Simon shown after he had gained twenty pounds.

The Bullock County Humane Society Animal Shelter announces that one of its rescues, sixty-pound Simon, has been chosen by talent scouts to be trained as a performer for Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede Dinner Attraction in Branson, Missouri. In September 2016, Simon was discovered collapsed and non-responsive on the side of the road.

Initially, rescuers believed he was dead. But Simon was neither dead nor sick; he was only starved and in need of love, attention, and food. “Simon had had an owner at one time,” says shelter manager Jennifer Gallagher. “That was obvious. He knew how to get in and out of a car, and he loved to play ball.” After gaining twenty pounds, three-year-old Simon was in good health, but Gallagher was afraid that he would be difficult to place.

“He’s a fun, goofy dog,” she says. “And pretty mellow. But he’s a lot of dog and he was going to be hard to adopt out just because he’s so big.”

But the BCHS prides itself on being able to find the right place for the right dog. Says Gallagher, “Because we’re such a small shelter we can find the dogs’ individual quirks in alignment with their proper next chapter.”

Simon’s next chapter came when Gallagher was alerted that Canine Stars talent scouts were looking for dogs who loved to play ball and pull on a rope. Realizing she had a perfect candidate, Gallagher contacted Canine Stars and arranged an audition.

Canine Stars is a Stunt Dog Show in which shelter rescue dogs demonstrate their skill in agility, Frisbee, dock diving and other dog sports. “We want to provide family entertainment while promoting dog adoption,” says Canine Stars co-founder Keri Caraher.

When Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede decided to add Flyball Dog Racing to its dinner show, Canine Stars was asked to find and train the eight shelter dogs needed. The Dixie Stampede in Branson, Missouri, is a spectacular family-friendly dinner attraction involving 32 magnificent horses and riders.

It features amazing equestrian skills like Roman riding, trick riding and barrel racing, as well as exciting musical production numbers, lumberjack events, racing pigs, special effects and hilarious comedy all in this one-of-a-kind Branson experience. Beginning in 2017, Flyball Dog Racing – a relay in which teams of dogs race over a series of hurdles – will become part of the show.

Canine Stars looks for dogs that might otherwise have trouble finding a forever home. “Some dogs are just too high strung and have too much energy for a ‘normal’ home,” says Caraher. “They need a ‘job’ to do, and they need extreme amounts of daily exercise to release their excess energy.”

Creating an act that not only entertains but also provides a home for homeless animals is an example of the kinds of projects Dixie Stampede supports. They also support Dolly’s Imagination Library, which has given away over 90 million books to children around the world.

When Simon auditioned for Canine Stars trainer Genevieve in the Montgomery PetSmart parking lot, she was struck by how confident he was. “He immediately engaged in a game of tug with me, he dragged me around,” she says. “He was perfect! For a dog to instantly play a game of tug with a stranger in a strange place, it was amazing.”

Simon will train in Illinois and Wyoming until the end of January 2017. In late January, he will race for the first time in The Canine Stars Xtreme Dogs performances at the National Western Stock Show in Denver. In February, he and his teammates will move to Branson to begin their professional entertainment careers in March, 2017.

For more information about Simon and dogs like him, please contact the Bullock County Humane Society, Union Springs Alabama, (334)-738-7387

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