Everyone loves a good success story, so here’s one from a very special canine. Five years ago, you would have found Buster the mutt malnourished and wandering the streets of Philly alone at night. When Buster was finally taken to a no-kill animal shelter in New Jersey, his fur was so matted that he couldn’t even open his mouth to eat. Buster was in such a poor condition it was difficult to find a good home for him, until Jacqueline Soccodato came to the rescue.
This big-hearted woman couldn’t resist Buster’s sad, longing eyes and took him home with her in hopes of nursing him back to health. At first, Buster had problems with trust and would steal food right off the kitchen table. Being a dance instructor, Soccodato had the bright idea of using agility and movement to heal Buster’s emotional wounds. She enrolled Buster in agility classes that consisted of obstacle courses and various physical training activities. Not only did Buster’s demeanor improve, but Soccodato also discovered his natural knack for speed and dexterity.
“Buster is super-good under stress and can tune everything out because he was on the streets and in the shelter,” says Soccodato of entering him in small dog shows in the northeast to continue his physical and emotional growth.
Despite the fact that Buster was a mixed breed (most likely Shih Tzu, Yorkshire terrier and other unknown breeds), Buster took home the gold medal in his very first competition and continued to rank highly in several more. Not only was Buster beginning to win in the ring, he was winning in life.
As a dog show champion, Buster was introduced to specialty dog food, laser acupuncture and canine massage sessions. But don’t worry – these luxuries didn’t give Buster a big head.
“Everyone comes in with the same exact dogs that are made for agility, like border collies, Australian shepherds – they all look the same,” says Busters mom, “everyone always asks what Buster is. He totally doesn’t fit in.”
Buster may not have the pedigree or be as “pawsh” as most dog show winners, but that hasn’t held him back one bit. In fact, Buster competed in the agility category at this year’s Westminster Dog Show. He even had his very own entourage – the folks from the dog rescue in New Jersey made the 4-hour road trip just to watch their old mutt pal compete in the Oscars of dog shows. Buster’s special story got him write ups in the New York Post, among several other reputable publications. Just like any A-list celebrity, Buster now lives a very comfortable life in New York with fame, world-class cuisine and luxurious amenities at his paws. But it seems the most important part of this rags to riches story for Buster is that he now has a supportive, loving mother who has been with him every step of the way. “He’s like your child,” says his proud mom, “you think he’s wonderful – you just hope everyone else does, too.”