Q-Tip, the smallest and fluffiest of The Canine Stars stunt dogs, weaves and free-style dances for treats — making her an audience favourite at Red Deer’s Westerner Days.
“She’s only 10 pounds but packs a lot of attitude,” said owner and trainer Carly Zeleny of Calgary.
Q-Tip does three shows daily in Real Country Adventure Alley, along with her buddy Makena, a black Lab, and a wide array of rescue mutt performers in all shapes and sizes.
The four-legged performers wow crowds by pulling off tricks of agility, catching multiple Frisbee’s at a time, and diving 30-feet into a ball pit. Q-Tip can even twirl on her hind legs to tunes by Bruno Mars and Dua Lipa.
Wyoming residents Keri Caraher and Ethan Wilhelm started Canine Stars in the early 2000s to inspire people worldwide to adopt rescue dogs.
One of their first “rescues to rock stars,” was Bootsy, a pitbull-mix found abandoned as a two-week-old in a box in a Walmart parking lot. Caraher and Wilhelm lovingly called her their “Walmart special.”
Before passing away in 2020, Bootsy was considered “the greatest Frisbee dog of all time” by her owners, who still feature videos of her amazing leaps on Facebook.
Now other up-and-coming frisbee stars are spotlighted in the Westerner Days show, which also includes educational elements on how to train the dogs and which kinds of Frisbees work best.
Zeleny admitted she’s very impressed with the jumping ability of a greyhound/border collie-cross called Whisp. The pooch was re-homed six times before finally finding her permanent home at one year of age.
“Whisp loves the ball pit,” added Zeleny, who did doggy agility for years in Calgary before her skills came to the attention of Canine Stars leaders Caraher and Wilhelm.
She now performs with her pups Q-Tip, a Havanese, and Makena in the company’s Alberta shows, as well as the Calgary Stampede.
All training is based on a positive reward system. Zeleny said her dogs are motivated by some of their favourite things: “Q-Tip loves her treats, but Makena is toy motivated.. She has a tug-toy she loves.”
Also at Real Country Adventure Alley at the Westerner Days fair is the Welcome to the Jungle show that offers fair-goers a close-up look at various reptiles.
Other entertainment at Westerner Days includes performances by Pow Wow dancers, Flyin’ Bob, Pound It Hip Hop, and the Kvitka Ukrainian dance group in the Servus International Pavilion. As well, the pavilion has screenings from the Central Alberta Film Festival.