Westminster dog profiles in versatility

When Tiwaz isn’t wowing judges in the ring, he helps kids read as part of the Paws for Reading Program. (Photo credit: Handley Regional Library)

There’s more to a Westminster show dog than good looks. These well-rounded canine athletes don’t just strut their stuff around a ring — many of them hold down jobs at home, too. Meet some of these versatile and vivacious ambassadors of dogdom.

Crush, a mixed breed competing in Westminster’s first Agility Trial, seems to have unlimited talents. The former shelter dog, owned by Aryn Hervel of Novato, Calif., not only excels in agility but is also a certified Illicit Discharge Detection dog. She works for an environmental service company and is trained to alert to the presence of sewage in storm water, creeks, and streams.

Beagle George fights crime. When his owner Michelle Okashima was working late one night at her pet boutique in Lake Tahoe, Calif., George loudly alerted her to the presence of a would-be intruder who was trying to pry open the door. When he’s not standing watch, Ch. Cabaret’s Capture the Key to My Heart makes therapy visits to local hospitals and extended-care facilities, appears in parades and community outreach programs with therapy dog group Paws for Love, and has walked in Relay for Life/Bark for Life to raise money for cancer research.

Mr. America knows better than most dogs that the show must go on. The Leonberger, known in the show ring as Ch. Starhavens Irresistible America Idol, has performed on stage, with roles in Annie, Oliver Twist and The Christmas Carol, and recently completed filming The Equalizer with Denzel Washington and Bill Pullman. He hails from Lynbrook, N.Y.

Tiwaz is a busy, busy dog. The 4-year-old Swedish Vallhund, formally known as Ch. Fantasi Starlight Tiwaz, is a sports nut who excels in agility, herding, obedience, and rally. A resident of Berryville, Va., he also helps kids at libraries and schools learn to read as a member of the Paws for Reading program and spreads his own special brand of cheer to patients at a psychiatric hospital.

Note: Names in bold are show-ring names.

The Masters Agility Championship is Saturday, February 8; the 138th Annual Westminster Dog Show takes place Monday, February 10, and Tuesday, February 11.