High-flying canines hit Fifth Third FieldWritten by Vicki L. Kroll | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Leave it to Rockin’ Ray Masel to take a game of catch to new heights.
After graduating college, he combined two of his loves — dogs and Frisbee discs.
Bobbie Jane, a little blue-merle Australian shepherd, was the first Skyy Dog.
“She was beyond incredible and just did really fun things,” Masel said. “I’d pull back and she’d run up my leg and my chest and grab [the disc]. Then one time I just kind of tossed [the disc] and she came up my chest and then jumped in the air and caught this thing right in the air. So we started developing tricks from it; it was a blast.”
The two practiced at a park in Stockton, Calif., and quickly became popular.
“I’d say within a month, every time we were out there, people would come over to see what we were doing,” Masel recalled.
A photo of Masel and Bobbie Jane was published in the local paper and the phone started ringing. A college and the owner of the San Diego Chargers asked them to perform.
“They called and asked if we could come out and do a halftime show. We really didn’t know what they were talking about, but basically, they just said come out and do what you do in the park,” Masel said during a call from Reno, Nev.
Then came some contests.
“It really was just a fluke, a chance and luck, and we entered some of these tournaments and we won them, and then we ended up going to the world finals, and we placed third,” he said.
A yearlong gig in Las Vegas led to a chance to work with dog trainer Stacy Moore. “He really trained us how to be entertainers,” said Masel, who became Rockin’ Ray with Jumpin’ Bobbie Jane, “the Mary Lou Retton of the canine world.”
“And from there, we started sending out posters. And 23 years later, here we are still doing it,” he said and laughed.
Rockin’ Ray and the Amazing Skyy Dogs will land at Fifth Third Field on June 23 when the Toledo Mud Hens take on the Norfolk Tides. Game time is 7 p.m.
“Every time I run onto the field with the dogs, whatever the event is, the roar from the crowd, I still always get chills,” Masel said.
Bolt, Charlie Girl and Ziggy will perform in Toledo.
“All of our dogs are rescued from animal shelters. We’ve taken dogs as old as 5 years and we’ve trained them; it usually takes us at least a year to train them,” he said. “Some of the older dogs are great dogs and they need homes, and we’re here to prove it.”
All Skyy Dogs go to obedience school.
“When [the dogs] know their boundaries, it’s almost like a child where you want to be firm, fair and consistent. They know what to expect and have routines,” he said.
“I just really bond with the dogs, play with the dogs, interact with the dogs,” Masel said. “Dogs are pack animals, and they see you as a leader in their pack. They want to interact; they want to be part of the family.”
And Masel’s dogs are definitely family.
“They’re my dogs first, and the show is second,” he said. “It’s all about the dogs. People will remember the dogs’ names, but not yours.”