Top dog: Hogan is a Wiz on stage
Hogan helped make The Wizard of Oz a hit in October.Few in the audience would have guessed it was the papillon’s acting debut: he ran into Dorothy’s arms, and barked on command, without fail.
Owner Maureen Burke would probably say it is because the 6-year-old is a regular in agility competitions and used to the stage.
During the past three years, he has won so many ribbons she has had to throw some out.
“He’s very cool in the ring,” said Dr Burke. “My other papillon, Omi, gets very excited when you take him to a competition, but not Hogan.”
The butterfly-eared dog confidently leapt through rings, cleared wobbling boards and zinged over A-frames on the agility course at the American Kennel Club Agility Invitational in December.
He was named the top scoring international dog and placed ninth out of 147 entrants, in the 8-inch jump class.
Hogan was 13 months when Dr Burke got him from Denzel Papillons in Hughesville, Maryland. She and her husband Michael DeFontes already had two retrievers, two keeshonds and a poodle in competition. Dr Burke wanted a smaller dog because travel to international shows would be cheaper and far easier on the animal.
From the beginning, Hogan was a handful.
“When I first bought him he had no training,” said Dr Burke. “He was super-active and into everything.
“I’d put him in his exercise pen and he’d jump out and run around the house.”
She started training him, using courses she found online.
“One of the first courses we did was a puppy tricks course,” she said. “He loved that. He learnt to do all the usual tricks. He learnt to put his four paws in a tiny container and balance there. He learnt paw crossing and he can pick up one container and put it into another one.”
Hogan showed just how far he had come, when Gilbert & Sullivan came calling last year. The producers were looking for a Cairn terrier, but took the papillon on when none could be found.
“I thought he might really like it or, he might get up there, see all those people and have a meltdown,” said Dr Burke.
As it turned out, Hogan “wasn’t frightened at all” but things did not always go smoothly.
“There is this scene where Aunty Em gives Miss Gulch some cookies,” said Dr Burke, a radiologist at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital. “Someone had the bright idea to put the cookies in the basket after they were passed to Miss Gulch.
“So for a couple of shows when Hogan jumped into the basket all you saw was his furry little butt as he went nose down in the basket to find the cookies.”
She worried that he would not want to do agility training any more once the show closed.
“He had a bit of an attitude for a bit afterwards,” she laughed. “He was like, I prefer getting paid — with treats — to do nothing and sit in a basket.”
However, as his most recent show performance demonstrated, he soon shook it off.
Next month, he is on his way to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City; in March he is off to the American National Agility Championships.
“He went last year also and was the first Bermuda dog to take part,” said Dr Burke.
She and her husband have since bought three more of the breed.
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