Entertaining and educational: Central PA Pet Expo set for Oct. 20 in Altoona

Courtesy photo Halftime Dogs’ Jonathan Offi, show above, is a stunt and trick trainer and disc dog competitor. He has performed nationwide at professional sporting events — such as football and basketball games — and has also appeared on “The Late Show with David Letterman.”

The 10th Central PA Pet Expo is making its way to Blair County on Oct. 20. The event will have new furry faces — and familiar ones — as it sets out to once again educate and entertain the public about caring for animals.

New to the event this year will be Halftime Dogs’ Jonathan Offi, a stunt and trick trainer and disc dog competitor. He has performed nationwide at professional sporting events — such as football and basketball games — and has also appeared on “The Late Show with David Letterman.”

“His dogs do stunts and tricks. This should be special for our guests,” said Amy Hanna-Eckenrode, show director and marketing manager at the Altoona Mirror.

Offi, who has always been fond of dogs, inadvertently turned his passion into his work.

“I grew up with dogs and always loved dogs. I wasn’t introduced to the competing or show world until college. I adopted a few [dogs] who took to liking Frisbee and before I knew it I was introduced to different competitions and shows; that’s kind of how it all started,” Offi said.

He performs with rescue dogs of all different breeds and sizes, the smallest being 32 pounds and the largest weighing 70 pounds.

“Each dog is its own individual. All dogs do Frisbee. When I train each one I find what they like and what they enjoy and try to build on it. All are different and all learn at different speeds; some faster and some need more foundational training,” Offi said.

All of his dogs are rescue dogs, which is a very important message he hopes to bring to the crowd at his show — along with a good time.

“It’s always fun. I just hope the message hits home to adopt a rescue dog. I also encourage people to get dogs that match their lifestyle so dogs can stay in their homes. Consider rescue or adoption,” said Offi.

Centre Wildlife Care, an organization that treats wildlife, will be returning to the Pet Expo this year.

“We will have live animals there and will be educating about native wildlife,” said Robyn Graboski, executive director of Centre Wildlife Care.

The nonprofit organization will bring a menagerie of animals to the show, including owls, reptiles and a bat. Centre Wildlife Care will also bring Andromeda, a red-tailed hawk who has been to the show in the past.

The volunteer-based organization takes in orphaned animals from the wild. “Our main mission is to take care of orphaned, injured and sick wild animals until they can be released to the wild. A few are handicapped and have to stay; we use those as educational for outreach,” Graboski said.

In their busiest season Centre Wildlife Care may be tending to 200 animals.

They take animals from half of the state of Pennsylvania and have 70 volunteers who help with animal care. Volunteers will also be at the show, and they hope to awe the audience with animals while at the same time educating them.

“They (the audience) seem to really enjoy seeing animals and learning about them. A lot of people don’t understand many of the animals we work with. We want to educate them on wildlife and how important they are in the environment. We also want to let them know if they run across animals who need help to give us a call,” said Graboski.

Also returning to the show this year is the Altoona Kennel Association. “They always have a parade of breeds; they have about 20 different breeds of dogs. You can see what they are like and what is suitable for your family through agility demos,” Hanna-Eckenrode said. She also mentioned that Heaven Scent Search & Rescue Team will have a demonstration. Favorites like Iceman Reptiles and Officer Alex Vazquez with K9 Freddy from Logan Township will be there.

New this year will be involvement from PA K9 CRT (Crisis Response Team). There will also be vendors who have participated in past years and first time vendors.

Rescues and shelters — 15 of them — will be at the Central PA Pet Expo. “This is the most we have ever had,” said Hanna-Eckenrode.

As always, there will be a lot of animals at the event and special guests, so it is asked that pets from home are not brought to the expo. The day will have many ways to get to better know and love all types of animals.

“We’re out to entertain and educate. I hope people have a really good time and learn something about caring for animals,” said Hanna-Eckenrode.


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