Top dogs rise to occasion at Royal Manitoba Winter Fair

Very good little fuzzy buddies who deserve treats are wowing audiences with their agility skills during this year’s SuperDogs performances at the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair.

Approximately a dozen trainers with 30 dogs in total are performing three times per day at Westoba Place in the Keystone Centre.

Each day’s first two sessions finds the talented performers greet fans for a meet-and-greet in Salon A, where the canines are keen on receiving pets and cuddles.

Two days in to the fair, show producer and host David Acer said Tuesday that they’re experiencing “the same kind of excited, friendly enthusiasm that we’ve seen every year.”

The show is structured more as a theatrical presentation than a traditional agility competition, he said. “We see the dogs as performers. They’re cast members along with our human cast.”

While performers come from as far away as Ontario, Melanie Hart and her golden retriever Whiskey and border collie Brian didn’t have far to travel.

The Brandonites are local SuperDogs show staples, with last year’s event featuring her Dutch shepherd, Vigor.

Mixing things up by featuring different dogs this year, Hart was seen at Tuesday’s meet and greet with Whiskey.

Inundated with little hands petting his soft fur, Whiskey soaked up the attention while Hart spoke glowingly of the nine-year-old pooch.”He just excels at everything,” she said. “He can race, he can Frisbee, he does tricks (and) he loves to dance.”

Hart honed his skills at the local Crocus Obedience and Kennel Club, where Hart also teaches, and she said that Whiskey appears to enjoy every minute of it, which is in keeping with other golden retrievers she has raised and trained.

“They love to play, they have a lot of energy, and they’re very affectionate,” she said of the breed.

Equally friendly despite his ominous name, Darth Vader joined Whiskey at the meet and greet.

Handled by owner Kate Gartley, who came from Toronto to participate in this week’s shows, Darth Vader is an eight-year-old black lab mix.

Unlike the “Star Wars” villain he’s named after, Darth Vader is an affectionate dog, and Gartley said that despite being well versed in the SuperDogs activities, Darth Vader remains “a bit of a clown” and tends to misbehave in silly little ways, such as sneaking off with toys.

Despite kids poking and tugged at him, Darth Vader remained calm during the meet and greet, and even wagged his tail in excitement.

“He’s very tolerant,” Gartley said.

This year’s SuperDogs theme is “Wild Wild Woof,” and the daily schedule is available online at royalmanitobawinterfair.com, as well as in the programs handed out at the event itself.