Crowd pleaser

By David Dickson


Once upon a time, Journey the dog (formerly Lacey) hopped around from rescue to rescue largely because of her nonstop play drive. By the time she reached Best Friends, at only age 2, it was already her third rescue.


Journey knows how to have fun! She can make a roller coaster look like a still pond in comparison when she’s enjoying a good game. This girl wants to live each hour to its fullest. However, her fairly hyper nature proved too much for many of the potential adopters who visited with her over the years. Yet as anybody who has worked in adoptions long enough can tell you, there’s somebody out there for everybody.


You see, hundreds of people might have once passed her over because of that super-powered play drive. Nowadays, however, thousands of people cheer her on every day for the very same reason. No doubt about it, she’s found her niche!



VEJourney 1
Journey's found her niche.



Backing up a bit, Journey’s life changed forever when visiting flying disc expert Nadja Palenzuela came to Best Friends to do a demonstration with her rescue dog Thelma. While in town, Nadja wanted to work with some of the Sanctuary dogs to see if they would be a good match for flying disc work.


Journey (then Lacey), with her love of all things exercise, mastered the basic concepts in an hour. Thoroughly impressed, Nadja told her friend Tom Clements of Kansas City, Missouri, about Lacey. Tom also does disc work with his dogs. Nadja sent along a little video of Lacey to Tom, just in case it might catch his attention. Meanwhile, caregivers at Best Friends kept working with Lacey to practice her new favorite hobby, incorporating the tips and tricks Nadja left with them. Once they saw how happy disc practice made her, caregivers certainly kept up the work.


Well, all that work paid off, and then some! When Tom came out to Best Friends to meet Lacey, she won him over instantly. "I fell in love with her right away," says Tom. He and his wife, Mary, decided to adopt, and not only because of Lacey’s disc skills. "She’s a love bug," adds Tom.


In her new home, it’s something of an understatement to say Lacey, now renamed Journey, has continued her flying disc work with enthusiasm. It’s more like a cold, hard fetish. "She was born to be playing with some sort of toy," says Tom.


To give a glimpse at how natural a fit she’s turned out to be, all you have to do is look at her competition track record. Since adopting Journey last October, Tom has entered her in four flying disc competitions so far. "The lowest she’s ever gotten in four competitions is third place," explains Tom. "It’s kind of unheard of for a dog to be doing that well so quickly."



VEJourney 4
"She's a love bug."



One of those competitions was the prestigious and well-known event the Quadruped. Tom and Journey took first place in the men’s open division. A huge accomplishment! Except, here’s the catch ... this is only what Journey does in her spare time, during the off-season.


As it turns out, Journey has a day job she enjoys so much that she practically stays up at night dreaming about the next morning. And with good reason! Not every dog gets to do something he or she loves in front of massive crowds of adoring fans.


Journey now lives as one of 16 dogs with Tom and Mary. The entire group, one big, happy family, travels across the country in a 37-foot trailer as part of a dog sport and comedy show called Muttallica! These are not your average show dogs. For one thing, each and every one of them is a rescue. Several of the dogs are deaf, in fact.


At the beginning of each show, Tom and Mary explain every dog’s back story to the crowd, which means that thousands of people every day hear about Journey, her background, and her time spent at Best Friends.


"These dogs are all family to us," explains Tom. "It’s a good life." Tom and Mary never ask the dogs to do anything they don’t want to. Each dog has an area he or she particularly enjoys, so Tom and Mary focus with the dog on that specialty. For Journey, it’s all about the flying discs.


This is Tom and Mary’s full-time job. In the off-season, they stay at their home and 10 acres of property in Missouri for rest and training. This time of year also happens to be when Tom typically enters his flying disc competitions. During the rest of the year, Tom and Mary, along with the dogs, bring smiles to thousands of people while also helping to spread the message that rescue dogs are something special!


Tom explains that at a lot of dog shows, purebred dogs with show-quality appearance are in the spotlight. The collection of rescues and former strays that make up Muttallica are a whole different ballgame.


When Journey, a black lab mix with a short, stubby tail that never stops wagging, runs out in front of the audience, for example, she wins over the crowds in a heartbeat. The audience goes wild watching her in action! "It’s a good message she’s sending out," Tom says. "The crowds love her. She reminds them of their own dog."


Muttallica is currently performing for the next several years at the amusement park Worlds of Fun in Kansas City. The arena can seat around 1,300 people. Muttallica can do three shows a day (using any nine dogs in each show), and a lot of the time it’s standing room only. "On a Saturday, 5,000 people can see Journey in action," explains Tom.


Every animal has his or her special interests and own unique way to shine. At Best Friends, caregivers and trainers try hard to find out what those interests might be, and then work on helping each animal develop them. With Journey, she found her niche in a big way and couldn’t be happier with the loving family she has and the life she lives.


"She’s a special dog," says Tom. "There’s something about her."





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