Superdogs beg to please

Evan Semon © News

Ear Muffs, a 6-year-old papillon, checks things out at the stock show. Ear Muffs was part of the Superdogs show, which includes events such as barrel races, Frisbee tosses and obstacle courses for dogs.

Rocky Mountain News: Local – Superdogs beg to please

Canines raise the ruff with stunts and skills before loud crowd

Evan Semon © News

Ear Muffs, a 6-year-old papillon, checks things out at the stock show. Ear Muffs was part of the Superdogs show, which includes events such as barrel races, Frisbee tosses and obstacle courses for dogs.

Herb Williams believes there are only three types of people in this world.

“You had a dog, you have a dog or you want a dog,” he said Monday while setting up obstacles for his Superdogs show at the National Western Stock Show. “And if you’re not one of those people, guess what – your uncle had a dog when you were a kid 30 years ago, so you’ve been trained by a dog anyhow.”

Williams, who founded the internationally touring Superdogs in 1976, has made his living serving up the stuff dog lovers devour.

Barrel races. Frisbee tosses. Obstacle courses. All choreographed to fast-paced beats. His second and final Denver show of this tour, which is expected to sell out again to a raucous crowd of dog enthusiasts, starts today at 6:30 p.m.

If you are sensitive to screaming, bring earplugs. The 4,500 fans in the sold-out arena Monday produced a noise louder than anything you’ll ever deal with at Invesco Field.

“There’s no other show in the world where people cheer that loud,” Superdogs co-producer Leonard Chase said.

Much of the cheering was for Pot Roast, a bulldog from New York that spent most of its time trying to knock over or chew every obstacle put in front of it.

Its owner, Joan Weston, is a former professional ice hockey goalie who now trains dogs full time.

“A really good Superdog is a combination of finding out what your dog likes to do and then training within that,” she said.

Williams, a champion show-dog owner, created Superdogs after he became bored with the traditional dog show format.

“After winning 100 Best in Shows, I figured there has to be a way to have fun with dogs other than to have a judge point to your dog in the ring and say, ‘You’re the best,’ ” he said.

As the show went on, Keri Caraher, of Fort Collins, stood behind the black curtain with Morgan, her 6-year-old Great Dane.

Morgan was one of four metro-area dogs recruited to “try out” for the traveling extravaganza while it was at the stock show. The dogs had never been in such a loud arena.

“We’re extremely nervous because we have no idea what we’re going to do,” Caraher said.

Spontaneity is a big part of the Superdogs show. For each engagement, Williams pulls a couple dozen pooches from a pool of 150 dogs that are on standby to volunteer their time for the adrenaline-filled event.

For “Woof Stock,” as Williams named his Denver shows, the dogs came from California, Calgary, Denver and many cities in-between. Breeds included a German shepherd, a pug, a poodle, a Labrador retriever, a Burmese mountain dog and three border collies.

Half the dogs were rescued by a humane society, Williams said. So making the cut as a Superdog has little to do with pedigree and a lot to do with personality. Whether they’re pound puppies or regal beagles, successful Superdogs have a magnetism for people.

So do the owners, each of whom volunteers his or her time. The producers pay their way and put them all up in a dog-friendly hotel.

Dianne McWhinnie, whose border collie, Nexus, may well be the fastest in the show, has toured with Superdogs for about 16 years. She said she returns year after year for the camaraderie among dog owners.

“The type that winds up with Superdogs is always fun and outgoing and boisterous,” she said. “For me it’s like a reunion.”

In the hospitality room after Monday’s show, Williams told the Superdog owners that some special guests were in the audience. Some dog trainer friends of his had come to the show with a pair of chow puppies, which were frozen test tube descendants of Williams’ long-since dead champion chow.

“They said, ‘Obviously you’ve not lost the magic that you have put on every dog you’re ever with,’ ” he said.

He thanked everyone who came for a great show.

“To have all these things just sort of come together today was really good,” he said.

If you go

• What: Superdogs.

• When: 6:30 p.m. today.

• Where: Events Center.

• Tickets: $12 (includes gate admission)

• Information: call 303-295-6124 or 303-892-5059

2005 © The E.W. Scripps Co.

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