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Family | Review

Shamu Makes Way for Fido

July 04, 2002|ROBERT NILES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SeaWorld shows traditionally feature killer whales, dolphins and other marine animals you wouldn't normally find roaming your neighborhood. But the San Diego park's new "Pets Rule!" show turns the spotlight on dogs, cats and other domesticated animals.

"Pets Rule!" eschews SeaWorld's massive water tanks for a sun-drenched outdoor set made up to look like a giant backyard. It's an appropriate setting for this affectionate tribute. But don't forget to pack the sunscreen. On a cloudless summer day, the aluminum grandstands can heat this "backyard" to broiling.

Don't expect a polished performance. Yet the unpredictable nature of watching animals attempt new tricks is half the fun of this production. The things that went wrong at a recent performance--from a recalcitrant pig on an obstacle course to a dog that missed catching his Frisbee--elicited as many chuckles and good-natured cheers from the crowd as the successful tricks.

SeaWorld's trainers put the show in perspective by mentioning that some of the animals in the production were adopted from shelters around the country. "Remember," one trainer told the crowd, "the fantastic animals you see here today are as close as your local animal shelter."

And these animals deliver plenty of entertainment during this 20-minute show. Dogs jump and fetch, cats scramble, and pigs strut as their trainers engage them all in sometimes complex, but always amusing, choreography.

Of course, this being a SeaWorld show, the folks sitting up front have to get wet. Without Shamu and a big water tank, a runaway hose does the trick here. It's the climax to a gag where the audience learns an important "pet rule": Always get the human giving you a bath wetter than they get you.

After the show, trainers brought many of the animals to the edge of the stage to meet the audience. Judging from the enthusiasm of the youngsters who crowded the stage, when it comes to making an emotional connection to a young audience, pets do indeed rule.

*

"Pets Rule!" daily at SeaWorld San Diego, 1720 S. Shore Drive, San Diego. (619) 226-3901.

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