?  Priceless, particularly the one of Butley at the bar.  I envy you and Angie having the opportunity to travel all over like you do, but particularly for the company in which you keep.  Much love and happy trails.  Keep us all posted on Butley’s continuing escapades please?

  2. Maryanne Burkitt says:

    He is absolutely beautiful! And such a wonderful pit ambassador. My little girl, Shadow, (who you see in my profile photo) is the same way. When we take her anywhere, those uninformed about pits will ask if she is vicious. I just reply the only danger you are in when you are around Shadow is being licked to death!

  3. ReneeMKeller says:

    Great story so far!!  Butley is beautiful!!  Angie is cracking me up in the videos!!!!

  4. avegas72 says:

    Wow I never knew that’s what life could be like in theater. My hats off to you!
    And that fact that you went so far to involve Butley on your excursions. Sounds like it was definitely worth it.


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  1. […] To catch up on Butley’s travels, see Part I and Part II. […]