Dogs take center stage at festival
BY COREY DAVIS
Rocky Mount Telegram
Monday, November 12, 2018
TARBORO — Dog owners came out on a sunny but cool and windy Saturday to check out the first-time Tar River Pet Fest on the Tarboro Town Common.
Sponsored by the Edgecombe County Tourism Authority, the Tar River Pet Fest was highlighted by attendees being able to watch three shows by the Purina Incredible Dare Devil Dog Team coming from the Charlotte area. Laura Mortez, owner and trainer of Dare Devil Dogs, had her group of dogs entertain the crowd with an array of frisbee freestyle tricks.
Mortez said Tarboro is one of between 200 to 300 shows she does a year on the weekends. Mortez, who has being doing dog trick shows as a full-time job for more than 20 years, said she travels all over the United States performing shows at major pro and college sporting events.
“I’ve done a show at a Tennessee Titans’ home football game and one time (former) President George W. Bush stayed to watch me perform at halftime during a game at Baylor University,” Mortez said.
Mortez added she also judged dog trick contests and taught seminars internationally in places like Japan, Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic.
“It’s great that the dogs have allowed me to do all those things and meet people from all over the world,” she said. “What we do with these shows is all about entertainment and education. We want to help enrich that relationship with dog owners and their dogs through proper training, good nutrition and lots of love.”
Also on the program was Tarboro native Lainie Johnston, a dog trainer who came down from Wilmington to give tips on the best way to handle an animal and provided advice to children for avoiding being bitten by a dog.
“Be a tree, which mean to freeze and become boring to the dog — basically, use your eyes to look at the dog and see if they should be approached based on the dog’s body language, use your mouth to ask their owner if they should be approached or if it’s OK to pet the dog. And if the dog isn’t interested in being petted, then they leave it alone,” Johnston said.
A 5-year-old pitbull mix named Phoenix in a wheel-chair, who was being walked around by Janice Thompson, caught the eye of other dog owners and children who petted and took pictures of him. Thompson is the owner of Tender Mercies Pet Organization Kennels in Maccelesfield, which is a nonprofit organization that rescues homeless animals and provides any veterinary care they need.
The 501(c(3 organization began in 2012 in Edgecombe County. Thompson said Phoenix was found this year across the street from G.W. Carver Middle School. She learned from taking the dog to the local veterinary clinic that it had been intentionally burned and had a broken back. Thompson said Phoenix goes to therapy every week, has been improving and should be walking soon.
Thompson said it’s important for people in the community to step up and help rescue dogs that aren’t properly being taken care of by their owners.
“We tell people whenever you see a dog being mistreated you have to be the voice for the voiceless, so it’s important to call the local Sheriff’s Office,” she said.
Thompson said Phoenix’s surgery cost around $1,200 and they’re still making payments on it.
“Our greatest need is money, and in just three years, we owe $54,000 in credit card bills on surgeries on rescues,” she said. “We have a lot of donors — but with the kind of vet bills we have, we need a lot more.”
The Tar River Pet Fest was kicked off with a guitar sing-along by Lydia Treneff, owner of Country Feedback Vintage & Vinyl Shop. A K-9 demonstration was performed by the Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Office. The pet festival also had a few vendors selling dog treats and gifts.