Trick Dogs Wow Fulton Crowd

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FULTON - Dozens of fairgoers cheered the Marvelous Mutts performance at Hensley Field Wednesday.

Owner and trainer Kara Gilmore said the New York-based group, which had never performed in Fulton before, gets all of its dogs from animal shelters. She and fellow trainer Nadja Palenzuela said they feel very strongly about giving such dogs a second chance.

Gilmore said Hensley Field's status as a baseball diamond allowed the dogs to perform tricks they ordinarily don't get to do. During Saturday's performance, Gilmore was able to showcase the talents of Bandit, a nine-year-old Australian cattle dog mix who specializes in catching flying discs at long range. She said the group looks for natural talents in a dog and then tailor tricks to each dog's skills. Bandit, for example, is very good at tracking objects in the air. Another dog, Squeak, loves fetching toys and thus specializes in flips and other small-space tricks.

Palenzuela said her favorite part about the performances is engaging people and hearing their reactions to both the performance and the dogs' backgrounds. She said veterinarians occasionally ask them how they keep their dogs in peak condition for their performances. The secret, she said, is lots of conditioning between performances, including activities such as swimming. She said what she most wants people to take away from their performances is to not have a preconceived notion of what their dogs can and cannot do. Palenzuela and Gilmore both said they often find their first guess as to what kind of trick a dog will be best at is incorrect.