Dogs reach for the ‘skyy’
Sonya Wolf says she cleans up after her dogs for a living, but that’s the worst of it.
The Penn Valley woman owns one of the two Skyy Dogs USA teams – troupes of acrobatic canines who are just as good in the air as any international soccer player.
“I fly all over the country with them doing NBA shows and NFL half-times,” county fairs and other venues. Wolf said. They have been on television numerous times on ESPN and the Animal Planet channels, in commercials and last year on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”
All that exposure has helped Wolf turn her trick dog show into a full-time job and national attraction. Now, she is slated for an appearance Wednesday night on “The Late Show with David Letterman.”
Wolf is expecting to appear along with her dog, Boo, the only pooch in the world who can double-Dutch jump rope, according to Wolf’s research. Double-Dutch is when two ropes are turned at once for the jumper to weave through, and the jumper is required to leap double-time.
“This will be our third time out there because (on previous occasions) the flooring wasn’t figured out,” Wolf said, and the dog couldn’t get sufficient traction on stage to jump over the ropes.
“They promised to have it ready this time,” Wolf said, but she will not know for sure until tomorrow’s scheduled taping.
What the national audience will not get to see is Boo, 9, with his three other trick dog companions, Comett, 6, Angel, 6, and Ginger, 7. Wolf found all of them on the Internet and retrieved them from California animal shelters.
They catch Frisbees, high jump, skip single ropes and do other tricks in their half-hour routine.
Wolf trains the dogs when they are young for 10 minutes, twice a day. If she tries to train longer, she said, “They lose their attention and you’re just fighting with them.”
Wolf waits to train her dogs until after their first birthdays to make sure their bones are developed enough to withstand the jumping tricks.
“We work within their abilities,” Wolf said. “If they like to high jump, we do that with them” as their specialty.
Comett likes to take a run and jump off Wolf’s back before snagging a Frisbee.
Angel can leap over a bar 5 feet high and catch Frisbees close by with the leaping and twisting aplomb of a figure skater. But she would never be an outfielder “because she can’t catch the long ones,” Wolf said.
Ginger is adept at single-rope jumping, but Boo is not, which is why she came up with the double-Dutch trick for him.
“He was jumping weird, so I thought he might be able to double-Dutch jump, and he could,” Wolf said.
“We look for a dog with high drive and the desire to play ball,” Wolf said. They also have to be fit and weigh about 35 to 45 pounds so she can handle them jumping off her back.
Wolf works mostly weekends during the school year. In the summer, she hits the road with her partner in the act, Chloe Meeks, of Napa. Her son, Nicholas Craig, 8, also comes along for the summer and is active in the shows and dog care.
“I like doing this because we get to watch them do the tricks,” Nicholas said.
Show with a message
The trio mostly travels the Western United States in a van but flies to jobs in the Eastern states. The eastern Skyy Dogs USA team is owned by Ray Masel, with whom Wolf shares marketing rights and the act’s name.
It all started when Masel saw Wolf training a dog in Stockton for an amateur Frisbee competition and asked if she wanted to make money doing it. It’s been almost 24-7 since, training, traveling, cleaning and dealing with the dogs and the show.
Wolf does it for the love of the animals, the fun and to pay bills, but she also has a message for her audiences.
“We encourage people to get rescues (from animal shelters) and to have their dogs spayed and neutered,” Wolf said
To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail email@example.com or call 477-4237.
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