Doug Terranova's two droopy-eyed, tan bloodhounds love to bumble into the kitchen, slap their paws on the table and eat off other people's plates.
They've had lots of practice.
Hoss and Stella Bumpus -- yes, those are their real names -- earn their keep chasing Christopher Swan, cast as the Old Man in a traveling production of "A Christmas Story, The Musical" showing at the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh through Sunday. Tickets start at $26.
On the stage and in the 1983 movie its based on, the Bumpus hounds are the bane of the Old Man's existence, terrorizing him every day as he comes and goes from work.
As part of their training, Hoss and Stella -- 15 months and 2-and-a-half years old, respectively -- learned to follow Swan across the stage and eat a faux turkey on command. But teaching his charges how to abuse a neglected holiday bird has its downsides, Terranova said.
“(Stella) is still a little nervous,” he said. “This is our first big city. She’ll do much better by the time we’re in Detroit and all that by the end of the run.”
When they're not working, the dogs live in Texas with Terranova and his family. The former rescue pups are very well-trained, but he admits mixing work with home life can have its challenges.
“The dogs have learned, if the chairs are pulled out, it’s OK to put your feet on the chairs and eat off the table,” Terranova said. “So, at my house, the kids have to be trained to push the chairs in. The dogs are not allowed to put their feet on the table and eat anything off the tables … if the chairs are pulled out it’s not their fault. They’ve been taught they can do that."
"You know, you’re training your kids; you’re training your dogs.”
Though the pair play aggressive antagonists, Terranova said they each have their own, gentle personality. They’re owned by the production company, but treated as much as beloved pets as they are working dogs.
“My relationship with the animals is always first and foremost,” he said. “And so when they know what they’re doing and they’re having fun doing it – that’s the reward to me.”