Spectators watched as a lithe, black dog twisted into the air, flipping backwards to catch a Frisbee in her mouth at the Douglas County Fair this week.
After landing, Whoopsy, a border collie-McNab mix, excitedly waited for another flying disc to be thrown her way, tail wagging and tongue lolling.
The pup is part of a traveling act called the K9 Kings Flying Dog Show and the man behind it is JD Platt, a former professional snowboarder living in Bend.
A seed was planted in 1996 when Platt met a man while hitchhiking home from the mountain one day.
He had just started teaching his German shepherd-Labrador retriever mix to play with a Frisbee.
“Lo and behold a week later I met this guy,” Platt said.
He got hooked and started competing in dog Frisbee tournaments.
Eight years later, he took the show on the road full time.
“As I joke, the dogs are now catching the air,” he said.
Platt said he and his dogs have performed for just about everything: fairs, festivals, birthday parties, bat mitzvahs and TV shows.
He said the job he has now — traveling and performing with his canine friends — has been an accumulation of his life story.
Platt said he’s been dancing and entertaining since the age of 9.
“It’s always kind of been in my nature,” he said. “I’m very blessed to do this. And the dogs love it, that’s what’s most important.”
During one of his acts, Platt takes a Boston terrier-Australian Shepherd mix named Carnival and stretches her like an accordion.
Most of the other dogs perform acrobatic tricks, leaping into the air to catch flying discs or weaving through Platt’s legs.
Some of the dogs are rescues, like Zilo. During one of his shows, Platt said he got a call from an animal rescue, saying they thought they had the perfect dog for him.
Since then, Zilo has been excitedly jumping into the air, catching disc after disc. At one point, Zilo refused to drop the disc that was already in his mouth while chasing after another Frisbee in the air. Platt said that’s all part of doing a show with animals — it can be pretty unpredictable.
Platt said he likes to use his shows as a way to inspire people to exercise their dogs.
“Building a bond with their dog is something we like to encourage people to do,” he said.
He currently has 10 dogs in his care, but he said he’s had as many as 15 at one time.
This is his second generation of dogs, which he said is completely different than the first pack.
He said each dog is uniquely different, with their own personalities.
“It’s something I love being challenged by,” Platt said.