Question: Do you have a mascot?
Answer: Sort of, he's really more of a band roadie.
Meet Munchkin! At nearly every event we entertain a service dog is at work helping a disabled musician haul heavy equipment. He is there out of need and his presence is in no way intended to distract from the event's proceedings.
Munchkin is federally registered and fully compliant with the laws of the A.D.A. He is an AKC registered Alaskan Malamute with a very short coat, which is unusual for his breed. He is brushed regularly and maintains a tuxedo like appearance inline with our musicians' uniforms.
For even our simplest solo gigs it usually takes about ninety minutes to setup, tune, warmup, and be ready to perform. Being able to park our handicap licensed vehicle in a disabled parking spot is usually very helpful in reducing the distance from where we park to the performance area. Regardless of the distance, it is almost always necessary to engage our service dog's help.
His vest has large pouches on each side along his back that can carry multiple iPads, bluetooth foot pedals, microphones, bottles, cameras, tripods, a shoulder rest, rosin, and other gear that can also be strapped to his hook and loop attachment system. His tactical vest then attaches to a large cart that he pulls to and from our stage. Each load typically equals over a hundred pounds and for smaller ensembles can haul everything we need in just one or two trips, which saves us multiple, exhausting and time consuming hauls. Munchkin is exceptional and well experienced at his job. Three men can barely handle one load he can pull.
How He Works:
Munchkin works differently from many other service dogs. He does not guide like a seeing eye dog. He does not listen for a heartbeat or other health conditions. His job is to remain on his feet while working so the equipment in his pouches is most easily accessible and less likely to fall out.
He is not used to being tied up or wearing a leash while working. Instead, he wears a wireless training collar that has the ability to page him if he strays and it can emit a tone to help locate him. This is a requirement of our disabled musician who needs a hand free while using a cane. During most performances he is leashed to a musician's chair, our equipment, or a nearby bench, rail, or similarly stout structure where he rests peacefully and quietly.
If there are issues with him remaining present during a performance he usually returns to our truck where he has water and fans to keep him comfortable. Hot weather is the only condition that requires placing him somewhere other than in our vehicle.
Many ask if it is alright to pet him and that is fine, he loves the attention! He is incredibly sweet, cute, and affectionate. His vest is a tactical hook and loop and badges that say not to pet him while working are available but he is just too sweet to wear one. He loves people and animals of all ages and sizes. He's been attacked by a dog two feet taller than him and he just stood there without flinching or uttering a growl.
It really is inappropriate to feed a dog human food but so many people have been feeding him that trying to teach him otherwise when so many teach him the contrary is nearly impossible to enforce. Please realize that if you feed him once you've taught him to expect more. But if you speak to him normally, like a person, he should understand when you tell him there is no more. If he needs to stay out of a specific area like a buffet or dining hall you can tell him where the boundaries are and if he tries to come back in and you tell him no, that should be all the correction he will require.
We prefer to know his exact location at all times, preferably right next to us on stage but we sometimes allow guests of our clients to walk him, which he enjoys. If a performance is outdoors it is great if he can wait in an air conditioned room like an office. His friendly demeanor means that he makes friends with people very quickly and people become similarly attached. Please, always ask before taking him to walk or play and be sure to bring him back; he's got work to do at the end of the show!
Munchkin's Daily Life:
Munchkin lives at McCallie Music Studio, L.L.C. on Wild Flower Farm. He is both an indoor and outdoor dog. He lives with about one hundred other animals on the farm and gets lots of exercise, which is a requirement of a northern breed. He is a snow dog, bred for pulling heavy sleds across brutal terrain. Malamutes can grow to be giants over two hundred pounds. Munchkin is typical in his size and weight at over one hundred pounds but he is extremely strong and well suited for working as a musician's roadie.
Munchkin At Work:
Enjoy the video below of Munchkin working at the St. Louis Marriott Grand where The Matt McCallie Orchestra provided its St. Louis String Quartet for a wedding ceremony on a balcony. There was a long walk from the vehicle to one end of the building to access the elevator for our disabled director, then to the other end of the hotel to the balcony of the ballroom. It still took a few trips before and after the gig but Munchkin saved what would have taken many more trips, hauling equipment in the pouches of his service dog vest.
In this video you can see how Munchkin behaves around large, loud crowds, through doors, riding an elevator, and making sure he doesn't get in the way of his owner's cane. Getting to be a band roadie is one of his favorite things. True to his breed, he loves to haul heavy gear and does so effortlessly.