Tim Seawell may work the typical carpenter job with a great crew at the Performing Arts Center (PAC), but his stagehand is someone who doesn’t actually have hands.

Meet Dakota, the seven-year-old rescue dog who has made her home in the technical department of the PAC on Cal Poly’s campus.

Seawell, Dakota’s owner, is the head carpenter at the PAC. He says Dakota is always on the job whenever you need her.

“[Dakota] is basically my shadow. She loves to come around. She follows me pretty much everywhere she can go. She wishes she had thumbs that way she could follow me to the grid and do more work,” Seawell said. “But in a pinch, if you need a tool, you give her a little whistle, she’ll run over and give you something that you need.”

Dakota did not always have the loving and supportive home that she has now. She was one of 23 dogs that were being stowed away in a house in Los Alamos that, according to Seawell, was “smaller than a quarter of this stage,” or approximately 675 square feet.

Her demeanor was drastically different than now, with her tail tucked between her legs, according to Seawell.

“The owner allowed [all the dogs] to live in their own feces and self-garbage,” Seawell said. ”[Dakota] was the runt of a big group of dogs. You can see that she’s got a lot of scratches and damage to her muzzle.”

After living in this situation for two years, the sheriffs took over and “liberated all the animals,” Seawell said.

He found Dakota at the San Luis Obispo Woods Humane Society and has since become “her human.” He said that they are fortunate enough to have reconnected with many of her siblings, including her brother Bert who was moved to the shelter with Dakota.

While she now has a better life, her “checkered background” still follows her, Seawell said.

“When people see her with me, they think, ‘Oh, I want that.’ You have to earn that. She doesn’t come up right away,” Seawell said. “She’s obviously gotten a lot better than she was. She’ll greet you and check you out, but to really break through and be one of her special people takes a lot… and so she emotes that with me, but not with everybody else.”

Now Dakota has been working at the PAC for five years.

“She’s grown a lot and has slowly kind of won over everybody, one heart at a time, and has become a staple in our community and the PAC family,” Seawell said. “No pun intended, but we are a ‘pack’ and we do things in and out.”

Dakota works early mornings, late nights and is there for the PAC on the hardest days, according to Seawell.

”She’s right there beside us, and she really is a beacon of light,” Seawell said. “She greets you. She gives you kisses. She just helps pick up the energy of every group.”

Throughout the time she has worked at the PAC, Dakota has made quite the name for herself. She met John Madden while Seawell, the Cal Poly band, the football team and President Jeffrey Armstrong were in Pleasanton discussing business matters. At the end of the meeting, Madden stood up and said, “so, who’s the dog?”

Seawell recounts this memory fondly.

“He just engulfs her with his hands, and I thought that was a really cool moment,” he said. “It’s a calming energy that she brings and everybody can be at ease with that.”

Snarky Puppy, a jazz band that performed at the PAC in October, asked for a furry friend in their contract.

“At least five or six other musicians and I think one of the technicians really took to her and she took to them,” Seawell said. “It was such an uplifting moment for the group because they are all traveling and they have animals at home that they love and miss. So to have a little surrogate love was a very positive thing.”

Not only are celebrities drawn to her, but she is also known to many who work at and frequent the PAC. Seawell says many of the front-of-house group and the select donors who have had chance encounters are “smitten with her.”

Dakota has taken the lessons she has learned from her tough upbringing and has flourished in her job as the “stagehand” at the PAC. Be it toting around her handy backpack or “sleeping on the job” in her bed backstage, she has impacted all who know her.

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