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TORONTO — For anyone who watched last year’s Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, the Samoyed Striker, a giddy white treat full of fluff and enthusiasm, swept the show with its silly joie de vivre. was not to be missed. Sadly for his fans, the striker lost in the final round.
But has he spent the past year loitering around the house depressed and whining about what happened?
Stryker breeder, along with Mark Larsky and his co-owner Colleen Pact, said Judy Elford. ‘Does he care that he didn’t do his best at Westminster? No, as long as he gets attention.
A six-year-old dog by the strict standards of showbiz, Stryker retired last year and will not return to Westminster for this year’s tournament, which begins on Saturday and ends on Tuesday night. But he’s still a champion, busy playing, frolicking, posing and undressing in his home with Pahat and Larski in north Toronto.
According to their owners, the Samoyed is an unusually cool breed, and Stryker is an unusually cool dog. “He wakes up happy and is like, ‘Let’s go!'” Larsky said. “He’s never had a bad day. Whatever you want to do — ‘Let’s go for a drive.’ Let’s watch a movie. Let’s buy an ice cream cone’–he is willing. “
Stryker has a special friend, a charming Siberian Husky bitch who also lives in Paktorarski’s house. “She’s amazing,” Pact said when we introduced her recently. “Siberians are put on this earth to make people alcoholics,” Larsky said.
In Stryker’s eyes, Awesome is the queen of the family, willing to cede the celebrity spotlight if she’s willing to hang around dutifully if she wants to hang out with her. A striker is a natural ham who believes that he is or should always be the center of attention.
“He scans the room all the time to see who’s watching him,” Elford said. When he sees other people on his walk, he stops to “stack”. “He’ll think, ‘Why are they all walking around without me?'” he says Ralsky.
In fact, when the photographer and his assistant arrived, Stryker climbed onto a patio box and stood there in perfect show dog form, fur fluttering in the breeze, six humans and many more like Norma Desmond. It was full of people’s attention. camera equipment.
Having raised Stryker (full name: Ch. Vanderbilt n Printemps’ Lucky Strike) since he was a puppy, Elford always knew there was something special about him. With a wedge-shaped head, almond eyes, powerful build, and double-textured coat, it wasn’t just that he adhered to breed standards. It was an addition of some kind of indescribable quality.
“He always had the X factor,” said Elford. “It’s hard to explain. It’s next level.”
Elford met Larski several years ago on the dog show circuit. Her Samoyed was then positioned in front of his Siberian Husky on the ring. Larsky was upset by her dog’s bright whiteness and joked, “I had a can of black paint in my car and I was going to use it,” Elford said.
From that ill-fated beginning a friendship was born, and the three humans later agreed to share Stryker’s ownership and costs. Breeding strikers might make some money, but it was mostly a money-losing plan.
“It’s like having a kid who plays hockey or gymnastics or some other elite sport,” Larsky said. “We’re flying here, we’re flying there, God only knows when we’re going to wake up. It’s the same with money, it’s the same with stress, emotional ups and downs, wins and losses.”
The pandemic changed the usual dog show schedule, especially for Canadians as the US-Canada border was closed. While Stryker lived with his handler in the United States in 2020-2021, Elford used various creative methods to cross the border several times (by helicopter) when restrictions were eased. have been rented).
Throughout 2021, Stryker was the top-ranked dog in the United States despite tough competition, Elford said. “There was a dog blowing on his neck,” she said. That year, Mr. Elford had been secretly watching, wearing sunglasses to hide his identity so as not to excite the dog, but Mr. Stryker had lost Westminster to a Pekingese named Wasabi.
In 2022, he has a second chance.
First, he defeated all other Samoyeds. He then went on to win the Working Group two years in a row, holding off dogs like Dobermans and Great Dane. (“Work dogs” were bred to perform tasks such as herding, guarding, rescuing, towing, and hunting, although modern show dogs do not perform these tasks. It is no exaggeration.)
Ralsky and Pacht, the best performers in the show’s competition, were nervous wrecks.
“I drank a few glasses of Aperol,” said Larsky.
“We had quite a few,” Pact said.
“It’s like reaching the US Open final,” Larsky said.
When the striker came out, the crowd went wild with his cloudlike majesty and funny way of sticking his tongue out as he frolic around the ring. He seemed happy to be there, which is unspeakable for some dogs. “Everyone was screaming and cheering,” Larsky said. “He was perfect.”
“Everyone loves Sammy,” Pact said.
Donald G. Sturtz, the 2022 show’s top judge, said in an interview that he managed to shield himself from the noise of the crowd while thinking about the dog in front of him. He found the striker “gorgeous”, but said he “gives goosebumps” to the imposing wrinkled bloodhound named Trumpet, who eventually won.
“He came out and put his feet up and stood there proudly and looked at me as if to say ‘Here you go,'” said Staats, now president of the Westminster Kennel Club. “And I thought, this is my winner.”
The striker returned to Canada as a celebrity and made headlines in newspapers and on television. A local company gifted him with custom purple and black dog boots. He became a brand ambassador for a dog vitamin company and probably raised $2,000, Larsky said. Another deal with a grooming product company fell through after the brand broke a promise to make shampoo free.
Perhaps the most exciting moment was when his photo appeared on Jeopardy! Then host Ken Jennings sent him a shout out. “Here’s a striker,” Jennings said. “This is the breed of dog with this Russian name that won the title of Best Working Group Dog at Westminster in 2022.”
No one was able to get the correct answer. “What is the Bolshoi?” guessed one contestant. (No! Above all, it’s not a dog breed.)
His owner fully admits that Stryker is spoiled and rotten, and he always gets great stuffed animals, like stuffed cheese doodles and bottles of rosé. (“But it’s very strange,” Pahat said. “He only likes little little toys like babies.”)
He takes a bath every other week, which he says is serious work that takes several hours, requiring a dizzying concoction and a “super-powerful hot-air dryer.” To protect his coat from bad weather, they make him wear a raincoat.
He gets two gummy bears as an evening snack and spends the night in and out of his owner’s bed, pecking his paw to get his attention.
Mr. Larsky said he may be the most successful Samoyed in dog show history, “but at the end of the day, he sleeps with us.”