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March 1, 2010

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Show pooches just family dogs

JUST like big Hollywood stars who often insist that behind the glamor they're just plain folk, the teams behind champion show dogs tend to portray these pampered pooches as family dogs at heart.

Take Sadie, the Scottish Terrier who made history last week by securing the third jewel in the show dog world's triple crown, winning the gold-standard Westminster Kennel Club dog show before an enthralled, capacity crowd at New York's Madison Square Garden.

After trotting to victory at both the National Dog Show in Philadelphia and the AKC National Championship in Long Beach, Sadie came into Westminster the odds-on favorite, bearing the mantle of No. 1 dog in the country with 79 wins in 2009.

Sadie, formally known as CH Roundtown Mercedes of Maryscot, was no stranger to Westminster's bright lights, but she got spooked in earlier appearances by the show ring's false floor and the elegant white tablecloths draping the stands on which smaller dogs are judged. And there were vases of flowers - everywhere.

Sadie lost, then came back to make it to last year's best-in-show round. Finally, on Tuesday she entered the winner's circle.

The key? Training and work, says her handler, Gabriel Rangel, with whom she lives in Rialto, California - along with another dozen or so dogs he handles.

"We worked on that, to get her used to these floors," Rangel says, explaining that he trained the Scottie on false floors like the one at the Garden, surrounded by cloth-draped tables, and moved flower arrangements around to the point where the sprightly Terrier was unfazed.

Sadie's hectic, winning schedule would seemingly leave little time for anything but training, travel and showing, but during downtime she snuggles down on the couch to watch shows like "Animal Planet," Rangel says.

"She really is just like anybody else's pet in that way," says Lisa Anderson, a communications director for the American Kennel Club.

"She loves hot dogs - although living in California she's become enamored of organic chicken hot dogs - plays with the kids in the backyards, sleeps on the beds with the family members, and raids the closet whenever the door is left open to gnaw out the lining of Gabriel's shoes," Anderson adds.

There is a daily grooming regimen. Her workouts consist of twice-a-day walks, one outside and another on her very own treadmill.

And most dogs don't have support staff hailing from five countries - Mexico, Japan, the UK (Wales), Denmark and the United States - which would explain her comprehension of "hot dog" and "cookie" in five different languages.

Most dogs owners also probably don't run world-famous hotels, as do Dan and Amelia Musser, owners of the sprawling Victorian Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan. Yes, Sadie visits mom and dad there.

It's all a far cry from last year's upset winner, Stump, the plodding, 10-year-old Sussex Spaniel who came out of retirement to snatch the WKC victory from six other dogs - including Sadie.

Stump's handler Scott Sommer, asked if he had done anything special to prepare for the show, thought for a moment before saying maybe they had walked around the driveway a few times.

Sommer said he only decided to enter the dog, which became the crowd favorite, days before the show.

"I thought, 'He's looking pretty good'."

The high-stakes finale, he adds, "was like going for a walk with my pet. It was just fun."


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