By Jacqueline Monahan
You’d have thought they were giving away fire hydrants. Over the course of a few hours on the afternoon of May 23rd, the large green floor of the Orleans Arena was visited by canines of all makes and models. There were the ultra compact Chihuahuas and lap dogs, the slightly bigger than a bread box beagles and terriers, and the mighty, majestic marvels that can put their paws on your shoulders and look you straight in the eye.
A silent auction took place before and during the show, and no less an international celebrity than Cher donated a sparkly 3 foot seated German Shepherd made of thousands of mirrored crystals that sold for $5000 and included an autographed picture of the star. Other items up for bid were rounds of golf, jewelry, gourmet dinners for four, a refurbished slot machine, hotel stays, teeth whitening treatments, artwork, various Strip show tickets, luxurious pet treat baskets, a visit with Mayor Oscar Goodman, and even a session with an animal communicator medium.
An introduction by Las Vegas icon Robin Leach informed the crowd about the volume of animals that the Lied Animal Shelter handles compared to New York City. Even though NYC is four times larger than Las Vegas, it handles 4000 less animals. Leach introduced 6th grader Josie Molasky, who sang the National Anthem solo, without any type of musical accompaniment, a first for her.
The afternoon’s MC and America’s Got Talent winner Terry Fator entered the ring to the tune of “Who Let the Dogs Out” accompanied by Winston, his turtle protégé. The affably charismatic Fator, aided by his green pal, sang a few tunes (Roy Orbison’s Crying; Louis Armstrong’s version of Wonderful World). The master ventriloquist also treated the audience to a handful of his Mirage show’s routines – that is, he helped Winston treat the audience while he looked on, drank water, or rolled his eyes.
Channel 5’s anchorman John Huck had the honor of presenting the first two dogs to the crowd, and they were a study in contrasts. Paui, a huge, tan female mastiff walked by his side on a leash, while tiny Tammy Faye, a white/tan Chihuahua puppy (whose dark-ringed eyes made her look like she wore makeup), snuggled in his arm.
Huck informed the audience of the event’s numbering system. Dogs were separated into groups by size, not breed, and each had an assigned letter and number. For example, Paui’s letter was L (for large) and her number was 3 – she’d be the third dog featured in the large group. Tammy Faye’s letter was P (for puppy) and her number was 10. Handlers would hold signs bearing a dog’s letter/number combination whenever they were on display so that potential adoptees could find them in the crowd that would assemble to adopt after the show.
Where there are dogs there are inevitably kids, and scores of them lined the perimeter of the Arena ring to reach out to the prancing pooches as they strutted, strolled, ran or were carried around the ring.
This year, former Girl Next Door reality babe and current star of Planet Hollywood’s Peep Show, Holly Madison, Channel 3’s Kim Wagner, Channel 8’s Denise Valdez, and Channel 15’s Luis Felipe Godinez served as presenters of the various dog groups. Two winners were selected from the Small, Medium, and Large Groups via audience applause, a change from previous years when AKC judges were called upon to decide the honors.
Small Group competition announcer Kim Wagner introduced ten little furry creatures with names like Slick (Beagle), Mugsy (Puggle), Harley, (Chihuahua/terrier mix) Athena (a cream-colored Pekingese) and Obie, a blue-eyed Dachshund.
A gracious Holly Madison hosted the Special Needs Group comprised of Hope, a malnourished female Husky on the road to recovery, Miley, a long hair Dachshund/Chihuahua mix with a split paw (from birth), and Cricket, a black and tan terrier mix who’d recently gone through surgery to repair a hole in her heart. The three special goodwill ambassadors made off with the hearts of the crowd, with one youngster tossing a treat to the too-thin Hope after hearing of her plight.
Variety Pack Parade included Dora (Bichon Frise), Frieda (Lhasa/Sheltie mix), Jack (Poodle/Schnauzer mix) and Apollo (Brussels Griffon/Shih Tzu mix). These dogs and their handlers got to march around the ring twice, stopping for visits with an eager audience full of outstretched arms and smiling faces.
among the crowd. Hey guys, it starts with a “J” and rhymes with “hey-na” not “high-na.”
An Animal Foundation video was shown emphasizing a spay/neuter message from Executive Director Christine Robinson and highlighting the faces of the shelter’s many adoption hopefuls. Humans frequently stress a “good side” when being photographed. A dog’s good side is full frontal snout. Each time a still photo or video shot featured one of the hopefuls looking into the lens, the adorability factor increased ten-fold and you could almost hear the once-resolute adults in the crowd giving in to their children’s feverish requests for canine companionship.
Large Group presenter Denise Valdez introduced nine large breeds including the massive Benson (Great Pyrenees) and the sleek Odie (Boxer) along with Cocoa (Rottweiler), Polo (Golden Retriever) and Rebel (German Shepherd). These dogs weren’t so much walked as accompanied by their handlers. Most could take their human hosts for a quick trot if they felt like it.
A Puppy Parade followed, probably the most anticipated promenade in the show. No puppy was older than four months and included Manzanita (Maltese mix), Bert and Ernie (Golden Retrievers), Buddy (Rottweiler) and Tank and Missy (Mastiffs). Most were held instead of walked by their handlers; you can’t help it with the little ones. Come to think of it, you can’t help it with any of them.
Vice President of Cox Communications (and AKC judge) Steve Schorr officiated the Best in Show pick, eliciting audience applause to select from the six finalists. First he acknowledged the work of Animal Foundation chairs Dale Wynn, Corey Sanders and Janie Greenspun Gale and gave a shout-out to Channel 3’s Face to Face host Jon Ralston, who was in attendance.
The six finalists reappeared in the ring for a final audience-pleasing parade, and were comprised of:
Small Group: Slick (Beagle) and Obie (Dachshund)
Medium Group: Shiloh (Aussie Shepherd) and Scout (Labrador Retriever)
Large Group: Benson (Great Pyrenees) and Odie (Boxer)
Odie the Boxer literally sucked up to Schorr, giving him numerous kisses before the final applause meter took effect. This and several close-ups of the dog ‘s expressive face on the large video screen above the ring made Odie an easy winner for best in show as well as the number one selection for adoption.
Even Terry Fator could not escape Odie’s tongueful of smooches before he closed the show with an invitation to the crowd to come into the ring after the various adoptables (and their crates) had assembled for inspection and hands-on greetings.
Where else can you find a friend who always listens, doesn’t judge, is unfailingly happy to see you and comes equipped with his own fur coat? All he needs is a home. All you need is a heart.
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