UPDATE: Maverick’s story is now available in a new book, One Unforgettable Journey.
Dad is away winning awards, and his young pup is at home learning the ropes. The Weimaraner puppy looks up to his dad as a king, and the family is nothing short of overachievers. He has some big shoes to fill but is up for the task. One day it’s time for him to go to another home, and he is sent off with love and well wishes.
His new home is very different. Instead of training, playing and bonding with his new family, he is stuffed into a box barely big enough for him to turn around in. He doesn’t like to be caged; surely these people were told of this in advance. Day after day he remains in the cage, barely let out long enough to stretch his legs.
He is stressed, anxious and has overgrown and painful nails. His nose itches and burns from the infection that has set in. He has no desire to eat and starts chewing on various parts of his body when the stress skyrockets. Days become weeks, and his weight keeps dropping. His bones are protruding and the discomfort and agony of his conditions are taking their toll. He lives in fear of what will happen to him. He feels abandoned and forgotten.
One day a man comes to visit. He sees the young male and winces at his condition. He immediately takes the dog into his home to start rehabilitating him. The dog is scared at first but learns affection in this new home. He struggles to eat, and it takes a few weeks until he acquires a somewhat normal diet.
Slowly coming out his shell, gaining weight and flying through training, he creates a bond with his new family and finds his confidence again. He regains so much confidence that he is ready to compete, and soon he is in the competition ring showing off his best moves and soaring into championships. He wins the hearts over of many, and the forgotten prince is once again unforgettable — and heading to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
This is the story of Maverick, aka GCH Anson’s Unforgettable. The people who bought him from the breeder had moved without leaving any contact information and took him to a new address in a different country. The breeder could not find them, and the puppy’s location and condition were unknown.
An advertisement on Craigslist caught the attention of a friend of Dan Stallings, and once Dan saw the Weimaraner in such a horrible condition he said he had to find a way to save him. The owner, reaching for an excuse, claimed the dog had simply been refusing to eat, but Dan knew better.
Dan had no initial plan of showing the dog competitively; he just wanted to save him from ending up in a worse condition, possibly in a kill shelter or even death. He runs a rescue group out of Virginia Beach, Virginia, and has had numerous Weimaraners in good and bad conditions and as pets for almost a dozen years. “I had no idea that Maverick’s dad won Best of Breed in 2007 at Westminster,” Dan tells me in an interview, “and I never could have imagined the scrawny and ailing dog I now owned would end up with an invitation to the canine Super Bowl.”
Meanwhile, breeder Jan Lowe says she was thrilled Maverick was found. “Dan is a wonderful guy. I thank my lucky stars that he was at the right spot at the right time. I am the breeder, and was desperately trying to get the dog back from the owner, who was on the other side of the country at the time. Good luck, Maverick!”
A recent article about Maverick received hundreds of responses, most of support and encouragement. Some replies argued that Maverick is not technically a rescue dog because he was still intact and originally from a breeder. However, had Maverick’s condition worsened for much longer, he might have died at the hands of his owner or been dropped off at a shelter, neutered and possibly euthanized. Would he qualify as a rescue if that were the case?
Luckily for Maverick, he doesn’t know anything about papers or that he is a champion. All he knows is that his face has healed, his body feels better and he has the kind of love and affection that motivates him to return that love to Dan. He takes pride in a job well done with his handler, Rusty, and he can’t wait to finish in the ring and run toward his owner. Sure, there are endless animals in shelters that need homes, and we would all take in as many as we could if we had unlimited funds and space.
Just because Maverick was a purebred doesn’t mean he deserved any less of a chance at life, and Dan could have easily walked away. He chose to ensure the dog would have a chance to live a happy life, and as he explains to me, “Even if he never saw the inside of a ring, I had to get him out of that situation. He needed to be rescued, and there was no way I was leaving without him. I never imagined he would take me along for such a ride.” Dan even jokingly completed the history section of Maverick’s Westminster paperwork with: “None at all. Maverick got me into this!”
Maverick isn’t able to make many dog shows because of travel restraints. Dan says that because Maverick was crated so extensively in his previous home, he is taken only to shows “where he is not crated for a long period of time or when I can hand-deliver him myself.” Dan adds: “He stresses out and stops eating if he gets into a situation similar to the one I rescued him from, and I never want him to feel like that ever again.”
When he is not at shows, Maverick hangs out with Dan’s other Weimaraners. Some compete in dock diving and obedience events (one of them is the only Weimaraner to be crowned Iron Dog champ!), work as therapy dogs and are happy household residents that adore the company of Dan’s 3-year-old daughter.
Maverick will be looking to capture the hearts of the judges at the 2012 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on Valentine’s Day. His time in the spotlight will be 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 14 in Ring 4 of the Expo section, and he will be with either Rusty or Dan (armband #8). Stop by, meet the crew and cheer for the unforgettable prince of Westminster.
Update, Feb. 14: Unfortunately, Maverick didn’t place this time, but there’s always next year! We’ll be there to cheer you on.
Update, July 20: Maverick’s story is now available in a new book, One Unforgettable Journey.
Photos courtesy of Dan Stallings