Ahead of his family’s extensive tour of Newfoundland and Labrador, Nicholas Olate shares what life is like surrounded by four-legged talent
Performing is nothing new to Nicholas Olate. The 24 year-old says he grew up in the spotlight. He also grew up around something else too; dogs. “Pretty much my whole life I have been around dogs. I grew up performing with them and having them as pets. It was pretty awesome. I’m third generation circus performer on both my mother’s and my father’s side,” he begins.
Nicholas, who takes to the stage with his father in their Olate Dogs show, also performs on his own juggling and singing. But it’s the interactions with the dogs that really made the family well-known after becoming winners of the seventh season of America’s Got Talent.
“We went in with the mentality that we were excited but that not much would come of it. For us, we thought it was great, but the further we got the more surprised we became and the more excited. There was a tremendous amount of amazing talent on the show that year and we were sure we would not win, so it was a huge surprise that we did win.”
If you’ve seen their act, you get instantly why they beat out all other competitors. The Olate Dogs do everything from riding a scooter to performing a mind-bowing back flip.
Nicholas says he is grateful for the compliments, but the real work, he says, is put in by his father Richard and the dogs themselves.
“The way it works is my dad will get three dogs and he will teach them all the same trick and he will pay attention to which one of the three dogs is picking up on it the quickest and then he will move on to a new trick and add a new dog to see how they do. It’s like, he uses what the dog’s most natural ability is and then he just helps them perfect it.”
Nicholas says he has loved his life growing up with so many dogs. “I tell people I have a lot of brothers and sisters,” he laughs before turning more serious.
“Growing up with dogs, the majority live to 16 or 17 years old, so I remember these dogs from being young playing with me. They are family. Dad’s training is very playful. He doesn’t use treats. He doesn’t want it to seem like work for dogs. He wants them happy and playful doing tricks. Nothing against anyone who uses treats, but we want to do things that gets their tail wagging and makes them happy.”
The family has also experienced their fair share of all-eyes-on-them bloopers. “Many times things have gone completely wrong,” he shares. Like the time the family brought in a new breed of dog into the fold; Wire Fox Terriers.
“We had three, and we were so excited. We didn’t know they were hunting dogs. Sometimes we’d be performing and sometimes it’s outside and a squirrel could be way, way in the distance and right when we were opening one of the dogs would see a squirrel and we’d hear; The Olate Dogs, and we’d be on and the dog takes off, then I take off after the dog, and it’s my dad there in the ring. And sometimes I didn’t come in until the act was over. I’d come in, smile, bow, and leave again, all out of breath.”
Nicholas explains that in the circus there’s a saying; once you get in the ring it’s ok. He explains; “You can have back pain or a twisted ankle or a headache, but once you get onstage, none of that matters and everyone is enjoying and into what you are doing. You have to love entertaining people to do this.”
‘My Favourite Things’
A long time ago, someone asked what his favourite thing about performing was. His answer used to be very different than what it is today.
“I’m 24. I have a wife and a daughter and I know more bout the stresses of life. Before I just went onstage and performed because that’s what I did. Now, I look at it this way; if I go onstage and put off a good show, you never know who is in the crowd and how you are affecting them. Someone is having a bad day, is depressed or maybe got bad news. If you can, for an hour and a half, make them forget about the bad and just have a good time and laugh and enjoy themselves then that in and of itself is one of my favorite things.”
‘Smiles & Laughter’
And the reaction they get to the dogs? Priceless. “It’s incredible. You know they had a great time because of the smiles and laughter.”
And the dogs are happy too.
“We have three dogs we got from a shelter, but we have a dog named Willie that had an owner that was abusive to him and my dad said he’d love to give this dog a great life so we were able to take Willie. It took about a year for him to get normal, he was shaking and afraid he’d get hit like he used to, then slowly but surely he came around. To see that? That’s the best reward.”
Visit olatedogs.com for tickets and more information!