Trixie intently stares down a red ball in the grass a foot in front of her.
She lets out a whimper of excitement, but except for a quiver of her tail, she doesn’t move. Beside her, Opal’s eyes are focused on a blue ball.
Side by side, they look like the mirror image of each other — except that one is big and the other is small. Opal is a five-year-old Hungarian Wirehaired Vizsla and four-year-old Trixie, who’s almost a quarter of Opal’s size, is a terrier X pocket dog.
Both Squamish residents are currently employed. Until Monday (Sept. 3), Trixie and Opal are performing in front of up to 16,000 people at the Pacific National Exhibition’s (PNE) President’s Choice SuperDogs show.
“There was an audition in the spring,” the dogs’ owner Maren Bruun said.
Bruun has been a lifelong animal lover. During the past 20 years, she and her four-legged friends have trained and competed in various canine activities, everything from agility to flyball and obedience. What began and continues to be a passion has also turned into a career.
Bruun, who founded the Sea to Sky Canine Sports Club, has worked as a animal control assistant, grooming assistant and a practical nurse. Currently, Bruun runs the pet company Paw in Hand.
“I want to share this passion with other people,” Bruun said.
In SuperDogs, Opal stars in the high jump and relay race. He also carries a basket stocked with prizes out to audience members. Trixie steals the spotlight in musical mats — a dogs’ version of musical chairs.
Bruun and her two performers practice in short bursts throughout the day. They may do a trick before heading out on a walk or practice running through the dog tunnel before dinner.
“It is not about being a boss it is about being a partner,” Bruun said.
Just as in sports, every year the tricks people teach their dogs become more elaborate, she noted, adding that dogs can be taught directions at eight weeks of age. Puppies develop their social imprint before reaching 16 weeks.
“The socialization [of a dog] is a very small window,” Bruun said.
Opal and Trixie both love people. Trixie is a rescued dog, as are many other stars in the PNE show. On Saturday, Sept. 15, Paw in Hand will be at the Squamish Scotiabank and B.C. SPCA Paws for a Cause event at the downtown O’Siyam Pavilion.
With almost no government funding, the fundraiser brings in essential money for the more than 32,000 animals the B.C. SPCA helps every year. Bruun plans to raise $1,000 for the organization.
The Squamish branch deals with approximately 300 animals every year, its manager Marika Donnelly said. Because the branch is based in a 50-foot trailer, the association relies heavily on foster homes, she said. One day, the branch hopes to have a bigger facility.
“The more funds we bring in, the more that can become a reality,” Donnelly said.
Registration for the dog walk starts at 10:30 a.m. that day, with the walk kicking off at noon. The park will be humming with activity, from dog agility demonstrations to doggie portraits.
“There is lots of fun stuff,” Donnelly said.
For more details or to donate visit www.spca.bc.ca/walk.