The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Last week I introduced the topic of pets and entertainment, specifically in magic. Rob and Carol Allen currently perform about 100 school assembly programs during the winter and spring months. During the summer, they appear at the Aquarium of Niagara in Niagara Falls, doing two shows daily for the international audiences visiting the area.
Their unique pets, three white doves and an English call duck, perform in their show.
“All of the pets that I have are working pets,” Rob Allen said. “I have great respect for them and treat them as a working partner. I have raised doves since I was a boy and throughout the years, because my doves are hand-raised, I’ve sold them to many of the magicians who have appeared on TV.”
The pets, even the duck, live inside the house during the cold Western New York winter. What a life! I wish my parents allowed me to have my ducks inside the house. Then, in the spring, they get returned to their outside building, where Quackers has access to his own small pool.
“Our duck, Quackers, is a miniature call duck. I’ve always had a call duck in our show,” Rob Allen said. “I remember as a boy seeing them at the fair and thinking how cute they are. It’s really quite surprising when, at the end of our act, the three birds magically change into a quacking, flapping duck.”
Rob will also receive phone calls from magicians traveling through town asking if he has any doves available. They will then stop at the house and pick up his trained pets.
His pets also receive prepared specialty diets. Both the doves and duck eat layer crumbs, which can be purchased at all the major farm feed stores. In addition to that, on the days that the Allens have dinners involving fresh produce, Rob will take the peelings from carrots, potatoes and other vegetables and put them into a food processor to chop them up finely. Then he cooks that mixture and mixes it with the layer crumbs.
I do a similar preparation for my lovebirds, cockatiel and cockatoo. It is a great way to get your vegetable- and fruit-eating pets to get fresh food in addition to their pellets, especially if you find them to be picky eaters or if they are eating only one or two types of produce.
“They just love it and the doves will actually dance when they see me coming to feed them!” Rob Allen said. “They also like pieces of finely chopped apple.” He rinses the apples first to remove any sticky juices that could stick to the birds’ feathers around their beaks.
“These are not just animals that I use in my show,” he said. “I raise them from chicks; they are my pets, my friends and my business partners.”
Budding magicians need to consider the commitment it would take before purchasing a live critter companion for their act. Not only feeding and husbandry is involved, but also the training of the animals. If magicians do decide to incorporate their pets into the act, Rob believes, that it will create quite the surprise.
“I think people are shocked when a magician makes a live animal appear or disappear, and that’s what magic’s all about — surprise!” he said. “People love animals and to see a performer work with animals. It is something that the audience can relate to, especially if they have pets of their own.”
Rob does warn other magicians using live animals to be prepared for when the children ask if they can take a dove home with them.
“They think that the magic is real and that I make these birds appear by magic and that I can make as many of them as I want! I usually just smile and tell them that they are my pets.”
Kenny Coogan has a B.S. in animal behavior and is a certified professional bird trainer through the International Avian Trainers Certification Board. Please email your questions to email@example.com, or search for "Critter Companions by Kenny Coogan" on Facebook.