By Jacqueline Monahan
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Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

It’s a Dog’s World: The Animal Foundation Presents The 8th Annual Best in Show

On May 1st, the Orleans Arena hosted the 8th Annual Best in Show, presented by the Lied Animal Shelter.  Thirty dogs competed for the title, but each was after a more precious prize: adoption into a loving home.

Starting off with a welcome by Mayor Oscar Goodman (he and mayoral candidate wife Carolyn were the event’s co-chairs) the show got underway with an introduction television personality and perennial Las Vegas favorite, Robin Leach, whose famous voice described the important work of the Lied Animal Shelter, and its parent organization, The Animal Foundation.  Leach then introduced Peep Show performer Josh Strickland, who sang a heartfelt Star Spangled Banner for the assembled crowd.


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Leach took his leave after handing over the proceedings to the event’s emcee, none other than comedy dynamo and Venetian headliner Rita Rudner.  In sparkly jeans and peach tunic, the comic warmed up the crowd with quips like, “This is my first canine event, and already I’m sure that all of the contestants have better hairdos than Donald Trump.”  She mentioned her own dog, Bonkers, as being, “a combination of a bath mat and Kenny Rogers.”  Rudner observed that when it came to food, dogs never say “‘I’d love to, but I shouldn’t.”


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Rita Rudner in the Ring

Two Chippendales dancers were on hand to escort special guest presenters into the ring.  Jace Crispin and Juan DeAngelo, both shirtless, accompanied Channel 13’s Nina Radetich, flanking her on each side as if she were a newscaster sandwich between “hunks” of bread.  Radetich presented the Small Group to the audience for their appraisal and approval.


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Jace Crispin (left), Nina Radetich, and Juan DeAngelo

This dog show has a unique numbering and judging system. Dogs are separated into groups by size, not breed, and each has an assigned letter and number. For example, the letters L (Large), M (Medium), and S (Small), were paired with numbers one through ten on hand-held signs that were carried by each dog’s handler. Only these groups were judged for the Best in Show title, although three more groups were displayed as adoption options.

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Small Group Winner, Fiona (Pug Mix)
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Medium Group Winner, Oreo (Border Collie, Bassett Hound Mix)

Additional groups were designated as V (Variety Pack) P (Puppy) and SPN (Special Needs).  The Variety Pack featured Benson, a Yorkshire Terrier, Vinnie, a Poodle, and Steve, a Lhasa Apso Mix, among others.  The four Special Needs dogs were Boz, Pogo, Jack Jack, and Sky, each with medical issues or missing a limb, but none of them missed a spirited personality.  In fact, three-legged Jack Jack was the first dog to baptize the floor’s fake grass with a little organic fertilizer of his own.  The Puppy group, always a crowd pleaser, featured the baby canine bunch of tiny superstars with names like Mia (Chihuahua), Porter (Labrador Retriever), and Adelaide (Akita).


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Wyler, (Shih Tzu Mix) from the Puppy Group
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Mia (Chihuahua) from the Puppy Group

The star of Planet Hollywood’s Peep Show, Holly Madison was on hand to present the Special Needs dogs to the audience. Aside from Radetich, who presented the Small Group, there was Channel 5’s John Huck (Medium Group) and Channel 8’s Denise Valdez (Large Group). Channel 3’s Kim Wagner, accompanied by daughter Kate, presented the ever-popular Puppy Group and Channel 15’s Luis Felipe Godinez put the Variety Pack through their paces.


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Holly Madison presents Boz (Poodle) from the Special Needs Group


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PeepShow's Josh Strickland with Pogo (Chihuahua), Holly, Boz and Rita

Meanwhile, a silent auction took place before and during the show.  Items up for bid included rounds of golf, jewelry, gourmet dinners, spa facials, private cooking lessons, resort stays, a Victorian doghouse, artwork, various Strip show tickets, a trip to Sea World San Diego, a children’s birthday party at Sugar Factory, and even a cardiovascular stress test.

Selection of a winner from the Small, Medium, and Large Groups was done by audience applause, and resulted in three finalists, who reappeared in the ring for a final crowd-pleasing parade.  They were comprised of:

Small Group: Fiona (Pug Mix)
Medium Group: Oreo (Border Collie/Bassett Hound Mix)
Large Group: Alabama (Bloodhound)

The Best in Show winner, again chosen by audience applause, was Alabama the Bloodhound, who nonchalantly turned her back on the crowd, even as they were cheering her on.  Friendly and floppy, she seemed to want to investigate her enthusiastic admirers more than pose for the cameras.


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Alabama (Bloodhound)  Best In Show Winner

Following the announcement of the winner, the spacious arena floor was cleared to make way for over fifty dog crates filled with canine cuteness and matched by the crowd’s curiosity.  Here you could get up close and personal with the dog of your choice.  Holly Madison was interested in a two year old Tibetan Spaniel Mix named Sam and may have even left with the lucky little guy as the newest member of her family.  Every dog was up for adoption and visitors seemed open to the idea of choosing a carry-out companion (or two).

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A  "Crate" Day at the Orleans Areana

May 1 (May Day) turned out to be a fitting date for the event. Mayday is an emergency code word used internationally as a distress signal in radio communications. Derived from the French venez m'aider, meaning 'come help me', it sums up the hope of a home for an abandoned dog.  They ask with their eyes – you help with your heart.

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About The Animal Foundation:

The Animal Foundation is a private, non-profit, multi-service agency that operates the Lied Animal Shelter, Nevada’s largest open admission shelter.  Services offered include pet adoptions, low-cost spay and neuter procedures, vaccination services, and volunteering opportunities.  Lied Animal Shelter receives over 50,000 animals each year with an average daily intake of 136.  In 2009, the foundation took in 2000 more animals than Animal Care and Control of New York City.  8000 spay/neuter procedures are performed annually.

For further information:



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Holly, Josh and Pals, Backstage

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Sam, (Tibetan Spaniel Mix) Caught Holly's Eye

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Zorro, (Pomeranian Mix)

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Buster, (Boston Terrier)

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Lil Cloud, (Bichon Frise)

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Gizmo, (Pekingese)

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Peach, (Border Terrier Mix)

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Three-legged Jack Jack  (Queensland Heeler)

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Sky, (Beagle)

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Phoebe, (Poodle Mix)

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Benson, (Yorkshire Terrier)

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Trixie, (Poodle Mix)

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Bear, (Cocker Spaniel Mix)

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Steve, (Lhasa Apso)

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Vinnie, (Poodle)

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Paige, (Schnauzer Mix)

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Magoo, (Cairn Terrier)

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Odie, (Whippet Mix)

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Sweetie Pie (Bassett Hound)

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Stanley, (Cocker Spaniel)

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Ella Rose (Shiba Inu)

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Stella (Chinese Sharpei Mix)

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Dusty, (Australian Shepherd/Husky)

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Patton, (Lab/Catahoula Leopard Mix)

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Sassy, (Siberian Husky)

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Sierra, (Yellow Lab)

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Daphne, (Black Lab)

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Elvis, (Boxer)

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Harlow, (Great Dane)

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Merlin, (Chow)

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Petey, (St. Bernard Mix)

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Roxy, (Rottweiler)

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Sadie, (Australian Shepherd Mix) Each Eye is a Different Color

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Mikado, (Akita)

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Abigail, (Shih Tzu Mix)

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