It may be a dog's life, but Woofer isn't complaining. After all, he's just been named the top St. Bernard and the best working dog in the nation at the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club show in New York. His new Disney movie was also released on DVD earlier this month.
Now this top dog is relaxing back at home at Slaton Kennels in Greenwich before he rejoins the show circuit.
Woofer, whose registered name is Vicdory's Julius Ceasar, has been living and working with Shirley and Joe Wolf, owners of Slaton Kennels, since October when they became partial owners of the dog. Woofer also has a string of letters along with his name to denote special certification or awards Ch. for champion; RN for rally novice, which is obedience work; and WPS for weight pull superior. Woofer can pull more than 2,800 pounds in competitions.
Woofer moved to Greenwich after two women in Washington State, one the owner/trainer and the other a partial owner, brought him to Ohio for a competition.
"We saw the dog at the end of September at the St. Bernard national specialty held in Ohio," Shirley Wolf said. "My husband Joe and I liked him very much, especially since he goes back to more than one of our dogs on one side of his pedigree."
Slaton Kennels has been breeding St. Bernard dogs for 35 years. They bred and showed the top-producing St. Bernard bitch of all time Champion Slaton's Harlow Jean. She won that title by producing a blood line with more champions than any other in the history of the breed and in the history of all working dogs.
Woofer is in the current generation of champions from that bloodline.
Other Slaton champions from the same bloodline are Ben (Trust Gentle Ben V Slaton), the top-winning St. Bernard in the history of the breed, and dogs in the second and fourth spots.
When the Wolfs saw Woofer at the national St. Bernard show and realized he carried the bloodline of their champions, they offered to buy the dog. His two Washington owners didn't want to give him up completely, but they realized Woofer would have his best chance with the Greenwich couple training and showing him.
"She was so impressed with what we've done in the breed and how we treat our dogs that she agreed to let us co-own Woofer," Shirley Wolf said. "He's going to be here for at least a couple of years. We'll use him in our breeding program and we'll show him. When we retire him from the dog shows, we'll send him back to his original owners."
The advantages Woofer could get from living and working with the Wolfs were quickly apparent. In just seven shows at the end of 2007, Woofer earned enough points a combination of breed points and points for placement to be ranked second in the nation in his breed.
While Joe trains and shows his dogs, Shirley is in charge of grooming.
"I usually bathe Woofer and do some trimming at home before the show," she said. "Since he's groomed often, it only takes me two to three hours. Then before he goes in the show ring, I spend about 45 minutes that's the finishing touches."
Joe's training, Shirley's grooming and Woofer's bloodlines and great temperament led to his triumph at Westminster.
In addition to his success in the show ring, Woofer is a bona fide movie star with the release of Disney's "Snow Buddies."
Shirley Wolf said the movie, another in the series that began with "Air Bud," features five golden retriever puppies accidentally dropped off a plane in Alaska and discovered by a young boy who has been praying for five dogs to join his husky so he could enter a dog sled race. Woofer's role is that of St. Bernie, who tries to help the puppies get back home after they help the boy. Actor Jim Belushi provides the voice for the role.
"It is a darling film," said Wolf, but she added Woofer will focus on dog shows in the near future so he may have to put a film career on hold until he retires from the show ring.
The Wolfs, who moved their home and kennel to Greenwich from Canton four years ago, said Woofer is just one of the St. Bernard dogs they own. They have 12 adult or juvenile dogs and five puppies about 14 weeks old now. They will keep two of the puppies and sell the other three, but they haven't had time to sort through all the applications to choose new owners yet.
Wolf said even though most of the puppies they sell are just for pets, she requires prospective owners to fill out questionnaires and they sell most puppies with limited registration. That means the dogs retain their status as pure-bred St. Bernard dogs, but none of their puppies can be entered into the American Kennel Club registry.
She explained they do that to make sure none of their dogs end up in puppy mills.
"We breed mainly for ourselves and we usually keep one or two out of each litter," she said. "We're trying to improve the breed and not over-breed. Puppy mills don't breed carefully."
Wolf said any breed suffers whenever puppy mills don't pay attention to bloodlines, temperament or genetic problems.
"We keep track of all our puppies and help our people with questions or problems," she said. "We definitely care. Temperament comes first and then the quality of our animals. We want them to be healthy and live a long life."
That philosophy means dogs from Slaton Kennels have been sold across several continents. "We have puppies all over the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia," Wolf said.