A bearded collie named Olivia walked, jogged and posed perfectly during the competition at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show in New York City earlier this week. When a judge picked her as "best of breed," she wagged her tail and jumped up and down with apparent joy as her professional handler, Cliff Steel, told her what a good girl she was.
She's 5 years old, and her full name is Grand Champion Dunhill Celebration. She was bred by and is owned by Ray and Kathy Harrington of Peters and their good friend, Carolyn O'Neil of Nashville, Tenn.
"We are on Cloud 59," Mrs. Harrington said in a cell phone interview after the show. "I was just in tears when Olivia won."
The Harringtons have been breeding and showing bearded collies for more than 25 years. They've had many big wins in the show ring, but this is the first time one of their dogs has won "best of breed" at Westminster, the most prestigious show in the United States. It's also one of the top shows in the world, and dogs from many countries are flown to Manhattan to compete.
Go to www.westminsterkennelclub.org to see video of Olivia in the breed and group judging. Her handler is wearing the number "14" on his armband.
Bearded collies are medium-sized, 20-22 inches at the shoulder and in the 40- to 60-pound range. They are smart, active, outgoing and affectionate and make good family pets. Their long, flowing coats (which have a soft, furry undercoat), require daily combing and brushing, and the dogs have a range of colors that includes shades of black, gray, blue, brown or fawn with white. Bearded collies were originally bred in Scotland, where shepherds valued them as sheep herders and companion dogs.
Olivia had another big win at a big show in November. She was best of breed and the top winner in the herding group at the National Dog Show in Philadelphia. She competed in the best of show judging, which was televised on Thanksgiving Day after the big parade.
Olivia is loved by many students in the Pine-Richland School District. Beginning when she was a puppy, Olivia and other Harrington bearded collies made many visits to that district, where Mrs. Harrington was principal at the middle school for nearly 20 years. During assemblies, Mrs. Harrington taught children how to be safe around dogs and how to treat them with courtesy and respect.
"I really think my students helped make Olivia the top show dog that she is," she said. "Olivia is just the sweetest dog" and truly enjoys competing at shows. "The kids still ask about her. Some of them are in high school now."
Mrs. Harrington retired last year as principal and is now teaching future teachers at Duquesne, Chatham and Waynesburg universities. She's still taking her dogs to schools throughout the area, putting on programs for elementary schools.
Many dogs retire after a big win at Westminster, but Olivia will compete for another year. She hasn't had puppies yet, but there is already a "waiting list" of people who want her pups.
Freddie was found forlornly wandering the streets of Oakland. He's a domestic rabbit and wouldn't survive for long when "turned loose" to fend for himself. Someone took him to Animal Friends, where many rabbits are waiting to be adopted.
The Ohio Township shelter has indoor "bun runs" where people can meet Freddie and other adoptable rabbits as they frolic freely while staff and volunteers talk about rabbit care. This happens 2:30-4 Sunday and Feb. 23, March 2, 9 and 23.
Rabbit owners and their pets are invited to the BYOBunny event Sunday, 2-4 p.m. Included are a photo station, contests with prizes for fluffiest bunny, the "cottoniest" tail and other categories. Bunnies will be groomed for a $5 donation. Email tlewis@ThinkingOutsideTheCage.org if you plan to attend.
Got a bratty bunny? Animal Friends is eager to help with clicker training classes 2-3 p.m. or 3-4 p.m. next Saturday. Cost is $5 and space is limited, so send email to speak@ThinkingOutsideTheCage.org to secure a slot.
Snow bunny special
Rabbits come in a vast array of colors, but if you adopt a white rabbit at the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society between now and March 19, you'll get a free exercise pen. The 30-inch metal folding pen is a $40 value.
An exercise pen is better than a cage or crate, according to the news release, because it provides more space for the rabbit, litter box and toys. It's also easier to clean.
Cat show video
I didn't make it to the Steel City Kitties Cat Show on the South Side last weekend, but Post-Gazette videographer Nate Guidry did. You can see his video on the PG website: www.post-gazette.com/video.
Pet Tales appears weekly in the Saturday Home & Garden section. Linda Wilson Fuoco: email@example.com or 412-263-3064. Got a pet health question? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. It may be answered in an upcoming Pet Points column by veterinarians at the Point Breeze Veterinary Clinic. First Published February 16, 2013 5:00 AM