Mutts Gone Nuts
If you go onstage with kids or animals, you may well find yourself overlooked. If the animals are the cutest rescue dogs on the planet, it’s a given, but that doesn’t bother Scott and Jane Houghton of Mutts Gone Nuts. They are happy to share the stage with their adorable friends for a high-energy, high-wire show that is perfect for the entire family. Kids, parents and grandparents will love the pooches and the adults they let share the stage.
The show is billed a Canine Cabaret and that should tell you that you’re going to get a little of everything. The Houghtons, who are known as the “disorderly duo,” have been performing together as a comedy team since 1984 and are known for blending physical comedy and circus artistry. They travelled the world and spent several years at Lee Greenwood’s theater in Tennessee and as the featured act for Greenwood in Las Vegas and Tennessee. The duo also spent seven years with Dolly Parton’s production, Dixie Stampede. In 1996, they adopted their first rescue pooch and began fostering dogs in the off-season for a local rescue group. They brought Chico into their act in 2005 and by 2007, they’d reinvented themselves as Mutts Gone Nuts. They’ve added dogs since then and have brought a two-legged creature on board. Samantha Valle is one of the world’s top trainers and a spokesperson for animal rescue. She and Geronimo hold the Guinness World’s Record for a dog jumping rope Double Dutch. They have appeared with David Letterman and Steve Harvey.
“We have world record holders and they’re fantastic,” Scott Houghton said. “There are some Frisbee dogs and Sam has a couple of canine freestyle routines where she dances with her dogs to choreography. We have five dogs on pedestals who do fun tricks. The underlying story is that they don’t behave well for me but behave well for Joan. I’m the ‘bad trainer.’ I get no respect and I’m the Rodney Dangerfield of trainers. Kids love watching a dog outsmart an adult.”
The Houghtons are very serious about keeping their shows funny, and they’re also serious about the welfare of the dogs in their care. Their rescue dogs are trained using positive, reward-based methods like toys and praise. They look for what each dog likes to do and they cultivate that talent. The dogs live indoors, have two acres of fenced area to run when they are at home and travel in large, padded, climate-controlled kennels for safety when on tour.
Chico, who is (probably) a Chihuahua and Pomeranian mix, is only 15 lbs., but he’s the top dog. Feather, the group’s first Greyhound, is a recue dog who was saved after she couldn’t run fast enough. She may not be a racer, but she has jaw-dropping jumping skills and has the unofficial world record for the highest jump by a dog. Pixel, also known as Wheels, is a border collie mix. She can run and out-maneuver much bigger dogs and is Chico’s understudy.
Charlie is a Jack Russell terrier who was rescued on his last day, He’s agile and loves to climb, which makes him the perfect high-wire walking dog. Chuck Taylor is a Frisbee-playing border collie who was given up because he preferred to herd sticks instead of cows. Geronimo is a cattle dog mix who is the only dog in the world to jump into two spinning ropes at the same time. Rox Steady is a Heinz mix who looks just like Geronimo. Her specialties are agility and tricks. Paco, who was picked up as a stray in Wyoming, does everything from high jump to barrel. McNerdy’s favorite toy is the Frisbee and he could play all day, dazzling the crowd with his athletic ability. New this year is Mr. Finnie, also known as Finn. The border collie was given up because the breed needs to be busy and active and Mutts Gone Nuts gives him the scope he needs.
If you are lucky enough to have a kid in your life, or are a kid at heart, it will be an awful lot of fun, and you’ll laugh yourself silly, even at Scott’s corny jokes. Try your doggone best to get down to The Lyric. You’ll be glad you did.