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A doggone good show, a doggone good cause
by Debra Reid
Feb 21, 2009 | 1648 views | 1 1 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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<a href=>Tribune/Debra Reid</a> - J.R. Johns balances an acrobatic friend at the Circus Circus Hotel-Casino midway on Saturday. Johns and his Doggone Silly troupe will perform at John Ascuaga's Nugget next Sunday- all proceeds go to the SPCA of Northern Nevada.
Judging by crowd reaction, the free, midway entertainment remains top quality at the Circus Circus Hotel and Casino in Reno. This would include the animal act of dog trainer and physical comedian J.R. Johns and the canine acrobats of Doggone Silly.

“He (Johns) does his tricks so fast, you forget to clap,” Paul Towne of Bishop, Calif. said after the “JR’s Best Friends” act. Towne’s smiling wife, Kaila, said she was “speechless.”

“It was cool and exciting,” Antziri Ortega said after “The Trouble with Daphne.”

Both five-minute acts are just ticklers for what’s coming up a week from today: Johns and his canine friends will take over the Celebrity Showroom stage at John Ascuaga’s Nugget. Dog lovers can take in a full-length show for the benefit of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) of Northern Nevada.

“It’s a show as great as its cause,” Johns said. Many of his dogs joined the troupe courtesy of the SPCA and other animal rescue groups.

“I appreciate the SPCA. They’ve saved many lives,” Johns said. “They pick out the dogs that don’t need to die.”

Johns and his canine pals have performed for television shows including “The Tonight Show,” “Late Night With David Letterman,” the “Today” show and the Animal Planet network. One of his Jack Russell terriers won the “Today” show’s Most Talented Pet Award in 2005.

Johns said his shows prove that, in his business, it’s not the breed that counts.

“It’s about the amount of time that makes the dogs great,” Johns said. The troupe includes Daphne and Gordon (Jack Russell terriers), Bo (a lab mix), Soda Pop (a pointer) and Jewel (a Great Dane).

“We use repetition and reward,” added Johns’ partner Diana Stephenson, whose family produced a long line of dog acts. The troupe includes a total of 21 dogs, including a few pooches that have retired from performing.

“In a lot of my shows, they (the dogs) are the comedians, I’m the straight guy,” Johns said. Johns writes, produces and stars in all his own routines, including “The Discount Dogcatcher.”

“It’s a classical Vaudeville vignette where I’m not as smart as the dogs I’m pursuing,” Johns explained.

“Neo-Vaudevillian” Spike McGuire will join Johns in Sunday’s show.

“McGuire’s a really funny, irreverant comedian,” Johns said.

Tickets are $18 for adults and $12 for children with show times at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on March 1. Call the Nugget box office at 1-800-648-1177 and/or visit Johns’ Web site at

Johns said sales are going well and suggested people hurry to get tickets while they last.

“It will be a great 75-minute show for all!” he said.
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Henry Althoen
February 25, 2009
Great writeup on what should be a great show! What talent! I hope folks appreciate it and enjoy it which I am sure they will. John, you should be the Dog Whisperer out there!

Break a leg and enjoy it all!
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