By Janet Tappin Coelho in Brazil
An adorable dog is carving out an unusual career on the streets of Brazil posing stock still as a living statue alongside her owner, despite criticisms from some animal lovers the creature is being exploited.
This is certainly far from the case according to the pooches’ Venezuelan owner, Yorge Ruiz, who earns his living standing around as a sculptured metallic gold and bronze fisherman.
The clever canine, named Jaspe, is an integral and willing part of his work Mr Ruiz explained. And not surprisingly, the pup is the headline attraction in the pair’s repertoire that involves staying motionless for up to three hours at a time.
The two-year-old pet, a cross between a Pinscher and Pekingese, is so well-trained she relieves herself only when her master takes a break.
“We earn our living by holding our position and moving, just for a few seconds as a gesture of thanks when a spectator drops some money into a box on the pedestal I’m standing on,” explained the 27-year-old street entertainer who caused a stir when he appeared over the Easter weekend in Fortaleza town centre, north east Brazil with this faithful understudy.
The artist’s metallic personage draws on references from the seafaring characters that fish off the coast of Margarita Island, a popular tourist destination on the Caribbean coast of Venezuela. Strewn beneath his pedestal is an array of gold and bronze painted tropical fish which complement his fisherman’s tableau.
But it’s Jaspe that sets him apart from other street artists with her enchanting portrayal as a life-size effigy and her ability to strike a photogenic pose.
“Jaspe has been with me for just over two years. I got her when she was about a month old and initially left her at home while I went out to perform,” revealed Mr Ruiz.
“But I felt very guilty about leaving her alone, so I decided to take her with me to work and never imagined she would become a part of my act.
“But she adapted so well to quietly keeping still for a long time and not reacting to strangers stroking her or trying to catch her attention that it’s clear she is a thoroughbred thespian.
“I started teaching her when (to go to the toilet), to sit still patiently either on my arm, in my basket or on the ground and to stay in character even when there are distractions from people crowding around her,” he said adding that every hour they take a 10 minute break.
However, not everything is under the performer’s control. Jaspe can’t help but react to another dog that comes within barking distance.
“She gets very agitated and starts to growl but I’ve taught her how to stay calm and she’s getting better. I always try to set up in a location where there aren’t a lot of other pets around,” explained the performer who has been practising the historic tradition of a tableau vivant – or living picture, for over five years.
The illusory art dates back to the medieval and Renaissance periods when living statues were a regular feature in festivities and pageantry.
Mr Ruiz’s modern-day take on the ancient art has come in for criticism from those who argue the act of keeping his pet in one position for lengthy periods is a form of ‘mistreatment’.
However, the actor defended: “I know Jaspe enjoys being so closely in tune with me. She transmits a good and loving energy not only to me but to the public who watch our performance and interact with us.
“Working with my dog has been and continues to be a wonderful and unforgettable experience that in no way harms her,” he said.