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Household pets performing big-top acts

Courtesy of Popovich Comedy Pet Theater

The “Popovich Comedy Pet Theater” will be in town Saturday for two performances at the Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts.

The show is a variety act of pet tricks, jugglers and other circus acts put together by fourth-generation Russian circus performer Gregory Popovich.

“When I came to America, I came as a juggler, because I am one of the best in the world,” Popovich said. “I wanted to build my own show and I decided to use pets because I am good with animals, but it’s not only a pet show, it’s a combination of human and animal talent.”

The performance showcases 35 of Popovich’s pets, all of which he adopted from animal shelters, said Kristin Ferguson, marketing director for the McCoy Center.

“I visited the shelter and found out how many kitties and puppies need a new master,” Popovich said. “It was painful for me to hear about the reasons these animals came to the shelter since I am an animal lover. So I try to send a clear message during the show that animals are people too.”

Each of Popovich’s rescued pets only do a few tricks per show, all of which they like to do naturally.

“I decided not to use any difficult tricks or push the animals too hard,” Popovich said. He built one “act where dogs act like students in the classroom, similar to children in a live situation,” he said. “I built it simple and easy for the animals to do.”

Popovich has found over the years that the best way to train and develop tricks for his pets is to start by observing their natural behavior. But there are two completely different processes to train the animals: one for cats and one for dogs.

“Dogs work for reward, but the cats are independent; I have to find their natural behavior. As soon as I find out what it is, I build a trick on the natural behavior,” Popovich said. “It’s a peaceful agreement on the stage.”

The show is set to celebrate its 15-year anniversary next year. Each year since its inception, the show has grown in its number of animals.

“I started with maybe one or two cats and dogs, but every year I go back to the shelter and pick up one or two more,” Popovich said.

The McCoy Center is located at 100 W. Dublin-Granville Road. The show will begin Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and again at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $25-$35 and there is a 10 percent discount for students, Ferguson said.

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