K-9s in Flight

By Jesse Campbell (jesse.campbell@mountaintimes.com)

Article Published: Jul. 18, 2013 | Modified: Jul. 29, 2013
K-9s in Flight

K-9s in Flight gives rescue dogs a new leash on life. As founder John Misita says, ‘These dogs go from homeless to high-flying.’

Photo by Jeff Eason

K-9s in Flight is giving dogs a new leash on life.

And, according to founder John Misita, they are making the best of that opportunity.

A travelling show team that specializes in canine aerobatics and agility-based performances, the team of dogs and handlers travels the country from May to October, delighting fans in Frisbee feats and doggie-diving competitions.

Unlike other animal performers, these pups are rescue dogs turned athletes that are treated liked pets and not circus animals, Misita said.

“These dogs go from homeless to high-flying,” Misita said. “All of these dogs were rescued or adopted. We advocate pet adoption. Our slogan is ‘save a dog, save a life.’ That is the word we are trying to spread.”

Along with warning about the dangers of excessive breeding and the joys of having a furry friend, K-9s in Flight brings its top performers to the grounds of Tweetsie Railroad from July 20 to 28. Misita said there will be three shows a day, although show times have yet to been finalized. A twilight show is also scheduled for Saturday night. Admission is included in the cost of a ticket to the theme park.

“No two shows are ever alike,” Misita said. “We are always trying to change things up.”

Misita said most of his rescues are friendly dogs and, at times, were misunderstood by their previous owners.

“Let me say first that there is no such thing as a stupid dog,” Misita said. “We train working breeds that have drive. We (then) try to transfer that energy into something positive. Some of our dogs just do the high jump, and some dogs just do Frisbee. We are just trying to show you can do something with your dog. They just need some sort of interaction. They are like us. They need exercise everyday. It’s good for their mind and body.”

He told the story of a dog, Lu Lu, that didn’t have any interest in Frisbee or performing for that matter.

“She now does Frisbee and high jump,” Misita said. “You just never know. You can’t make a dog do these things.”

While the three performances a day might seem a little demanding, Misita said the handlers are the ones usually exhausted by day’s end.

“I always say, ‘Don’t feel sorry for us,’” Misita said with a laugh. “The dogs really enjoy it. They are herd dogs and are used to running up to 50 miles a day.”

For Misita, this year marks his eighth appearance at Tweetsie Railroad.

“I love it,” Misita said. “I’ve been to theme parks all over the country. From Six Flags in Denver to Wild Adventures to Dollywood, this is my favorite. When you are there, you realize you are somewhere very special. I live in Atlanta now, but if I mention Tweetsie Railroad, people my age are like, ‘Oh, yeah, I remember that as a kid.’ It was like the Disney World of the Southeast.”

The personal connection exhibited between handler and dog is another central theme to what Misita’s organization does.

“Everyone that works with us has their own individual dog/kid,” Misita said. “That’s what they are to us.”

For more information and show times, visit http://www.tweetsie.com or call (828) 264-9061. For more on K-9s in Flight, visit http://www.airmutts.com.

Additional Images

K-9s in Flight gives rescue dogs a new leash on life. As founder John Misita says, ‘These dogs go from homeless to high-flying.’
Photo by Jeff Eason

K9s in Flight founder John Misita gives performer Dixie a lift.
Photo submitted

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