Champ to take bite of the Big Apple
By Lee Cataluna
This is one of those stories about a laid-back local boy who has the chance to make it in the big city. He has the talent and the heart, but to win, there must be sacrifice. Can he handle the cold weather? Can he go without poi? Can he deal with animal quarantine on the way back?
Paco is the Brian Viloria of the dog world. Or the Jason Scott Lee. He's a miniature bull terrier from Kahalu'u owned by Betty Wilkinson and Sally Yuen. His story reads like that of a world-class athlete or a child prodigy. He won his first dog show when he was just a puppy, and was discovered at the Pet Expo at the Blaisdell by the owner of the Poi Company, who made him spokesmodel for the company's poi dog biscuits.
He was called to audition for a national ad campaign for Target stores and when the ad executives took one look at his photo, they exclaimed, "That's our next Target Dog!" In October, he did a photo shoot for Target on Ko Olina beach, posing with six beautiful models.
But it wasn't glitter and gold stars all the way. Paco had a rebellious puppyhood. He took out one whole side of a fence in obedience class and absolutely refused to walk during one of his earlier dog shows.
Then, a growth spurt caught him by surprise. He didn't realize how big he was, and that got him into trouble. He fell while playing in the yard and fractured his right hind leg. That would have been a career-ending injury for most show dogs, but Paco went through rehab like a champ and got back his show gait.
And along the way, he got that winning attitude.
"He just shines in the ring," says Wilkinson. "He stomps his feet and puts on a show."
Paco, who's registered name is CH Bodacious Paragon (the CH is the AKC designation for "champion") is the first dog from Hawai'i to be invited to the prestigious Westminser Kennel Club in Madison Square Garden. (Other dogs from Hawai'i have competed in Westminser, but last year was the first time pre-invitations went out to the top five ranked contenders of each breed.) In February, Yuen will show Paco in the ring in front of a national television audience. Wilkinson will be his "Burgess Meredith" in the corner with a water bottle, towels and encouragement.
Paco will prepare for Westminster the way an athlete would prepare for the Olympics: bulking up on his favorite breakfast of poi (served in a saimin bowl with milk and sugar), and getting accustomed to the big city by taking trips to downtown Honolulu and practicing how to ride in an elevator.
A blood test later this week will determine if Paco qualifies for the shorter 30-day stay in quarantine or if he'll have to do the full three-months when he comes back.
And the team is figuring out what to pack. Paco will need warm clothes for the New York cold, and perhaps a lei haku to show off to the Mainland crowd. They're pretty sure they'll have no trouble finding his tri-tip steak in Manhattan, but the poi, well, that they might hand-carry.