I thought I’d kick off Dash’s new blog by documenting something that happened shortly before Dash joined the household in 2011. Which is…my four appearances on Turkey’s Got Talent with a dog, cat and parrot! Before being on the show myself, I had always been curious about the process. So I though our trick-dog training friends might also be interested and decided to write a multi-media “blog post memoir” of our adventures.
First, “why Turkey”? Because we all lived in beautiful Istanbul from 2007-2012, that’s why! 🙂 While some Americans still think Turkey is some distant backwater, its population far exceeds that of the UK, and it will soon surpass Germany as the largest country in Europe. The city of Istanbul, alone, has a higher cost of living than Paris and a population of 15 million, including a vibrant TV and movie industry.
I initially arrived with my trick and competition dog, Savvy, but an African Grey parrot named Clover soon joined us, necessitating a new round of trick training.
After realizing the “… Got Talent” franchise was starting up in Turkey in late 2009, I signed up online to audition with Savvy for Season One of the show. I was quickly given an appointment time that left no time to prepare a routine, so I drove to the far side of Istanbul and we made up something.
About six weeks later, we were flown to Izmir with 29 other performance groups that were making their initial appearances that week. We performed our now-choreographed musical freestyle routine for about a thousand live viewers and millions of at-home viewers.
We got the most phone votes of the 30 acts that appeared on that episode, catapulting us straight to the semi-finals. Because of this, our second appearance didn’t involve a routine, but rather bantering with the judges in Turkish to get the news that we were “safe.” This was much more challenging than the dog act had been! The video of this is not very exciting, but I’m including it since I accidentally posted it on YouTube already:
With semi-finals coming up in a month, I planned a pirate-themed routine that would allow parrot Clover to play a small role. I had to train her not to freak out at the backdrop, the stagehands, cameras, etc…. and also to keep off the palm leaf, stay on her perch and fetch on cue during our performance. Around this time, I also broke a rib while practicing, and developed bronchitis. The month sped by, and soon me and all three pets (dog, parrot, and foster kitten who would appear on the show the next year) were making a 4-hour daily commute to attend the mandatory one-week “semi-finals boot camp” at the studio, film our on-camera interviews, etc.
At the end of this prep week, we performed our routine at the live semi-final gala for an estimated TV audience of 10-20 million. The following video is the long version that has my interview (with subtitles). Alternatively, you can click to see the short version of our semi-finals performance.
But actually, the most amazing talent you will see in any of these videos is me speaking to the judges in Turkish in the latter half of the video below. 🙂 Turkish is one of the most difficult languages in the world, and I had never taken a single Turkish lesson at that time. Despite two years of living in Turkey at that point, everybody around me spoke 100% English with me. And I didn’t need to talk at restaurants or stores because I could just use the electronic scanner or point at a menu. So it was a complete miracle that I mustered the ability to speak and understand Turkish in the stressful situation of a live audience, judges and 10-20 million viewers. 🙂
Though our good friend, Kaan Baybag, deservedly went through to the finals, our pirate-themed musical freestyle routine is still listed on the official Turkey’s Got Talent website as the #26 “most memorable” of 1,500 acts that had appeared on the first five years of the show.
In 2011, Turkey’s Got Talent invited me back to perform with my former stray foster kitten, Casper, who had been neutered and returned to the streets as part of a trap/neuter/release (TNR) program. With something like 48 hours’ notice, I had to locate Casper, bathe him, and take him by taxi to the airport for a 4 a.m. flight to the Black Sea city of Trabzon. At around 7 p.m., after nearly 24 hours without eating, drinking, sleeping, or using the litterbox (due to stress), Casper was finally called to the stage. Here’s the audience filing in as Casper goes out for a sneak peek at where he’ll be performing.
Despite never having performed on stage, refusing to take any treats, and looking like a “deer in the headlights,” Casper bravely performed 7 tricks for a live audience of over a thousand people, with cameras zooming around on all sides. His unintentionally comical performance became one of the most re-played acts in the history of the show.
After the show, Casper became a permanent, indoor, member of the family. He now lives in Wisconsin with me, Savvy & Dash, and enjoys leash walks outdoors and performing for treats in the kitchen whenever guests come over.