A number of wagalicious moments came out of the 138th annual Westminster Kennel Club dog show earlier this month — and many were impure.
Impure as in “All-American.” Impure as in “mixed-breed.” Impure as in “mutt.” This year, mutts mingled with purebreds for the Westminster Masters Agility Championship. It was the first time the famed dog show featured an agility component, and it was the first time since 1884 that the less than pure set paw inside Westminster’s elite doors.
Top honors went to a purebred border collie named Kelso, who wowed the crowds and the judges with his flawless leaps, climbs and weaves. Toy poodle Tommy also won hearts as his 5-and-a-half pound frame navigated tunnels, obstacles and ramps. The dogs are judged on speed and accuracy.
But two of the show’s brightest stars are more than supremely agile Heinz-57s. They are former death-row shelter dogs, snatched from an unforgiving and overcrowded system by big-hearted folks unconcerned with either heritage or lineage.
Roo!, a 6-year-old husky mix, took home the gold in the “best mixed-breed” division. But Roo! wasn’t always so adept at channeling her abundant energy.
Found roaming the hills of McClaren Park at a spry 11-months-old, rescuers described the dog as “rude, jumpy and mouthy.” Roo! was taken to the local shelter and later adopted — twice. The first adoption failed. Little Roo! was “too feisty” for her new human. But on the second attempt, Roo! went home with San Francisco-based dog trainer Stacey Campbell.
Campbell taught Roo! some much-needed manners and focused on redirecting her energy. Roo! breezed through obedience training, and the pair moved on to agility classes as “something fun to do together,” Campbell told Animal Life writer Joan Morris. After a year’s worth of agility training, Roo! entered the competitive world of canine agility, and not long after, the unlikely pair was headed to Westminster. Of their time together, Campbell says, “It’s been an exhilarating journey, and I am so lucky to share these adventures with my wonderfully naughty girl.”
Another rescue who made waves at Westminster this year is Emma.
It was the winter of 2010 when Emma — 50 percent Boston terrier, 25 percent boxer and 25 percent mixture of numerous breeds — was found alone in a South Carolina apartment. The owner of the building discovered the dog, then a puppy, sometime after the tenants moved out. It’s unclear how long she lived alone in the empty unit — no food, no family, no way out.
As these stories always go, Emma ended up in a shelter. But from there, her tale takes a rags-to-riches turn.
A volunteer at the Cherokee Humane Society, which works with a network of independent rescue groups to get dogs on death row out of shelters, sent out a mass e-mail about Emma. That e-mail landed in the inbox of 35-year-old Christy Wrede of Eatontown, N.J. Wrede, who runs Luv Furever Animal Rescue in New Jersey, “couldn’t pass her up” and decided to foster Emma herself. She told The Toledo Blade, “I hoped she would adopt out quickly so I would not get attached.”
That, dear readers, is not at all what happened next.
Wrede started Emma on puppy obedience training. Next came agility classes. In June of 2012, at her first agility competition, Emma brought home the blue ribbon. And while she didn’t advance at Westminster this year, there’s no denying that this underdog’s a winner. As Wrede puts it, “It has been unbelievable. There are no words for it. Every little thing that happened to get us to where we are. An abandoned dog in South Carolina, ending up in New Jersey, going to Westminster. Who would ever have thought?”
Dog trainer Matthew “Uncle Matty” Margolis is co-author of 18 books about dogs, a behaviorist, a popular radio and television guest, and host of the PBS series “WOOF! It’s a Dog’s Life!” Read all of Uncle Matty’s columns at www.creators.com, and visit him at www.unclematty.com. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Uncle Matty at P.O. Box 3300, Diamond Springs, CA 95619.
Copyright 2014 Creators Syndicate Inc.