How Does a Theater Dog Work?

This performing pup spends hours onstage without missing a beat.

Bowdie and Bill Berloni.
Bill Berloni and Bowdie.

Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Kristen Sobanski.

This season on Working, we’re talking about animals with jobs.

In this week’s episode, we were joined by Bill Berloni, who has been training and managing theatrical animals since the 1970s. Berloni talked to us about Bowdie, a dog he’s been training to play the title role in a musical adaptation of Because of Winn-Dixie. Over the course of a given performance, Bowdie has to respond to more than 100 cues, from sitting patiently during a song to licking a crying child’s face. Drawing on examples from Bowdie’s daily life, Berloni helps us understand how a performing pup learns to put on a show and how it behaves when it’s offstage.

Then in a Slate Plus extra, Berloni tells us about non-canine animals that he’s trained for stage and screen over the years. If you’re a member, enjoy bonus segments from Working, plus other great podcast exclusives. Start your two-week free trial at

Previously in this series:

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Podcast production by Benjamin Frisch.