When dogs fly ...

Performing canines will own The Washington Center stage with their fancy feats

Contributing writerJanuary 18, 2013 

Chris Perondi surely isn’t the only person whose career has gone to the dogs in recent years — but he just might be the happiest.

Perondi is the executive producer and host of “Stunt Dog Experience,” a trick-filled show starring dogs adopted from pounds and shelters. The pooches will perform two shows Saturday in Olympia.

Until 1999, Perondi was working in information technology. “I sold my house and bought an RV and quit my job and went on the road with my dogs,” said Perondi of Stockton, Calif.

Since then, he and his dogs have appeared in professional football halftime shows, at Dollywood, and even on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” It was that gig that led him to perform not just at sporting events and theme parks, but also at theaters and performing arts centers — surprising venues for a show featuring live animals.

These days, work and play are pretty much synonymous for him and for his canine co-stars.

“We try to fit each dog to a part of the show that they love, where they are a natural fit,” he said. “They’re playing. The dogs are smiling and wagging their tails. They’re having the time of their lives.

“If a dog isn’t enjoying a part of the show, that dog doesn’t need to be in that part of the show.”

There are 16 stunt dogs of a variety of breeds, 13 or 14 of whom will come to Olympia. Nine live with Perondi and his fiancée, Suhey Valez, while the others are the pets of fellow trainer Samanthe Valle. During a Monday phone interview, he said they were gathered around him.

“They want to be close to me,” he said. “They are very social animals. They want to be with the pack.”

The stunts they do run the gamut, but he didn’t want to give away too many details.

“You’re going to see Frisbee-catching dogs, high-jumping dogs, racing dogs and some of the world’s best trick dogs,” he said. “We will have some jump-rope dogs in the show, and we’ll have dogs that are going to do acrobatic stunts like backflips.”

Perondi said he looks for dogs with a variety of talents. He admitted he has adopted a few that didn’t work out for the show and went — already well trained in the basics — to new homes.

He emphasizes positive methods of training and enthusiastically recommends the book “Don’t Shoot the Dog” by Karen Pryor.

He also uses the show as a platform to talk about his favorite subject: dogs in need of loving homes.

“A good 5 million dogs every year are brought into pounds and shelters,” he said, “and half of the dogs don’t make it out alive.” ‘Stunt Dog Experience’

What: A group of dogs — all rescued from shelters and pounds — show off their skills, including tricks, acrobatics, dancing and comedy.

When: 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday

Where: The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia

Tickets: $14-$22 adults; $13-$20 students, seniors and military; $7-$11 youth, plus service fees

More information: 360-753-8586, stuntdog.com

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