Foul Play Suspected in the Mysterious Death of a Show Dog

Like something out of an old Pushing Daisies episode, a promising show dog is dead with the owners are claiming that someone poisoned him on purpose. Cruz, a 3-year-old samoyed (different from the one pictured above), was perfectly healthy upon competing at the Westminster Dog Show earlier this month, but, less than a week later, he was brought into a Colorado veterinary office after vomiting blood and, just hours later, passed away. Where's Ned the Pie Maker when you need him?

While no necropsy was performed, the vet tech who treated Cruz claims that his symptoms resemble those of pets who have eaten rodent poison (the effects of rodent poison usually take around 5 days to appear in dogs). She also said that it was more than likely that this is something that Cruz got into on his own and that no other parties were involved. Still, Cruz's owners, who monitored his diet very closely, suspect that it was a murder played out by animal rights activists who are against purebred breeding practices and dog shows.

"Unfortunately, dog shows have been plagued by some of these people for years," Cruz's handler Robert Chaffin told the New York Times. "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."

He then added, "It would have been easy for someone to throw something in his cage."

PETA, who for years have been attempting to infiltrate Westminster in order to protest, denies any culpability, with founder Ingrid Newkirk stating, "PETA does not sanction that. It's so scurrilous; it's so low to even suggest it."

The New Yorker Hotel, where many of the Westminster dogs stay with their handlers during the competition also denies any chance of involvement, saying that they do not use harmful pesticides and that they took care to set up special areas inside of the hotel where the dogs could safely exercise.

While the vets continue to think it was an accident ("Dogs are dogs," says Molly Comiskey, the veterinarian who treated Cruz. "It's not anyone's fault. They eat stuff; they get into things; they make bad decisions"), Cruz's owners are not so willing to let go. "It's devastating," says owner Lynette Blue. "We keep thinking of the various scenarios, and it's starting to feel like something we may never know."

This whole story — whether you see it as a whodunnit, the tale of two crazy and paranoid dog show enthusiasts or just the sudden death of a beloved pet (it's probably at least 2 out of the three) — is so strange and sad.

Dog's Death After Westminster Leaves Handler Suspicious [NYT]