When Dogs Fly
Dogs are flying at Tweetsie Railroad this weekend as John Misita returns with "Canines in Flight," an event Tweetsie Railroad's Christopher Robbins cannot get enough of.
"I'm always excited about it," he said. "I love events that appeal to the entire family."
Expect canine acrobatics, Frisbee dives into water pools and other feats of doggie delight.
From July 31 to Aug. 8, the dogs will perform three shows a day (11 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m.), but don't worry about the canines' stress. Misita knows first hand how much his dogs love the show.
"You really can't con a dog into doing this," he said. "A dog has to want to do it and you have to keep the dog happy."
And his dogs were in a much different situation a few years ago. All of his dogs are rescues, and a large part of his act is encouraging shelter adoption. From homeless to high flying, his dogs are living the dream.
"We find dogs in need of a home ... and teach them how to play Frisbee or do dock diving, and they become our family," he said.
While this has been his professional gig since 1992, Misita started "Frisbee-dogging" in the '80s with a remarkable rescue named C.J.
"We stared playing Frisbee, first down at the beach at Fort Lauderdale (Fla.)," he said, then at a local Frisbee dog tournament. That's when the pastime became an obsession.
"We went there and saw all the cool stuff people were doing with their dogs ... I was blown away, and I got the fever for Frisbee-dogging and competed for the next couple of years at every tournament I could find," he said, including three world championships near the Washington Monument. "It was the most wonderful experience of my life ever."
And, to continue the high, he decided to take up Frisbee-dogging professionally.
He now owns five dogs, and they're more than performers. They're family, and each dog can do amazing tricks.
"It's a matter of not us training them completely, but them training us," Misita said. "In other words, them telling us how quickly they want to learn and what their capabilities are ... it's a cooperative behavior, if you will."
Complete with custom vans, the dogs travel with him more than a third of the year, but they're not complaining.
"They love it," he said. "Every time we get in the van to go somewhere, they know we're probably going to play Frisbee."
And Tweetsie Railroad is one of his favorite venues.
"We love the park, the people that work there and the people who hire us," he said.
And that's saying something. Over the years, Misita and his canine cohorts have traveled with Ringling Bros. Circus and Animal Planet, to name a few, and have performed at halftime shows for the NFL and NBA.
For Misita and his new family, now based just outside of Atlanta, Ga., it's the perfect life.
"It's through the grace of God, I guess ... He some how made it so I'm able to do that full time," he said.
Catch the show for yourself at Tweetsie Railroad in Blowing Rock. For a preview, check out http://www.airmutts.com and http://www.tweetsie.com.