In the 1980s, Lou Mack was working as a contractor in Davis, California when a friend suggested that he find a hobby outside of work, so he took Lou to a Frisbee dog show. The visit turned into an award-winning, 35-year career that put Lou on stages and television screens across the globe.
The show sparked Lou’s interest in competing with dogs, so he adopted a golden Australian shepherd named Scooter. Lou says he lucked out with that one. Known as “The Wonder Dog,’’ Scooter won two world titles with Lou in five years and is considered one of the greatest performing dogs of all time. He became the mascot for the San Francisco 49ers, and after about eight years with the team Scooter and Lou started performing all over the world.
Lou eventually adopted more dogs and settled in Las Vegas, where he started “JUMP! The Ultimate Dog Challenge,” a traveling dog show featuring tricks and acrobatics from dogs of all sizes and backgrounds.
“The show incorporates a variety of breeds, big, small, young or old, and all of the dogs have been rescued or adopted throughout shelters throughout the U.S.” Lou said. “We like to spread the word that any dog has the potential to be an incredible dog.”
When Lou says any dog, he means it. From a large shepherd mix named Zee that does backflips to a small, hairless Chinese crested dog named Bubba that balances on its front legs in the palm of Lou’s hand, Lou’s show features all kinds of dogs with all kinds of abilities. Some of the dogs have made pretty incredible journeys. When Lou adopted Frisbee-catching dog Mic, who had been hit by a car and had his leg amputated, the dog stayed in his crate for the first few weeks with Lou because he was so depressed. Now Mic is performing across the country, and Lou says he is one of the happiest dogs.
Some of the dogs have even made it to the airwaves, appearing on Animal Planet, The Jay Leno Show, Late Show with David Letterman and some commercials. You may have seen one of the dogs, Chuey, in a Blue Buffalo commercial walking on a rolling barrel, which she does live during the show.
Of the 16 dogs that live on Lou’s 2 acre ranch in Las Vegas, 12 travel with him every year to perform across the country. From backflips to jump rope to nearly five-foot high jumps, Lou’s show is one of the fastest moving, most adrenaline-filled shows at Kings Island. The dogs move at lightning speed between each trick and seem to have every piece synchronized…most of the time. Even when Lou tries to move the show along, sometimes the dogs have other ideas, refusing to let go of a Frisbee or trying to start a tug-of-war match with the jump rope. Lou takes it in stride, joking with the audience as he reminds the dogs that there’s a show going on.
Even if certain tricks don’t go as planned, the dogs clearly have fun performing. When each dog has their moment to shine, they come barreling out onstage, grinning as they leap into Lou’s arms.
“They’re not forced to do anything, and that’s real rewarding to us,” Lou said. “We just like to take the dogs up there and they do exactly what they like to do, whether it’s just chasing things, whether it’s jumping in the air off our back.”
For Lou, one rewarding part of performing happens afterward when audience members meet the dogs and talk about how he inspired them to adopt. He wants the show to be fun and educational.
“It’s not necessarily getting up here and doing a million tricks and whatnot. We like to get up here and just act natural and have fun and smile,” Lou said. “It’s entertaining, it’s educational and it’s rewarding as well.”
“JUMP! The Ultimate Dog Challenge” presented by First Financial Bank runs through Aug. 12 in Kings Island’s International Showplace Theatre behind the Eiffel Tower.