Updated: Apr 23, 2018

The G.O.A.T. from the hit revival allowed Playbill Video to document the day in a life of a true icon.


One of the breakout stars of the 2017–2018 season has been Once On This Island's Sparky, the goat who has captured the hearts of theatre-goers (and who has over 2,000 followers on Instagram).

Sparky—who has a reputation in the industry for butting heads—has stubbornly refused any and all requests for an interview since Once On This Island opened last December, but he finally relented to allowing a camera crew to follow him to the theatre. Watch Sparky make a star entrance and hear his co-workers (mostly) rave about him in the video above!

Updated: Apr 23, 2018

Warmer weather, blooming plants and buzzing insects can all spell trouble for the pets in your care, but depending on where you live, winter hazards may still apply! Stay alert to weather patterns, don’t allow pets outside unsupervised and wash melting salts from paws to prevent poisonous ingestion.

If, however, the bright and beautiful days of spring are upon you, remember that doggie dangers and cat-astrophes can happen anywhere, so professional pet sitters must be prepared to prevent disasters and stabilize injuries before veterinary care is available.


If a curious pooch or pouncing feline gets stung by a bee, scrape away the stinger if you can find it. Pulling the stinger with fingers or tweezers could rupture the poison sac allowing toxin to enter the pet’s bloodstream. Most pets, however, paw it away or rub in the grass, removing it. If no medical history or treatments contraindicate, administer 1 mg Benadryl® (Diphenhydramine) per pound of the animal’s body weight and apply a cold pack for short periods at a time (a bag of frozen peas works well) to any swelling. Remove the ice pack frequently so as not to cause frostbite to the tissue or discomfort to the pet in general. If swelling is severe or if ANY breathing difficulties develop, do not delay—seek veterinary attention immediately.

While protecting yourself, be sure to keep insect repellents and sunscreens out of paws’ reach. If ingested, these products can cause neurological issues, vomiting and diarrhea.

Grooming, Pests and Disease

Remind clients to keep their pets well-groomed, but not to shave long-haired dogs or cats to the skin as fur insulates from heat, protects from sunburn and can buffer burrs, thorns and other piercing objects. Give a daily thorough brushing to prevent matted fur which can harbor pests, create sores and keep in heat. Apply veterinarian-approved flea and tick preventive to ward off the itchies and keep tick-borne diseases at bay. Also remind clients to stay up-to-date on vaccinations and/or titer testing for springtime-emerging Parvovirus and Leptospirosis (wetter environments, near lakes and streams), and don’t downplay the importance of heartworm testing BEFORE you see your first mosquito. Prevention costs less than one weekly bistro-made coffee, whereas treatment can be expensive and difficult. Initial symptoms are unseen, but cough followed by shortness of breath, abnormal lung sounds, fluid retention, loss of blood to the brain and death can occur if a heartworm-positive dog goes untreated.

Rising Temperatures

Keep pets well-hydrated and provide shade when outdoors. An air-conditioned house is safest, but the next best thing is a well ventilated and insulated doghouse, a catio or a shaded porch with a fan or misting system.

Outside food bowls should be placed in a pan containing a few inches of water to keep ants out. Fresh drinking water must be supplied all day long making sure that outside bowls remain in the shade even when the sun moves in the late afternoon. Bowls that attach to a spigot need to be checked to ensure that all systems are go and that the bowls aren’t a muddy mess from dogs who cool their paws in them. Don’t solve the problem by supplying a larger bowl which can become a bird bath making water unpotable. Due diligence is a must. Cats, too, need to drink, so try a saucer, glass or coffee mug which won’t brush whiskers and makes the experience enjoyable.

When transporting pets, never leave them unattended in a vehicle, even for a few minutes! Temperatures can skyrocket quickly, resulting in life-threatening conditions.


Many fruits and vegetables ripen in spring, but not all are pet safe! Grapes and raisins contain toxins that can impair kidney function; seeds and pits of stone fruits (peaches, plums, apples and cherries) contain deadly cyanide or arsenic; onions and chives may cause hemolytic anemia; tomato and potato leaves and stems can result in digestive, nervous and/or urinary system difficulties; and iced tea or coffee could increase your pet’s heart rate and result in seizures. Carrots, green beans, broccoli, apples and bananas are safe and beneficial for most dogs and cats in moderation as long as they don’t become a choking hazard.

According to the Pet Poison Helpline®, these are the 10 most poisonous plants to our pets. All parts (unless otherwise indicated) can be deadly.

  • Autumn Crocus

  • Azalea

  • Cyclamen

  • Daffodils

  • Tulips & Hyacinths (especially bulbs)

  • Diffenbachia (leaves and stems)

  • Kalanchoe (also vase water is toxic)

  • Lilies (Tiger, Asiatic, Easter and Japanese Snow can be fatal to cats while others may cause milder symptoms.)

