By Kassidy Woytek | Reporter
If you listen closely before the curtains rise on a All-University Sing act, you might hear the distant sound of barking from a crew of students up above the stage. They call themselves the “rail dogs,” and their work behind the scenes can help transform a good performance into a great one.
Houston junior Jeshua Gonzalez has been working as a rail dog since his sophomore year. He said his favorite part of the job is trying to learn the sororities’ Sing routines during practices.
“Whenever a sorority’s act comes on, we try to learn their dances and mimic them as best as possible,” Gonzales said. “The goal is to get sororities to give us a rail call.”
Getting a “rail call” means hearing the performers yell their support for the rail dogs before the curtain rises. The standard response to a rail call is a round of enthusiastic barking, and an encouraging yell back to the sorority.
Livingston junior Melanie Moore, a member of Delta Delta Delta sorority, said her organization always makes an effort to show the rail dogs some love.
“Before every single act, we always yell out, “We love you, rail dogs!” Moore said. “And they always yell back, “We love you, Tri Delt!”
According to Gonzales, the rail dogs already have Delta Delta Delta’s dance moves perfected for this year’s performance. They’re close to mastering Zeta Tau Alpha’s act and are still working on learning the other routines.
“They definitely get into the dances,” Moore said. “I think they’re just the type of people that really want to interact with the performers onstage.”
Although the audience can’t see their performances, Gonzalez said he thinks they should get a chance to show off all of the dances they’ve learned.
“Every year we always say that the rail dogs should have their own Sing act,” Gonzales said. “But that movement hasn’t taken off yet.”
Houston sophomore Adam Kobs said the rail dogs are a close-knit community. During a Sing act, they communicate with each other and with the stage crew through headsets.
“We threw a lot of shade at each other through the comms,” Kobs said.
After working his first Pigskin performance last semester, Kobs said he was officially initiated into the ranks of the rail dogs. For an initiation ceremony, the new rail dog is knighted with one of the iron bars that supports the backdrops and given a dog nickname.
On the rails, Kobs goes by the name of “Newfoundland,” while Gonzales is known as “Pug.”
Although female students are allowed and encouraged to become rail dogs, Kobs said the crew is currently made up of all men.
When they’re not busy perfecting their dance moves, the rail dogs work on lighting, audio tech and set building for events in Waco Hall. Besides Pigskin and Sing, the rail dogs also work events like After Dark and Stompfest.
Kobs said getting acknowledged by rail calls is a great feeling because the work they do backstage oftentimes goes unnoticed.
“Our work is very important,” Kobs said, “considering half of the work that goes into each number is backdrops, signs and props.”