An All-American Mutt Brings Home the Westminster TrophyBy Jen Reeder, award-winning pet writer
I love all dogs, but as the mom of a Lab mix, there’s a soft spot in my heart for mutts. So in honor of December 2 being National Mutt Day, I thought I’d profile one of America’s mutt superstars: Roo! The energetic husky mix made history earlier this year as the first “All-American” dog (i.e. mutt) to win a Westminster Kennel Club competition.
This was a big deal because for 137 years, the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show had only offered a conformation competition (if you’re a fan of the movie “Best in Show,” you know that dog shows involve judging purebred dogs against their breed’s “standard”). But on February 8, 2014, when Westminster introduced The Masters Agility Championship at Westminster, mixed-breed dogs were allowed to participate because it’s a skill-based competition – contestants are timed as they race through obstacles, running through tunnels, jumping over hurdles and weaving through poles. Around 225 agility dogs competed in the inaugural event.
When Roo! won her height category (24”) and the “Best All-American Dog” trophy, she became an instant celebrity and was all over the news, including “Good Morning America” and “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.” She was suddenly the poster child (poster dog?) for mutts – and for rescue, since her mom/trainer, Stacey Campbell, adopted her from a shelter.
Campbell, owner of Go Fetch Dog Training in San Francisco, Calif. and staff trainer at the San Francisco SPCA, met Roo! when the shelter assigned her to work with an 11-month-old “problem dog” who had been found roaming the nearby hills.
But Campbell could tell there was something special about Roo! After a man adopted Roo! as a guard dog, she worried that Roo! was “the dog that got away.” So when the man returned Roo! a week later, Campbell didn’t hesitate to adopt her.
Her instincts were right. Campbell named the pooch after the baby kangaroo in Winnie-the-Pooh books since she’s an awesome jumper – “and the exclamation point is because she does everything in life with enthusiasm” – and started training her for obedience competitions. Roo! won many events until becoming fearful of other dogs after being attacked several times. Campbell decided agility might be more fun for Roo!
In a sport typically dominated by border collies, Roo! began making a splash. She was the 2012 AKC Invitational Champion and the 2013 AKC National Agility Champion, and was one of the first mixed-breed dogs to earn a spot on the U.S. Large Dog Team at the European Open in 2013.
Time for Westminster
On February 10, Westminster presented Roo! the “Best All-American Dog” trophy in Madison Square Garden during their 138th dog show. “It wasn’t my night, I felt like, but her night,” Campbell said. “I was just really proud of her.”
Then the aforementioned media frenzy started. In an airport on the way home, Cambell looked up and saw CNN was airing a feature on Roo! Campbell said she hopes Roo!’s success inspires people to consider adopting mixed-breed dogs.