Even though she is the shortest, Chyra still walks around like she owns the entire lot. At breakfast, while I was still on my first cup of coffee, Chyra approached the “dink hole” (another circus term – meaning the tent adjacent to the kitchen where the troupe and crew eat). I waved hello and offered a friendly “Morning, Chyra” expecting maybe the faintest sign of greeting. Nothing. She didn’t even look at me. Instead, she turned sharply and walked away with her nose held high in the direction of the food. Typical Chyra, I thought to myself, not wanting to become cranky before 9. My mood improved after my second cup and eventually with some coaxing and a piece of bacon, Chyra allowed a single scratch behind the ear.
I am traveling and living with dogs as well as people and I’ve learned that getting used to their personalities takes about as long as getting used to their owners. Dogs and owners have moods and good and bad days just like the rest of us and deserve as much respect as the rest of my co-workers. And, they don’t just deserve it; they demand it.
Chyra is Tent Boss Nat Brown’s dog. She is a pit-bull and despite any preconceived notions regarding the aggressiveness her breed, she is by far the most disciplined dog I have met. Chyra responds to commands in German – “Aus” cut it out – “Fuß” (pronounced “foos”) – meaning sit at feet – “platz” meaning stay. Her obedience is matched only by her loyalty to her owner. Chyra follows Nat all over the site and on errands away from the site. During tear down, she wanders the lot, steering clear of the Bobcat forklift and the troupers hauling all manner of pads and equipment.
Louka belongs to costume designer Siobhan Martel. Siobhan is from Quebec and her dog is bilingual – responding to commands in French and English. Louka is the most playful of the Smirkus dogs except for in the July heat. He is a husky and he has struggled to adapt to such a hot climate. Louka spends most of the day overheated and exhausted – too hot to move. He’s used to the cold and in the evening when the temperature drops to a more pleasant zone? he becomes much more energetic. When the rest of us are ready for bed, he’s ready to play.
Operations Director Judy’s chocolate lab, Gypsy, was the first at Smirkus to greet me on the porch in Greensboro when I arrived in late June. She is still just a pup, yet Gypsy is a picture of serenity. She is in a perpetual good mood. When at the temperature is at its highest and the activity becomes the most hectic, my goal becomes to emulate Gypsy’s uncanny ability to go with the flow.
While on this adventure throughout the Northeast, traveling with the same group of people can wear on nerves. Like our dogs, we sometimes have skirmishes. Life on the road, it turn’s out, is a dog’s life. And that’s a good thing.
Evan Johnson, Communications Intern