  • Oleander (also smoke from burning branches and water in vase)

  • Sago Palm (seeds most deadly)

Place fertilizers, insecticides, weed killers and cleaners (use a pet-friendly white vinegar solution) out of reach. They can be absorbed through paws or ingested when grooming. Snail and slug bait pellets can cause seizures. Organic fertilizer does not mean pet-safe: Blood meal is flash-frozen blood that has been dried and ground and is tasty to pets. Often it is infused with iron resulting in a toxic overdose if consumed by Fido. Bone meal is made from animal bones ground to powder. When ingested, bone meal can form a large concrete-like ball in your pet’s stomach which requires surgical removal. Chemical-based weed killers are highly toxic to humans, pets and wildlife. Instead, mix up this do-it-yourself pet and people friendly weed killer:

  • 1 Gallon White Vinegar

  • 2 Cups Epsom Salts

  • ¼ Cup Dawn® Dish Soap (the original blue works best)

Spray in the morning after the dew has evaporated, and by dinner time…weeds are gone!

Keeping Fido and Fluffy safe is a 24/7 job for pet parents and professional pet sitters. Know your nearest animal emergency center, what services they offer and how they accept payment. Keep this number handy: ASPCA’s Poison Control Hotline (888-426-4435), and regularly bone-up on your pet first-aid skills. Preparing for the worst just may prevent the worst from happening!

About Denise Fleck

Denise Fleck is an award winning author& radio show host, and a Pet First-Aid & CPR instructor who has personally taught more than 15,000 humans animal life saving skills and millions more via national television appearances. She has authored 10 books including “The Pet Safety Bible,” and is a huge fan of professional pet sitters! Learn more at www.PetSafetyCrusader.com.

Updated: Apr 23, 2018

From the scruffy pup in Annie, to a boy’s beloved rat, in Curious Incident, there have been many occasions where an animal has graced the Broadway stage. The Broadway revival of Once on This Island is no exception. Two goats and four chickens help to tell the story.

Pets of Broadway had the opportunity to meet the animals and chat with Broadway animal trainer, Lydia DesRoche, to hear the backstory of the goats and chickens of Once on This Island. DesRoche began, “I was contacted by one of the producers and she asked if I had ever worked with goats before. I had experience working with goats on The Rose Tattoo in Williamstown. One of my dearest friends runs a sanctuary and introduced me to a farmer in Upstate New York who takes in orphaned animals and nurses them back to health.” With experience and connections, DesRoche was the perfect trainer that producers had in mind.

A few months before the show started, DesRoche went to pick up the animals from the farm Upstate. According to DesRoche, one of the goats was a standout: “Sparky basically auditioned himself. I was there to pick up other goats; the farmer chose for me, and when I met Sparky, he was like, ‘I’m your guy!’”

As it turned out, Sparky had a sidekick named Peapod. DesRoche soon discovered that the two were a package deal. DesRoche explained, “Sparky and Peapod were very bonded. They reminded me of Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson’s characters in Zoolander. They were so funny and obnoxious together.” DesRoche needed animals who were very social, and Sparky and Peapod proved right away that they fit the bill. The next step was to prepare them for the stage. DesRoche shared, “I went every day to the farm and played music from the show and danced with them. On the weekends, I would throw little goat parties and have my friends come hang out with them on the farm.”

Although the goats alternate for the pre-show performance, Sparky is the lead goat. DesRoche explained, “I would not at this point think about putting Peapod on for the main scene. We still have to work up to that point. One of the things for me that is so important is that if I’m going to put an animal on stage, I want them to have a choice. I never force them; I just make it so fun for them that they’re dying to go on stage.” Sparky and Peapod actually compete for the pre-show position each night and are disappointed when one has to stay behind: “When one has to stay here, Keren [Dukes] (animal handler) and I have to comfort them by giving them an extra brushing or massage.

As for the chickens -- Effie, Deena, Lorrell, and Michelle -- they themselves choose who will attend each performance: “The chickens come here by choice. We never know who will show up. The driver goes to get them and says, ‘Who wants to come?’ Whoever walks out of the barn and into the van is in the show that day. It’s 100 percent volunteer.”

All of the human cast members of Once on This Island have been very welcoming to their animal co-stars, but two, in particular, have exceeded DesRoche’s expectations: “There are some cast members in this show who have gone above and beyond with these animals. Merle [Dandridge] came here every single day to visit the animals before each show. She recently left the show to film the TV series, Greenleaf, but first went out of her way to help the goats transition to the new actress, Tamyra Gray, and help Tamyra feel comfortable with the goats. Kenita [R. Miller] came in wanting to learn how to hold the chickens and take them out of the cage.” As an audience member, it is clear that there is a bond between Miller and the chickens as well as Dandridge and the goats. DesRoche continued, “The chickens, especially Deena, will follow Kenita around the stage, and the goats and Merle are just unbelievable. These goats would do anything for her. I know the actors have so much on their plates and so much to think about so the fact that they take the extra time makes me so happy. I know that the animals are really loved and cared for while on stage.”

Merle Dandridge, Peapod, Kenita Miller, Lorell and Effie (Photo credit: Kenita R. Miller).

They say it takes a village, but luckily for these animals, this production has an entire island. DesRoche pointed out, “We’re very lucky to have such an amazingly helpful team here.” Upon entering the animal’s “star” dressing room, it was clear that these animals are very happy to be a part of this production with the loving people who surround them.

See Sparky, Peapod, Michelle, Lorrell, Effie and Michelle in Once on This Island at Circle in the Square Theatre

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