Pups prove popular at fair


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Proving anything is paw-sible with a supportive team and cheering crowd, the WoofJocks Canine All Stars made a triumphant return to the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair stage this week.

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This article was published 01/04/2022 (357 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Proving anything is paw-sible with a supportive team and cheering crowd, the WoofJocks Canine All Stars made a triumphant return to the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair stage this week.

It was “magnificent” being back at the fair after seeing it cancelled for the past two years due to COVID-19, said WoofJocks emcee Karen Sandford. Sandford was at the show with her dogs Ringo Starr and Johnny B. Good.

“The crowds have been amazing, so welcoming and just so happy to see us again,” Sandford said. “We’re so glad to be back.”

The dogs are especially feeling pumped to be back, said Winnipeg-based WoofJock Emily Lowes, bringing their ultimate tricks and athletic feats to the Westoba Place Main Arena and Flynn Arena TD Ag Action Stage for six-action packed days. Lowes appeared in shows with her dogs Fidget, Shuffle and Wilson.

The WoofJocks features team members from Manitoba and Ontario. The RMWF has marked the first time they have all been able to reunite since the pandemic began.

The dogs “were beyond excited the first day and jumping like crazy” getting the opportunity to reconnect with crowds, Lowes said.

The goal of each performance is to showcase the dogs and ensure every team gets their time in the spotlight. The RMWF saw 11 WoofJock handlers with 21 dogs attend the show.

The WoofJocks Canine performances are choreographed to incorporate elements of canine agility, obedience, tricks and flying disc. After each show the canines visit with the paparazzi at a meet and greet with fans.

Sandford described a performance as putting together a play with the dogs writing the script. Each event offers a different experience for audiences with different canines letting their positive personalities shine.

The WoofJock team works hard for the six days they are at the fair — hosting multiple demonstrations a day.

Handlers are on their feet for about 10 to 12 hours a day. Their first show starts around 2 p.m. and the last show is usually around 9:30 p.m.

For each performance the arena will fill with children “packed like jelly beans” cheering the dogs on, Lowes said. The crowds create an exciting energy that fills the room with a cacophony of cheers.

Teams have been diligently practising for the return to the stage, she said, carefully building their agility and dog handling skills.

“Agility is a sport where you don’t need to be with a bunch of people. You’re out on the field by yourself with your dog,” Sandford said.

For a show, performances focus on the individual talents of each team. The first time they have all been able to perform and bring their individuals talents together was during their initial show Monday.

“I love watching everyone and their dogs. When one dog succeeds it’s great for all of us because it really is a team effort,” Lowes said. “It’s really important that all the dogs can get out there.”

The WoofJocks made their first appearance at the RMWF in 2019. They were set to return in 2020 and 2021 before “the world fell apart” due to COVID-19, Sandford said.

The teams are thrilled to be back for the first RMWF in two years, she said, adding the return has felt like “riding a bike.”

“As soon as you’re out there you’re pattern comes back. When the audience is just so into the show everybody feeds off of it — the team members the dogs, everybody.”

To this day she feels a mix of excitement and nerves every time she steps out on the stage, Lowes said. Her favourite part of each performance is getting to see the entire WoofJocks team on stage.

Another highlight has been the three junior handlers appearing in shows. Sandford said all are under the age of 17 and the passion and love they have for their dogs is inspiring.

The trainers have an incredible relationship with dogs and bring love and joy to the stage when performing.

Lowes has been appearing in dog shows for more than a decade and in that time the WoofJocks have become like family.

“If your dog misses a weave entry or misses a jump there’s nothing wrong with it, it’s let’s figure out how to help you to get that next time. Which is so special,” Lowes said. “The dogs are always perfect, that’s a thing, the dogs never make mistakes only people do.”

Her furry family has grown through the connections she has made through the WoofJocks. Her latest pack member Shuffle was found through the Winter Fair. She met Shuffle’s dad in 2019 and soon learned he was having puppies.

Shuffle was flown from Toronto in a little kennel as a puppy and has grown into a fun dog eager to perform. Shuffle made his freestyle debut at the Winter Fair on Thursday night showcasing his frisbee and agility skills.

“There are so many opportunities I’ve had because of WoofJocks,” Lowes exclaimed. “I’m very grateful for everything I’ve got to do because of them.”

» ckemp@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @The_ChelseaKemp

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