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The day pets ruled at Pet Expo USA

Posted: May 9, 2009 10:25 p.m.
Updated: May 10, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Ten-year-olds Rylee Giles,left, and Lauren Arriaga visit the Giddy Up Ranch petting zoo at the Pet Expo in the College of the Canyons parking lot on Saturday.

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Tillman the skateboarding bulldog soared past his fans with all fours steady on his board and his slobbery tongue hanging out as on-lookers “oohed” and “aahed” at his human-like ability.

“He’s cute and pretty talented. My dogs can’t do that,” said Michelle Alpern, of Valencia, who remembered Tillman from the CBS show “Greatest American Dog.”

The skateboarding pooch was just one of dozens of features at Saturday’s Pet Expo USA to keep visitors entertained and informed about their pets.

Connie Troncale, vice president of Pet Expo USA, said the event is the first of its kind in Santa Clarita but added there are plans for more in the future. The goal is animal awareness, getting pets adopted and education on pet products, she said.

“This is a very family-driven community with lots of pets and children here,” Troncale said. “The number-one reason why pets get into shelters is because they’re not trained properly. Just making sure families are aware of how to train is going to keep a lot more (pets) in the home than in shelters.”

Local residents strolled the College of the Canyons parking lot through vendors like Ultimate Pet Products and The Linda Blair Worldheart Foundation grabbing information on healthy pet products, spay and neutering services or rescue local shelters.

“I think (the expo) is a lot of fun and a good chance to see a bunch of dogs and learn how to better take care of them,” said 15-year-old Austin Gonzalez, of Canyon Country.

Gonzalez’ father, Martin Gonzalez, said he was most excited to see Cesar Millan, a professional dog trainer known for his National Geographic Channel series “Dog Whisperer.”

“I learn a lot from just watching him,” Gonzalez said. “That’s what they call me at home — the dog whisperer. I can’t wait to meet (Millan).”

Millan, or The Dog Whisperer, took center stage with his wife, Illusion Millan, at the expo at 11 a.m. thanking their fans and supporters.

“Thank you very much for enjoying the show, supporting the show and being open to the way I rehabilitate dogs,” said Millan, of Santa Clarita.

“My goal is for every kid in America to pretty much be a dog whisperer,” he said. “To be a dog whisperer is common sense. I would like for every child to connect with dogs on an intelligent level. If we start at an early age, we can prevent situations like children being bit by a dog or a child being traumatized by a dog.”

Millan also accepted DVDs or videos from expo attendees for consideration to appear in upcoming episodes of “Dog Whisperer.”

Several homeless pups roamed about leashed to volunteers from local shelters and rescue organizations attempting to find adoptive parents for the dogs.

“It’s exposure to the public that gets dogs adopted,” said Angel White, director of Big Dogs Rescue from Antelope Valley. “There’s nothing that compares to the little faces on these children when they interact with (the dogs) and we, as adopters, get to see if they’re a good match.”

Rachel Clark for a good match with a mellow black lab mix that comfortably sat on Clark’s lap.

“I’ve wanted to adopt for a while. I’ve been going online and to different shelters,” said Clark, of Saugus, who plans to name her new lab Bella. “I saw her (the black lab) and thought, ‘that’s the one.’”

Dogs weren’t the only animal to seize the attention of expo visitors. Giddy Up Ranch provided pony rides, a petting zoo and Animal Tracks Inc., from Acton, collected five-dollar donations for attendees who wanted their picture taken with a capuchin monkey.

“We take injured wildlife that can no longer be returned to the wild and we give them a lifelong home,” said Stacy Gunderson, executive director of Animal Tracks. Gunderson said participating in the expo brings awareness to the community about the nonprofit organization and brings in donations.

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