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J.D. Platt performs with his K9 Kings during the Wild Rogue Pro Rodeo at the Jackson County Expo Center in Central Point Saturday. Mail Tribune Photo / Jamie Lusch - Jamie Lusch

Dogged Determination

Broncs and bulls weren't the only four-legged beasts making noise Saturday night at the Wild Rogue Pro Rodeo.

Though only a fraction of the size of a rodeo bull, J.D. Platt's six frisbee dogs walked into the Jackson County Expo arena in Central Point as though they owned the place.

Platt, who has 14 years experience training canine athletes, hosts the only Frisbee dog show on the professional rodeo circuit. He hit the trail with his dogs four years ago, playing rodeos along the West Coast.

"Nine out of 10 people at a rodeo have a dog," Platt said. "These people enjoy animals of all kinds, so they are usually excited to see what you can do with a dog."

Platt's "K9 Kings" usually is given around 10 minutes between rough-and-tumble events such as bull riding and steer wrestling, so he is tasked with keeping up the intensity level to compete with the starred events.

"These dogs love it out there," Platt said. "This is what they live for the day of a rodeo."

Platt kicked off his show with Galaxy, his 10-year-old border collie/ English pointer mix. The dogs bounds in front of him before weaving between Platt's legs in a Figure 8 pattern.

Then Platt yells, "Southern Oregon, are you ready for some high-flying canines?" into a microphone and the real show begins.

Platt wings a Frisbee 20 yards, with Galaxy hot on its trail. The "mutt" snatched the disc out of the air, sending the packed arena roaring.

His five other dogs — a group Platt calls his "A-team" — join the fray. Suddenly, the center of the arena is exploding with dogs leaping at frisbees.

Included in Platt's "A-team" are two American Indian dogs, of which only 800 or so exist. They were bred by one man based in central Oregon.

"They are amazing dogs," Platt said. "As good of athletes as they are, the thing I like most about them are how good they are with people."

It takes a special kind of dog to thrive in front of large audiences, Platt said.

"They have to be comfortable with the noise of the crowd and all the activity surrounding them," Platt said. "They have to be able to concentrate while standing next to a 2,000-pound bull. It's hard to find a dog that can handle that."

It takes a couple of years to train a frisbee dog, but they are able to compete for a long time. Once Platt retires a dog, it is turned loose on his central Oregon ranch to live the good life.

Platt does not work with the dogs everyday. He believes it's better to take them out a few times a week. The canines spend rodeo day lounging around his air-conditioned motor home.

"I like to keep their interest level up," Platt said. "If you over train them they tend to lose interest."

Platt's next project is breaking the frisbee dog speed record with his Whippet named Olympia. That dog wowed the Expo with a 20-foot leap off Platt's back in an effort to catch a frisbee.

Platt's way with dogs has earned him a bit of celebrity as he has appeared on Animal Planet and was a contestant on the reality show "America's Greatest Dog."

"Yeah, people sometimes recognize me," Platt said. "But the dogs are the stars."

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471; or e-mail cconrad@mailtribune.com.

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