This is the week of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, which ended last night. Exhibitors find this prestigious show a great honor and privilege. Those who watch on television see some of the beautiful dogs, but there’s more to the competition and the event behind the scenes. Last year was my first visit to the world-renowned dog show. It was not only the show that made it fantastic, it was the stories about the handlers and their dogs that I discovered wandering in the waiting areas.
One story that caught me by surprise was the story of Sydney, GCH Ri Lee’s Diamonds Are Forever, a Tibetan Terrier. This dog defied the odds of being attacked by a bobcat.
The Tibetan Terrier is an old breed, dating back 2000 years. The dogs were bred by Tibetan Buddhist teachers known as the Lamas for companionship. They are known as the “Holy Dogs of Tibet.” They were bred to withstand harsh cold climate and rocky terrain of Tibet. Tibetan Terriers are emotional and intuitive dogs that bond to family. They are known to be cat-like, people-oriented, and “tuned in” to their owners. As Brenda Algar, Sydney’s owner says, “They can read you like a book.”
When you look into Sydney’s eyes, you see an old soul. There is something wise and spiritual about her. Perhaps like a cat, Sydney has lived many lives especially when one looks at the ordeal she went through. Algar knew Sydney was extraordinary from the start.
Three days after Sydney’s second birthday, in December 2007, Sydney went outside to do her business at Algar’s home in Maine. When Sydney did not come in, Algar went looking for her — and to her horror found Sydney barely conscious lying on the ground, her front leg bitten in several places clear to the bone and blood everywhere. At this point Algar’s adrenaline kicked in, as she knew she had to save Sydney’s life. She could not leave her dog who was crying and in shock to bleed to death.
When Algar got Sydney to the veterinarian, the vet said Sydney would not live because her femoral artery was nicked. The vet also noted that her wounds appeared to have been inflicted by wildlife. Algar had no idea what had caused the injury to Sydney, as her only thoughts were to make Sydney better.
Sydney immediately needed a blood transfusion. She underwent emergency surgery to repair her left front leg. Soon after, a bacteria infection set in and Sydney needed to repeat the operation. The infection returned after the second surgery, and the veterinarian thought the leg would have to be amputated. Algar sought a second opinion at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, where she was told to flush out the wound every two hours and continue with antibiotics. By the fourth day the infection was gone but the vets insisted that Sydney would have a bad limp and would drag her leg because of nerve damage.
It was during this time that one of Algar’s neighbors, a farmer, came by to tell her that he had shot a bobcat on his property. Algar believes this is the animal that attacked Sydney, and she has no idea how the cat got past her fencing.
By February 2008, eight weeks later, Sydney had proven the vets wrong. One snowy day Algar hesitantly let Sydney out, as Sydney loved the snow. Sydney wobbled at first but suddenly she became agile and took off running. Algar could not believe this dog as she watched.
“After all the nay-sayers, she was saying ‘screw you all,’” Algar said. “It was a true miracle. Sydney has so much heart and character and she was not going to let anyone take it away from her.”
Sydney continued to heal and by September 2008 Algar brought Sydney out to a nonsporting event, a group specialty. On the first day she won an award known as Best Opposite Sex — given to the best dog whose gender is opposite the winner of Best of Breed. One could say it’s like a second runner up. What was most interesting was that Sydney was competing against the top 10 dogs in her breed.
Algar said, “It was amazing that she did so well.”
The next day she also took Best Opposite Sex and the final day Sydney took Best of Breed. People were absolutely astounded that a dog who, nine months earlier, was not expected to live or walk properly again, now was able to accomplish such a feat.
Seeing Sydney win was a surreal moment for Algar. She could not believe it. In her heart she knew Sydney was a great Tibetan, but her character, determination, grace, movement, reach, and drive all came together after this horrific incident. Every time Algar feels the scar on Sydney’s leg she is so proud of her and what she has done for herself.
Sydney was shown nine more times that year and made it into the top 20 for Tibetans. Since then Sydney has won numerous awards.
Sydney went from being the top 12th or 13th Tibetan in the nation to No. 5 for two consecutive years. In addition to her Regional and National specialty Award of Merits, she has also won the First Award of Excellence at the Eukanuba National Championship 2010 and the Second Award of Excellence at the same event in 2011. She also won the First Award of Merit at Westminster 2011. It was in May of 2011 that she won the Tibetan Terrier Specialty show. At the National Specialty show she received a standing ovation.
“I was so afraid that the incident would affect Sydney’s temperament or she would become fearful,” Algar said.
Yet the opposite occurred. Sydney’s temperament became more even, and she showed even better. Sydney’s heart became bigger, and perhaps one could say that Sydney returned the love and devotion Algar gave to Sydney during her ordeal in the form of her exuberance in the show ring. Sydney showed us the heart and soul of the true Tibetan Terrier.
As we all know, dogs have funny ways of showing us their love.