While looking at animals in a shelter, many people may see common housepets, but Gregory Popovich sees potential stars.
For 26 years, Popovich has trained dogs, cats, mice, birds and other pets, all rescued from animal shelters, to perform tricks like play soccer, jump rope, ride scooters, jump through hoops and more, all part of the Popovich Comedy Pet Theater.
The pet theater returns to the Bing Crosby Theater on Dec. 6 in association with SCRAPS.
Popovich spends between three and six months training each animal using positive reinforcement. Rather than force an animal to learn a particular trick, Popovich will watch the animal as it plays and build a trick around what it likes to do for fun.
Along with his troupe of furry friends, Popovich also travels with performers from the Moscow Circus School who perform acrobatic acts. The Popovich Comedy Pet Theater also features physical comedy, balancing acts and juggling.
“It’s combination of talent pets and humans and audience have to decide who more talented by applause,” Popovich told the Spokesman-Review last year. “Until now, my pets always have much more applause.”
Throughout his career, Popovich has tried to teach people that “animals are people too.” To help spread this message, a portion of his ticket sales are often donated to local animal shelters.
“If after my show, someone from the audience visits the local animal shelter, adopt one kitty or doggie, I feel like my main message reached target,” he said.
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