This Act Likes Its Dog Days Training Animals Is A Family Affair For David Rosaire's Clan.

Posted: December 02, 1993

Animal trainer David Rosaire didn't have to teach his new dog old tricks.

He believes that the star of his act, a mongrel named Punky, is a reincarnation of his dog Sheba, who died a few years ago.

"When I saw Punky at the animal shelter, she came to me just like Sheba would," said Rosaire, a fifth-generation circus performer. "The other dog looked like this one - not exactly the same, but there is something about the eyes."

Rosaire has gazed into a lot of puppy dogs' eyes in more than 20 years as a trainer of animals for stage and circus.

"David Rosaire and His Perky Pekes" are performing until New Year's Eve as part of the Fireworks, a Holiday Extravaganza show at Crystal Palace in Glen Mills. The show's producer, George Reich, knew Rosaire's act through his performances in Miami and Las Vegas, and asked him to perform at Crystal Palace.

During the break after the Halloween number and before the winter piece, Rosaire performs a 10-minute sketch featuring Punky, more than a dozen other dogs, a baboon, Rosaire's wife, Sandi, and their son, Kyle.

A slight man with white-blond hair and a fondness for velvet tuxedos, David Rosaire said he comes "from a long line of entertainers."

"My family had its own circus, so we did everything," said Rosaire, who was born in Essex, England, and lives in Sarasota, Fla. Every member of his family was a performer, he said, "except for the retired ones, but they still dabble a little bit."

The youngest generation of Rosaires specializes in animal acts, said Sandi Rosaire.

"One cousin works with lions and tigers. Another cousin has chimps. One has bears. Another has horses," she said.

An uncle works with elephants.

While on the road, David Rosaire's family travels in a huge motor home with the back compartment fashioned to accommodate the cages for 20 Pekingese dogs, two primates and three great Danes.

After changing out of his stage clothes, a maroon velvet tuxedo, Rosaire said that he was enjoying his stint at Crystal Palace, another stop on a career in which he has performed his dog act all over the country.

His first memory of being onstage is when he was about 4 and dressed like a clown while riding on a llama's back in his parents' circus. After his father died and his mother retired, he said, he inherited the act, the dogs and the costumes. Rosaire, who won't reveal his age, learned dog-training as his parents' apprentice.

"Pekingese are hard to train," he said. "They are smart dogs, but you have to persuade them in the nicest possible way that they want to do something. You can't force them."

During the act, the dogs play on a sliding board and perform jumps. Duke, a great Dane, carts out a stagecoach with Cindy the baboon driving it, while Punky pretends to wreak havoc.

So far, the Rosaires' children are continuing the family tradition of animal entertainment.

Kyle, 18, has one year of correspondence school left to get his high school diploma. He hasn't completed all of the work to graduate, David Rosaire said, but he's really into computers. Kyle likes working with the animals.

Rosaire's other son, Wayne, is 33.

He trains racing pigs.

IF YOU GO

* Fireworks, a Holiday Extravaganza, is at the Crystal Palace Restaurant and Theater at Pulsations, 242 Baltimore Pike, Glen Mills. Performances are 11 a.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, 5 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays until Dec. 30. Ticket prices vary and meals are optional. For information, call 358-5555.

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