It's not all glamour: Show dogs' day jobs
HAVE YOU ever wondered what show dogs do in their down time? Well, they're not lolling around on the sofa and eating doggie bonbons. They're out there making therapy visits, helping kids learn to read, keeping an eye on their owners' health, and doing brain research. Take a look at how some of this year's Westminster competitors spend their off days.
Trooper, whose registered name is Grand Champion Loral's Trooper, is a therapy dog who lives in Bolivia, N.C., with owners Lorretta and Allen Pyeatt. He makes regular visits to area nursing homes, where he spreads his own special brand of rottweiler cheer. He's also involved in the Bark for Reading program at a local elementary school. Reading to dogs such as Trooper helps children improve their vocabularies, comprehension and confidence.
Scientists at Emory University in Atlanta are using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to explore what dogs are thinking. The new and harmless methodology scans the brains of alert dogs to see how they respond to hand signals given by their people. One of their test subjects is Eli (Grand Champion Aislinn's RR Elite Edition), a vizsla owned by dog trainer Lindsay Fetters, of Decatur, Ga. Eli's job is to lie perfectly still in the MRI machine while researchers measure his neural activity. When he's not contributing to science, Eli trains for agility and field work and auditions for acting roles with Atlanta Dogworks.
When children are victims of or witnesses to crimes, having a dog to snuggle with can help them deal with the trauma. That's where border terrier Ticket (Champion Otley's No Parking) comes in. The victim/crime witness dog, owned by attorney D'Arcy Downs-Vollbracht, of Golden Valley, Ariz., logs many hours at crime scenes and in court, serving as a steadying influence for children who have been caught up in crimes or who must testify. Ticket's work carries over to local junior-high schools, where she participates in an annual domestic-violence education program. She also makes therapy visits to hospitals, hospice wards and schools.
Kenzie doesn't have an M.D., but her keen senses allow her to sense when owner Alicia Moore of Chesapeake Beach, Md., has low blood sugar. The rough collie, formally known as Moore's Alainn Aoife, will be competing in Westminster's first agility trial, but her most important job is serving as Moore's diabetic-alert dog. "I have to be certain that my blood sugar is not low or going low, or she won't run with me," Moore says.
"Crime" does pay - at least for Debra Lazaro, of Jackson, N.J., who owns and handles Westminster agility competitor OnTargets Prison Break. The striking mixed breed with the humorous personality has landed many showbiz roles, including appearances with Jennifer Aniston and Tim Robbins in the 2013 flick "Life of Crime" and with Willem Dafoe and Keanu Reeves in 2014's "John Wick." Crime also participates in herding events.
The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show will be televised live on CNBC, Monday from 8 to 11 p.m. On Tuesday, the telecast will be on USA Network from 8 to 11 p.m.
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "Good Morning America" and "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter @DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is on Twitter @kkcthornton.