Tucson dog D'Artagnan has been featured on TV's "Animal Planet," entered and won his first show when he was only 6 months old and has since amassed so many ribbons that they probably weigh more than he does.
The 87-pound shaggy star, as one of the top five Bouviers des Flandres in the nation, has also been invited to the Westminster Kennel Club's 133rd Annual Dog Show in New York City.
The show, which starts Feb. 9 at Madison Square Garden, is considered as the greatest dog show in America if not the world. The 3-year-old's first visit to Westminster was two years ago and he made the finals.
Not bad for a dog that was basically born dead.
Both his handler Tracy Turner and his co-owner Mary Alice Bushey recall that fateful night all too well.
Mother dog Vinca began giving birth to what Turner and Bushey thought would be five puppies.
Instead there were only two. The female was delivered with no complications. The male needed help from the womb.
"I finally got him out," said Turner, "and he wasn't breathing."
Turner, who has worked with dogs for 25 years and whelped about 100 litters, kept rubbing the puppy's chest and giving him mouth to snout.
After more than an hour of this, Bushey said to let the dog go, there was something wrong with him.
Mom dog Vinca then began to have more complications, so the two women loaded the dogs into a van to go to the vet.
"By now it's 5 a.m., I've been working for two hours on the puppy and all of a sudden he latches onto the mom's nipple," she said. Turner screamed with glee so loudly that Bushey nearly slammed on the brakes.
"He's never put a foot down wrong since," Turner said.
Every time he chalks up another win, Turner said, she also gets to rub it in that Bushey wanted to let him go.
"'Aren't you glad I saved that dog?' I ask her."
D'Artagnan is co-owned by Tucson breeder and Groomingdales Pet Salon owner Bushey and a couple in Phoenix, but he lives with handler Turner.
"He is so devoted to her," Bushey said. "When I ask him to do something he looks at me almost like he's flipping me off."
D'Artagnan, officially known as "Champion Desert Sage Musketeer," was so named because Turner was watching the movie "The Three Musketeers" when he was born.
His breed is well-known, even by those who don't think they are familiar with the Bouvier des Flandres.
"Remember the Wyle E. Coyote cartoons?" Turner asked. "That watchdog on the hill is a Bouvier des Flandres."
Bred to herd cattle, the Bouvier des Flandres is stocky, solid and powerful enough to not only herd in the cattle to be milked but to also haul the milk wagon once it's loaded.
But it's not just power and beauty that make D'Artagnan popular.
"People want to breed him for his attitude," Turner said. "You can't bring a kid by him without him rolling on his back and going 'Pet me, pet me!'"
He's also a certified service dog and a real ham.
"He loves to be at the dog shows," Bushey said. "He goes into his big metal crate at the show, lies there and watches everybody go by. Then when it's his turn it's like, 'Oh, boy! It's time to play!"
Turner added, "He turns into Mr. Macho. We have high hopes at Westminster."
This story originally appeared in the Jan. 17, 2009, issue of the Tucson Citizen.