The 21st annual National Dog Show is on NBC Thanksgiving Day at noon, right after the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Each of the 1,700-plus dogs entered has a background story that fortifies the canine connection to everyone of us. Television hosts- David Frei, John O’Hurley and Mary Carillo- introduce many Best of Breed winners during the two hour broadcast; but, of course, it’s impossible to mention the accomplishments and antics of every pup participant.
Just as Thanksgiving is a celebration of family, the National Dog Show, held in Philadelphia, honors our kinship with dogs. I have the privilege of researching the best bios of all entries to the show and would like to share glimpses of some special stories you may not hear on television. Here goes:
Dogs with Interesting Side Jobs:
• A Bearded Collie named River is the canine concierge at Luke’s Bed & Biscuit in NJ where he shows dog guests around, entertains and supervises treat distribution.
• Mila, a Smooth Chihuahua, belongs to a veterinarian and is participating in the Dog Aging Project lifetime study for improving dog health and longevity.
• A ten-year-old Belgian Tervuren called Drew has been a therapy dog for nine years and doesn’t want to retire. He visits a children’s hospital, local libraries for reading to dog programs and helps 4H club members without dog partners every week at meetings.
Love of Dogs Prompted a Romance:
• Solo, an English Springer Spaniel, got his name because he was a singleton puppy. However, both his owners were widowed and got together because of their shared love of the breed. Their kennel is called Kismet.
• Gabriel, a young Boston Terrier, is quite bonded to his handler Chris. Gabe is so excited to see Chris via their nightly FaceTime calls where he “talks” and “sings” with Chris. As their team relationship grows stronger, they work better together. This close connection with a handler is true with many top show dogs.
• Bruno, a tiny Biewer Terrier, is from Ukraine. His breed is Yorkie size. Bruno’s mom calls him a “wise, old soul,” though he’s only five. Bruno and another Biewer from Ukraine live peacefully in her NY home with a Biewer brother from Russia.
• Penny, a Rhodesian Ridgeback from California, has “Shadow” in her registered name. Her breeder chose “Shadow” as her kennel name to “represent that her dogs are your second self. They are never away from your side. They are your shadow.” Penny’s owner says: “At home, she kisses our horses’ noses.”
Dogs Impress Us and Make Us Laugh:
• Teak, an Irish Terrier from Florida, likes to hunt snakes. He will unplug cords in the house, thinking he has caught a snake. Call that “overkill.”
• Bria, a Bergamasco, is much more than a pretty face under the carpet of a corded coat. She is the “Isaac Newton of Dogs” who spends hours on end conducting her own gravity experiments. Bria is mesmerized by her toys sliding down inclines she sets up.
• Congo is a Grand Champion Doberman who can open all kinds of doors, even horse stall doors. He likes to jump up on tables with all four feet. When he is with his family in the camper or on the deck, Congo will leap onto a game board and mess everything up. It’s a good idea to keep Congo, the spoiler, away from any jigsaw puzzles you are putting together.
• Aharon, a young Canaan Dog, played with alpacas as a puppy which are unusual pals for the national breed of Israel.
Inspired by National Dog Show to Show Dogs:
• Torch, a Nederlandse Kooikerhondje (say that in Dutch three times fast), is Jenna’s first show and performance dog. She says: “It was a childhood dream to be able to attend the Philadelphia dog show that I have watched on TV every year, since the first broadcast, and always enjoyed the educational and historic facts of the breeds.” She and Torch have an active lifestyle in Philadelphia, walking ten miles a day, playing fetch, doing trick and obedience training. Torch’s breeder, who helped this rare breed gain recognition and put performance titles on her dogs, has passed the “torch” to Jenna.
• When the husband of the handler of Biscotti Rose, an Old English Sheepdog, was diagnosed with lung cancer last February, Biscotti accompanied him to the hospital every day during radiation and chemo. She made friends with the nurses and staff and had her own chair in the oncology unit. Biscotti was often featured on the oncology website, and together Biscotti and her main man rang the bell on the last day of his chemo. They became a team in and out of the ring.
• As tiny puppies, Gia (registered name- Charms Gracious Gift) and her littermates brought joy and a distraction to many strangers during the pandemic. From Amy, Gia’s breeder and handler: “Gia’s litter was born during the height of COVID. I was sleeping next to the whelping box the first four weeks so I began to post pictures of the litter every night on Facebook. One night I forgot to post puppy pictures and my phone was blowing up with messages. I did not realize how many people were counting on seeing the puppies to help them and their kids through the pandemic. The puppies had thousands of followers so from that point on I posted them every night. Today, at two years old, Gia continues to bring joy to a Baltimore area hospital as a therapy dog, supporting nurses, doctors and ancillary staff.”
• After his original owner entered assisted living, Afghan Hound Adonis- Caspian’s breeders took over his care and show career. His former owner displays the win ribbons he brings to her room. Beth Anne, his mom (and breeder) lovingly says: “On other facility visits in Virginia, when Caspian walks in the door of the Legacy Memory Care Center, it’s like a celebrity has arrived. He loves his visits and is a wonderful conversation starter for residents struggling with dementia.”
If you aren’t able to watch the National Dog Show on Thanksgiving, catch one of the re-broadcasts throughout the holiday weekend. These dogs in the ring and our pet pups at home are more than man’s best friend. They are the grand champions of our hearts.