When Scott Houghton took the phone call, he was in his living room in Maryland. He admitted he was being watched.
"Nine dogs are around me, and some are staring at me," he told the Tampa Bay Times. "One is asleep. One is looking out the window. If they start to bark, my wife promises she'll take them out. It's pretty typical here."
Houghton is one of the human performers in "Mutts Gone Nuts," a comedy show that will make a stop at the Largo Cultural Center on Jan. 28. Along with Houghton, the show will feature his wife, Joan, dog trainer Samantha Valle, whose videos of her athletic dogs have garnered her thousands of followers on YouTube and Facebook, comedian Jonathan Burns and dogs, lots of them — jumping dogs, flipping dogs, magician dogs, tightwire dogs and at least one talking dog.
Before "Mutts Gone Nuts," the Houghtons spent decades honing their comedy. More than 25 years ago, they had fallen in love in Key West while he was performing as a juggler and unicyclist at Mallory Square.
"We got married there, too," Houghton said. "Well, actually on a (schooner) from Denmark moored near Mallory Square. … The courthouse was closed… and we knew the captain could marry us."
Over time, the couple realized not only did they share a love for performing, but they also shared a passion for rescuing dogs. In the early 2000s, they decided to add a dog to their act — Chico, a chihuahua mix who continues to be a (naughty) star of the show.
"Then we adopted another and then another, and eventually, we realized the dogs took over the show, so we decided to make the show about them," Houghton said.
As they created "Mutts Gone Nuts," they knew they needed to make it "fast moving," Houghton said. "So, we brought in Sam to give us more firepower with the dogs — hers are the athletic dogs you'll see. And we brought in Jonathan because we want every minute to be packed with wow and laughs."
One of the biggest challenges the Houghtons have faced is how to travel with the animals.
"Frankly, hotels really don't want nine dogs in your hotel room," he said. "So, we always travel with a climate-controlled vehicle. Animal welfare is a big part of our act. We talk about it during the show."
Contact Piper Castillo at [email protected] Follow @Florida_PBJC.