As the familiar strains of The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” pump from the speakers in the back corner lot at the State Fair of West Virginia, a tiny brown ball of fluff whizzes around Angel Koster, taking his turn in the spotlight.
“Go, Spanky, Go!” an audience member shouts as the miniature Australian shepherd runs through the ring, passing between Angel’s legs, vaulting over her back and leaping in the air, catching and retrieving high-flying Frisbees.
Spanky is just one of the 11 members of Scot and Angel Koster’s team of rescue dogs, who perform together as the World Famous Disc-Connected K9 Frisbee Dogs.
Fairgoers can catch the show three times each day, as Scot and Angel individually showcase the talents of three dogs each time.
And with every performance, guests learn the story of how each pooch came to join the Kosters’ "pack.”
“It gives people variety,” Scot says. “They can come to (multiple shows) and see different dogs and hear different rescue stories. And it doesn’t beat on the dogs to be performers all day. They can be loving pets as well. That’s what they are.”
Audience members learn that Spanky came to the Kosters because he wasn’t deemed good enough for an owner who wanted a show dog. Banana Blitz joined the team when he was found roaming a farm, malnourished and dirty. Nitro was passed around when his pregnant owner decided she couldn’t have a baby as well as puppies. And Fireball was kicked out on the side of the road and was seen running after his former owner’s car until he lost the energy or will to follow.
That’s the main message of the show, Scot and Angel say.
During performances, the Kosters’ K9 counterparts are clearly the stars of the show, but it’s a joint effort and the couple trained for the task well before bringing in their first dog.
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The Long Island, N.Y., natives have called Palm Coast, Fla., home for the past 20 years.
Though both whip Frisbees through the air with ease during the show, Angel says their only experience before becoming involved was the typical passing it along on the beach.
But then Scot, who had aspirations of becoming an animation cartoon artist, saw a drawing of a dog spinning a Frisbee on his paw and decided they needed to go see a show by world champion Frisbee player Lawrence Frederick, who by then had moved into playing with dogs.
“We signed up for one of his classes and he asked what kind of dog we had and we said, ‘no dog,’ which he thought was kind of strange,” Scot recalled with a laugh. “But we wanted to learn to throw before we got a dog.”
So they did just that, learning different types of throws and moves before getting their first dog, Rock-It, a border collie who is part of the show.
But they discovered Rock-It was too big for the petite Angel, and when he vaulted off of her body, he often overpowered her.
“So many times I was knocked over,” she says.
So they rescued Indigo, with whom they both work.
And they began competing — Indigo is a world champion and Spanky has finished fifth in micro-dog — and became part of Frederick’s Disc-Connected K9 team.
Along the way, their “pack,” as they call it, grew.
“We had five and someone would say, ‘Hey, we saw this dog and it would be great for you,’” Angel says, with a smile. “Now we have 11 and this is it. We can’t fit any more at this point.”
All 11 dogs live and travel with the Kosters on a bus that bears their names and images.
When the music for the show kicks up, so do their barks, as each is ready to perform his specially choreographed routine.
“They’re built off of modules,” Scot says of the routines. “Inside a module, there could be five different moves. We could name them or cue them with body language and we could shift the modules at any time. That’s how smart the dogs are.”
Some routines go perfectly, with the dog catching all the Frisbees, and some routines not so much, as wind carries a Frisbee a bit or a pooch decides to chew on a disc.
“He wants lunch early today,” Scot tells the audience as Spanky nibbles on a Frisbee before returning it to Angel.
The Kosters say it’s always better to see things like that happen during a show instead of a competition.
At the end of the day, however, they say the most important thing is not perfection but that the audience enjoys what they see and that they learn about the importance of rescue.
Scot says he’s confident they succeed in both.
“The most satisfying thing is we get to put smiles on people’s faces all the time,” he says. “Whatever they have going on, they come out and take pictures with our dogs and talk to us and they forget about it. They smile and they’re happy.
“And they learn about second chances.”
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Catch Disc-Connected K9 Frisbee Dogs perform daily at 1 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 6 p.m.
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At the Fair Today
Gates open from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Church service at 9 a.m.
American National Collector Insurance Car Show at 11 a.m.
Carnival rides from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
West Virginia Lottery opens at 11 a.m. and closes at 7 p.m.
Floral Crown at 1 p.m.
Cooking Demonstration and Quilting Square Contest at 2 p.m.
Open Horse Show at 2 p.m.
At the Grandstand tonight: Darci Lynne at 7 p.m.