Dog's Death Following Westminster May Be A Murder Mystery

Dog's Death Following Westminster May Be A Murder Mystery
Cruz (photo by Lynette Blue)

Dog shows have always been one sports event free of controversy, except for all that internal political turmoil we saw in the movie "Best in Show." But the idea of enhancing show dog performances with drugs just hasn't been done, or competition becoming so cutthroat that dogs die. Might this innocence all be shifting? Someone could write a thrilling murder mystery about Cruz the Saymoyed.  Except that sadly, the story ends in tragedy.

Following the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Cruz was about the appear at a dog show in Lakewood, CO. He became ill and very soon died on February 16.

A veterinarian who treated Cruz, who was only 3-years old, suggested that he may have succumbed to rodenticide poisoning. However, the dog's owner Lynette Blue refused a necropsy (animal autopsy), but still maintains foul play was involved.

Being a benched dog show, any spectator can approach any dog. Obviously, no one was seen giving Cruz a treat, potentially laden with rodenticide. However, that could happen instantly. Chicago veterinarian Dr. Jerry Klein of Chicago Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Center was also at the dog show (he was judging Afghan Hounds, and other breeds). He told the Today Show, that's it's unlikely the generally friendly crowd would do such a thing.

According to the New York Times,  Robert Chaffin, Cruz’s handler, who accompanied Cruz to New York for the Westminster competition and spent nearly every minute of the trip by his side, paying close attention to anything the dog tried to eat. He said he believed that extreme animal rights activists, who have called dog shows and purebred competitions 'inhumane,' might have been responsible. “Unfortunately, dog shows have been plagued by some of these people for years,” Chaffin said. “I’ve heard horror stories about other people’s dogs having their setups tampered with, being poisoned, but I never thought it would come to me.”

Also, Cruz was debarked. A process which many feel is inhumane. This is a surgical procedure to reduce tissue in the vocal chords. Chaffin said he remembered a stranger at the Westminster show who glared at him and made a disapproving remark about Cruz’s vocal cords having been removed. “It would have been easy for someone to throw something in his cage,” Chaffin said.

Blue said she called the New York Police Department shortly after Cruz died but had not heard back. Of course, poisoning a dog for what the dog's owner did seems to make little sense if you are a dog lover.

No word on whether the facility the show was held (Piers 92 and 94 in Manhattan at the Hudson River ) have had a rodent issue, and potentially left out bait which Cruz might have scarfed up. Or if on the way to the airport to go to Colorado, or somewhere along the way - on the streets of New York even - Cruz might have eaten something he shouldn't have.

Also, according to some printed reports Cruz reportedly enjoyed steak, on occasion, which can cause pancreatitis. Was that what was going on?

Also, rodenticide doesn't necessarily kill, though it most certainly can. And the feces have an unusual bluish color, which you'd think would signal the handler to seek a veterinarian, even if the dog wasn't yet symptomatic.

Because there was no necropsy, there's no way to know for certain if rodenticide was even in the dog's system in the first place. What's more, it's unclear why the owner wouldn't have gone the 'extra mile,' and ask for the necropsy given her suspicions. And given the fact that she's a breeder. What if the dog dies as a result of genetic medical problem  - not sure what that would be to happen so fast - but you'd think she'd want to know.

Benched dog shows are a tradition in the dog show world, though there are only a handful left, including dogs shows in Philadelphia and Chicago. The idea is that the dogs are showcased on benches throughout the day, as members of the public walk by to greet them, ask questions of breeders and handlers, and get their photos taken with the canine stars of the show. This would be a sad and unfortunate end to benched shows.

So, who did it? If anyone did it....more questions here than answers. Sadly, in the end, a dog lost his life.

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  • There have been poisonings at pet shows since the 19th century. Nobody is caught, and in modern times, despite no suspects, PETA somehow takes the rap. It's become the stuff of urban legend. The conspiracy theorists among dog fanciers fret over "extreme animal rights activists," as the handler put it.

    My guess, based on other people who have faked their own victimization, is that the handler did it to frame those wascally animal rights activists. He fabricated the stranger glaring with the disapproving remark about the dog's vocal cord surgery; a real stranger wouldn't have known about the surgery. He spent nearly every minute monitoring what the dog tried to eat? Dog shows have been "plagued for years" by "these people?" None of it rings true.

  • In reply to Anne A:

    Not quite urban legend when people have been convicted....PeTA people. I'm not sure that your blame is appropriate, or not....curious, I agree no necropsy....and if you read my story I don't suggest anyone, and do think the dog could have been fed anything by anyone or scarfed something bad up anywhere. No question. However, not necessarily the handler's fault - IF that happened....dogs to sometimes scarf items up faster than we can catch them. Their mouth can be faster than the eye(s).

  • In reply to Steve Dale:

    I don't think any PETA members have been convicted for poisoning animals. If they have, please correct me with a reliable citation. I couldn't find one. That's what moves it into the realm of urban legend: no evidence that it's ever occurred, yet widespread belief that it's true.

    PETA does euthanize animals at their shelters, and that kicks up a lot of controversy, but that's a very different matter. Googling on the topic, I see that PETA as an organization works to convict animal abusers, has offered rewards in pet poisoning cases, publishes tips to avoid accidental poisonings, and publicizes the Pet Poison Hotline. But I couldn't find anything about PETA members being convicted.

  • The show dogs have surgery to repair their faults, they are powdered to give them better color and the top ones live their lives in crates so they don't get injured and end their career. Poisoning the competition - seems reasonable.

  • I don't know Snyder - I suppose that is possible....However, totally no proof. Doing a necropsy might have suggested something....

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