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Mysterious Death of a Show Dog
Champion Samoyed dies four days after Westminster

Earlier this month Cruz, a Champion Samoyed, was at the top of his game, trotting around the breed ring at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Just four days later the three-year old was at the emergency vet, dying of symptoms consistent with ingesting rat poison. No necropsy was performed, so it's unclear what killed Cruz. But if the suspicions are true, Cruz would have had to have eaten the poison while in New York for the show. Ingesting this type of toxin takes approximately three to five days for physical symptoms to surface.

The mysterious tragedy stirred up long held tensions between show breeders and animal activists who believe that purebred competitions are inhumane. Cruz's veterinarian felt that it was unlikely the Samoyed had been deliberately poisoned, but Robert Chaffin, Cruz's handler, believes that the activists may be to blame.

Robert has been retracing every step--a flight from New York back home (Cruz didn't even have to ride in the cargo hold), a pre-competition steak dinner, and conversations and remarks from show attendees--but is at a loss for what happened. Show dogs are watched carefully and Robert doesn't think that Cruz could've ingested anything bad under his watch.

Over the years I've heard rumors circulate about PETA supporters targeting show dogs by adding antifreeze to water bowls or throwing unidentified liquids at crates. The fear isn't exactly unfounded and goes back as far as the late 1800's when eight dogs were poisoned at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. The scandal made the front page of the New York Times and the motive was believed to be jealousy. But in the case of the extreme animal activists, I rarely see concrete proof to back up the rumors.

Nonetheless, it's a horrific thought that an animal lover would deliberately harm a dog. The accusation continues to divide a community that should be working towards the same ideals--promoting the best interests of the animals we love. Is there no way that we can find common ground?

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JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

Photo by Lynette Blue.

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