By: Madison Spratto / NM News Port
Some special performers made a big splash at the New Mexico State Fair this year.
For the first time ever, 13 rescued Canine Stars captured the audience’s attention with a dog show that included agility courses and a crowd favorite—dock jumping.
Dogs of all breeds, sizes and ages—including Pit Bulls—competed for people’s hearts.
“We really wanted to emphasize that a dog’s breed or looks aren’t what is important about them,” said Ethan Wilhelm, co-founder and vice-president of The Canine Stars. “All dogs have their own unique individual personalities.”
Seven years ago Wilhelm and his co-founder and wife, Keri Caraher, created the company to give rescued dogs a second chance, and to show the public any dog can be a star.
Since heWilhelm was 10 years old, Wilhelmhe said he has been competing with his dogs in sports such as frisbee, agility, flyball, and dock diving.
“I have been blessed with amazing dogs who have reached the pinnacle of all of these sports, many becoming world champions,” he said. “We want our dogs to change someone’s life for the better—we give all credit to the dogs, it’s their show.”
He said the show is not only about the athletic feats of the dogs, but also making a connection with the audience so they can carry the feelings they have for the show-dogs back to their own home and their own pets. Laughing or crying, he added, he wants the audience to be inspired by his dogs.
And laughing and crying there was.
The show drew dozens, with emotion pouring from each. Laughs roared out from the audience in the fairground’s arts lot as some clumsier dogs took a leap into the pool while flying after a frisbee or toy. Audible ‘aw’s’ rippled like a wave as the littles pooches sped their way through poles and slunk through tubes.
The heart-warming adoption stories of each dog underlined their impressive athleticism.
Alejandro Chavez, an Albuquerque resident and Central New Mexico Community College student, is a dog lover and frequent fair-goer. He said he loved the various events spread throughout the fair and seemingly endless booths.
As a proud owner of three dogs, he said they are special to him and the feeling is reciprocated. The agility events hold the most interest for Chavez.
“Seeing how the dogs run through the course set for them; how disciplined and skilled they are to navigate something so complex so quickly,” he said.
Inspired by the nearly 1.5 million dogs and cats that are euthanized every year, Wilhelm said he hopes The Canine Stars shows can raise awareness around homeless pets—and maybe even give someone the final push they need to rescue their own furry friend.
“Our dogs are our family members, and it is very important for us to showcase not only their amazing abilities and talents, but also their unique personalities and the bonds that we share with them,” he said.
In total the company has trained and sent 200 dogs into stardom, with around 25 trainers on staff all over the world, including Caraher herself.
Wilhelm said life with Caraher has only been improved by sharing it with dogs.
“It was a dream of ours to make our dogs rockstars,” he said. “We do all of the stuff they cannot do, and it is the best job in the world.”
Madison Spratto is a reporter for the New Mexico News Port. She can be reached on Twitter @madi_spratto or at firstname.lastname@example.org.