Reporting Frank Vascellaro
STILLWATER, Minn. (WCCO) — Dog lovers around the world will be focused on New York for the annual Westminster dog show next week. One of the most surprising dogs will come from Minnesota.
You may have heard about Delsin when he was lost for a night, but his story goes so much deeper than that. It’s about a woman and her beloved pet, their trip from the country to the very big city, and a near-death experience — mixed in with a chiropractor and acupuncture.
Running free on a farm in Western Wisconsin, Delsin and the rest of Anne Nichols’ pack of dogs are in their element. After all, they’re Bernese Mountain Dogs, and they were bred to work.
“Their background is both drafting as well as some droving of cattle,” said Anne.
Delsin, however, is also at home along Main Street in Stillwater.
“He’s much more extroverted than I am,” she says. “I’ve been know just to bring him down to Stillwater to walk him in the strip in Stillwater, because he just has this fan club that wants to say ‘Hi.’ They don’t know who he is or anything, they just want to say ‘Hi.’”
What these fans don’t know is that Delsin is one of the most decorated dogs in the Midwest, a 9-year-old Bernese who’s been winning awards since he was 6 months old, and a grand champion who’s won shows from California to New Jersey and is now getting ready for the big one at Madison Square Garden.
“This isn’t the easiest show,” she said, “but it is the show. It’s the Super Bowl.”
Like many athletes, one way Delsin is getting ready for his big competition is by going to the chiropractor.
Veterinarian Heather Evans adjusts Delsin before all of his big shows, but this time she has some extra work to do. He needs extra adjustments and extra acupuncture treatments, because Delsin took a bit of a side trip.
About a month ago, Desin got lose. He got out a back gate while Anne was watching her nephews at her brother’s house, and got lost in Bloomington.
He was later found safe, but not completely sound, after getting stuck in a fence.
“His muscles were very sore in the shoulders,” said Anne, “his whole back was out, his pelvis was also quite sore.”
Now, he’s on the mend, almost exactly a year after giving Anne another scare. He needed emergency surgery when his stomach twisted and bloated. Only half of dogs survive the surgery, but Delsin did.
In his first show back, he not only won, he became the oldest Bernese ever named Best in Show. That’s when she decided to enter the best show.
“It’s one more adventure that I can take with the dude,” said Nichols.
They’ll be one of the most unusual pairs at the show, which is watched by millions on cable, and features high profile show dogs that tour the country with hired trainers. Very few of the dogs are beloved house pets. And very few of the owners are also trainers.
“You know you think horse racing, you have your pro jockeys,” said Anne. “Well, I’m your non-pro jockey.”
Win or lose, Nichols said this will be Delsin’s last show. He’s already two years older than the life expectancy for Berners. But he loves the spot light of the show ring, and Nichols just wonders how he’ll measure up to the best of the best. So, on Friday, they’ll load up the minivan, and hit the road for a big adventure in the Big Apple.
“How cool … He’s used to walking down Stillwater. Now he gets to walk down Times Square,” said Nichols.
The Westminster Dog Show is Monday and Tuesday at Madison Square Garden. The 2,000 dogs that qualified are all Champions or Grand Champions, and 17 are from Minnesota.
Watch the previous story.