Sunday, March 14, 2010


In dog training (of the click and treat variety) there is something called a jackpot. It comes when the dog has performed a series of commands without error. It's like a handful of treats instead of the usual one. Trainer Kat Martin tells a story of a woman who uses Cheese Whiz, sprayed directly into the dog's mouth, as a jackpot during obedience trials. You don't even have to see this happen to know it works.

In the carnival world, a jackpot is a story, usually about something that happened in the past. It's often entertaining and occasionally embellished by the reality of the speaker or the person who told it to them. Cutting up jackpots can amount to a late night history lesson or a load of gossip depending on the source. As far as I know it does not involve Cheeze Whiz or snacks of any kind. Well, occasionally there's beer.

Stella and I went to our fifth week of class on Saturday. There are about three and a half weeks left before the test and we're supposed to be weaning the dogs off the treats altogether at this point. She and I have done this at home but I still carry them to class in an open canteen pouch around my waist. I can't remember what we did exactly but I squatted down to give Stella the jackpot and she rammed her whole head off into the pouch and jackpotted herself. I had to drag her off of me, spilling treats all over the floor which she spontaneously cleaned up. She then did this flamboyant automatic sit and looked at me like: What do you want me to do now? I think my exact words were "Bite me."

As for carnival (style) jackpots, however twisted this may seem, it's the whole truth and illustrates what a bizarre six degrees of separation sort of a life we live over here in south Nashville. A couple of weeks ago I photographed the Ballet Ball, an annual fund raiser for the Nashville Ballet. The honoree this year was National Dance Institute founder Jacques d'Amboise, who began his career as a principal dancer in the New York City Ballet some years ago. Does this have anything at all to do with dogs? No. Is Woody Harrelson wearing a wig in it? No. Does it have something to do with the carnival? Well...if you hold your mouth a certain way and squint with one eye, it kind of does. Mr. d'Amboise played a ballet dancing carny in the movie Carousel (he was also one of the brothers in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers) so here, in all of its calliope-driven glory is the Starlight Carnival ballet from Carousel.

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