Westminster Dogs Rise Above Troubled Pasts

February 11, 2009 | By Joey Wahler | Category: Entertainment | 1215 comments
Tags: entertainment, dogs

They may have made it to Westminster Kennel Club's "Best in Show" competition this year, but three canine contestants fought long and hard, overcoming injury and abandonment, before appearing in the show. (ZT Pet News Photo by James Shafie)

They were attacked, hit by a car and abandoned, respectively, but three dogs still found their way to the Westminster Kennel Club's "Best in Show" competition this year. It took hard work and little bit of luck, their owners say, but these initially disadvantaged dogs show that the purebred Westminster roster still has some room for diversity.

NEW YORK -- Uno the beagle, last year's winner of the Westminster Kennel Club's "Best In Show," made a revival appearance at the 133rd edition of the world's premier dog competition this week. Though the three-year-old Snoopy-look-alike's dashing looks have been highlighted in more than one media report, Uno's story is hardly the most compelling of the group.

Three other dogs traveled a highly unlikely road to their first Westminster competition this year, including another beagle, 3-year-old RJ.

Last May, RJ escaped from a hotel window in Santa Ana, Calif., and was left to fend for himself while his owners paved the city's crime-infested streets.

"We were up day and night. We drove through neighborhoods where the police stopped us and said, 'You really shouldn't be here,' " said RJ's owner, Tracy Olson.

The lost dog also faced injuries, after being hit by a car, and starvation. Gangbangers and others in the neighborhood quickly banded together to help find RJ.

The ordeal, though, couldn't keep him from Westminster.

"Oh, you're going to make me cry," said Olson, holding back tears. "It's an incredible feeling. To have this dog go through what he went though, and to have him be a show dog still, and make me as happy as he's made me, it's been a blessing."

Another unexpected Westminster entrant is Brendan, a three-year-old Border Collie from Maine. Last December, Brendan's former owner was going to euthanize the dog after he bit a few people and acted aggressive toward other dogs.

"The gentleman that had him said that he was going to, quote-unquote, kill him," said Brendan's present owner, Juli Lacey-Black.

Brendan, however, has since been rescued and rehabilitated.

"He has never shown any aggression while I've had him," Lacey-Black said. "He is good with the other dogs. He loves my seven-year-old son, and he's just been wonderful."

Last December, Westminster was the last place one would have expected to find Sydney, a three-year-old Tibetan Terrier from Delaware. She had recently been mauled by a bobcat in her backyard.

"There were pools of blood everywhere, and I couldn't find Sydney," said her owner, Brenda Algar. "And I saw her standing, and then she just collapsed. She was in shock and bleeding very heavily, and I really thought I'd lose her on the way to the vet."

Doctors first predicted death, but Sydney survived the ordeal. Then vets expected to have to amputate a leg, or, at the very least, that Sydney would suffer from a permanent limp.

Guess again. Sydney later went on to be judged the No. 3 Tibetan in the country.

"I brought her outside, put her down, figured she'd drag the leg," Algar said of the days following Sydney's surgery. "And she took a couple of tentative steps and ran, and ran with my other Tibetan.

"And she hasn't stopped. It was great, it was amazing. She's a miracle."

David Frei, the long-time television voice of the Westminster show on USA Network, says these three dogs dispel the misconception that show dogs are unlike those that most people own.

"These are real dogs," Frei said. "And the fact that they can overcome these things talks about the dedication of the people who are their families. And we think it's great stories, all three of them."

Although the Westminster show is associated mainly with appearance, prestige and rank, after RJ's ordeal, his owner says she's learned a lesson far more important about life.

"Basically, you cannot judge a book or a neighborhood by its cover," said Olson, referring to the outpouring of support she received from strangers in a neighborhood she was warned to avoid.

"Just because there's preconceived notions of how a place is going to be, [it] doesn't mean that's how it's going to be. And that when it involves an animal, most people open up their hearts."

Brendan's owner says just making it to Westminster is a huge victory for them.

"He's happy, he enjoys what he's doing, and I think that's just a remarkable achievement," Lacey-Black said.

Their owners don't expect these dogs to win titles just yet. So they may not become champions, but they remain winners nonetheless.

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daryl b.
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daryl b.
5 years ago

this story hs many lessons t be learned. first and most inportant is that youcannot judge a book by it's cover. these gangs in the bad neighborhoods that helped these people instead of robbing them or hurting them shows there is compassion everywhere. gang members are not all bad.

Good Point | Reply ›

Traci B.
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Traci B.
5 years ago

Great story! : )

Good Point | Reply ›

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