Lifestyle

Teddy’s adventure makes it to the stage

  • Adventures of Teddy: Zachary Kawaley-Lathan as Rat and Sam Webel as Teddy in BMDS’ Christmas musical Teddy the Lost Dog (Photograph by Kevin McDonald)
  • Best buddies: rescue puppies Paget, in front, and Teddy awaiting rescue in Texas (Photograph supplied)

Teddy the Lost Dog doesn’t have a busty dame or a fairy godmother; there won’t be people yelling, ‘He’s right behind you!’ — over and over and over again.

In other words, it’s not a pantomime.

The Bermuda Musical and Dramatic Society’s Christmas Musical is about a lost dog, who happens to be adorable, and a human desperate to find him.

A daft rat and a tricky cat are all part of the journey.

James Burn’s tale was inspired by a nine-month hunt for a dog that went missing shortly after it arrived in Bermuda in May 2016.

The playwright, who lived here off and on for nine years until 2004, followed Bermudian Beverly Sgobba’s posts on social media and was deeply moved when Teddy was found.

“I was sitting in my kitchen on Facebook with tears streaming down my face,” Mr Burn, a dog lover said.

“There are two strands to the show. There’s the human plot line where a group of humans, including one called Beverly (Kristin Hickey), is very concerned about rescuing dogs from kill centres.

“Then there is the animal thread where Teddy (Sam Webel) is led astray by Cat (Zachary Kawaley-Lathan) and Rat (Shawn Angiers). They are trying to make sure he doesn’t get caught for nefarious reasons.”

In true Christmas style, there’s a happy ending for everyone. “It’s very cute and heart-warming and hopefully reaches the audience’s heart strings,” Mr Burn said.

Ms Sgobba, who has been active in online dog rescue organisations since 2014, saved Teddy from a kill shelter in Texas.

She brought him here to be adopted by a family in Hamilton Parish but Teddy had other ideas. “Teddy slipped his lead during an evening walk and took off into dense vegetation near Abbott’s Cliff,” Ms Sgobba said. “I was beside myself when he went missing, which is why I took it upon myself to find him — no matter what.”

Even when they have a strong bond with their human family, many lost dogs go into survival mode and will not come when called, she said.

“Teddy hunkered down during the day and came out at night to feed, but there were no sightings, making it impossible to find him.

“We blasted social media and put up signs and made announcements on the radio but nothing.”

The mutt stayed hidden even during Hurricane Nicole, which rolled across Bermuda as a category three storm that October.

“Post-hurricane, the consensus was that he was ‘gone’ or someone had him,” Ms Sgobba said. “Something told me that he was still out there and in November, to our absolute joy, there were two sightings in the same area which gave us something to go on.”

A dog recovery expert in New York City recommended a complex trap as a possible solution.

“It had a spring release gate to lock top and bottom when closed,” Ms Sgobba said. “It would close when triggered by Teddy pulling on a bone at the back of the enclosure.

“The enclosure was built off-site and trucked to the site so that Teddy would not see the gate being tested.

“We believed that he watched us much of the time at night when we put down food, and we didn’t want to take chances.”

The trap was not an immediate success.

“He was startled when he first saw the big chain-link enclosure in the place of his feeding station,” she said. “He took off and we thought we had lost him.”

Tasty treats like sirloin and chicken nuggets weren’t a strong enough lure, it took six weeks before Teddy came fully into the enclosure.

The dog was finally caught in February, eight months after he disappeared.

“When approached, he was not aggressive but shut down,” Ms Sgobba said. “We took him home in a van and left him in our studio for the night to decompress, with a camera on him.”

After all that, the family she had brought him here for decided they no longer wanted Teddy, and she and her husband Donato decided to keep him.

“He is a sweet, gentle dog who is a little cautious of strangers,” Ms Sgobba said.

She was happy when her old singing teacher asked if he could make a musical from her story.

The plan is to use Bermuda as a testing ground before marketing Teddy the Lost Dog in Britain, where he now lives.

“It needed to be written in time for auditions,” Mr Burn said. “We had to know exactly what would happen on stage by September.

“A six-month writing period for a new musical from start to finish is pretty intense.”

Still actively involved with BMDS, he thought it was nice to have a break from the usual Christmas pantomime.

“There are really only six or seven strict pantomime stories,” he said. “Now we’re getting more and more shows that aren’t traditional pantomimes. When you have done a few, it’s nice to do something fresh.”

• Teddy the Lost Dog opens tonight at Earl Cameron Theatre and runs until December 15. Shows begin at 7pm with 2.30pm matinees on Saturday, Sunday and December 15. Tickets, $35, are available at www.ptix.bm and at the box office an hour before the show