2015-02-04 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

Note: The following piece “Billy: NY State of Mind Beardie” first appeared here on 2/6/14. It’s one of three “Pets” to be nominated in the newspaper categories in this year’s Dog Writers Association of America Writing Competition. “Billy,” now 12, is now retired from agility but his daughter “Poppet” who qualified for the finals last year and his son “B-Buster” are competing at the second annual Westminster Masters Agility Championship on Feb. 14. “Billy” still does modeling, TV and will be appearing in a movie with Daniel Radcliffe. Here goes:

Such a New York story. “Billy” (Ch MACH Merewood NY State of Mind) a remarkable 11-year-old Bearded Collie from Staten Island is named after the Piano Man. Both dog and namesake will be performing at Madison Square Garden soon. The Beardie will do an agility demo at the Westminster press conference this Thursday while Mr. Joel is now named a musical “franchise” at the Garden.

“Billy” is the Beardie on the left facing front “Billy” is the Beardie on the left facing front Saturday, 225 dogs from around the US are entered in the inaugural Masters Agility Championship at Westminster inside Pier 94. Then close to 3,000 dogs will compete there in the breed competition of the 138th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. The dog dossiers are wonderful. Billy the Beardie’s story reinforces how much one dog can accomplish when teamwork between a pup and his person is loving and strong. Billy and his mom Trudy Wisner have such a special bond. Billy, like many agility dogs, is crosstrained. Nothing rattles him; he radiates a tremendous zest for life.

I have the privilege of helping in the Westminster Kennel Club press room where we get a first look at each dog’s record and resume. Owners of the 225 agility plus the 2,844 breed contenders are asked to submit an online media information form. Over a thousand of these bios are stored in my computer and phone. Prior to the dog show, their stories are shared with journalists cross country. Certain dogs appear at press events and on TV talk shows.

When Times Square was transformed into Super Bowl Central, Fox 1 Sports called for two Westminster agility dogs for an evening TV spot on the same roof-top stage where NFL players stood. Billy and Papillon “Carly” (from the” LI Papillon Power Authority” profiled in Beacon “Pets” 1/30/14) did the weave poles and jumps, despite wind on this third story perch. Billy negotiated the ladder stairway to the mini-studio as if he were a Search & Rescue dog. (He’s not.)

Billy is Trudy’s first agility dog and first Beardie. He’s the beginning of a breed love affair. When her 15 year old obedience trained Pit mix died in 2002, she wanted a completely different-looking, versatile breed. Bearded Collies are a long-haired Herding breed, photogenic and clownish in that Disney sort of way. She didn’t mind a dog with such coat because she owns a grooming salon in Brooklyn. Whelped 3/3/2002, Billy comes from a PA breeder. His Joel song name became a tribute to 9/11.

Billy finished his show championship in the ring at 18 months old, handled by Trudy’s friend. Hence, the “Ch” in front of his name. Trudy took him to obedience classes at Staten Island Companion Dog Training Club where he earned a CDX (Companion Dog Excellent) title. He participated in rally, a competitive series of obedience tasks. Then five years ago while petting him sitting in bed, she discovered a nodule on his leg. The vet removed the lump that biopsied as mast cell cancer level 2. Despite surgery and stitches, Billy earned his first herding title at a sheep trial in PA the next day. He’s gone on to obtain further herding distinctions.

Several weeks later Billy had additional surgery to clear wider margins, and has been cancer-free since. Just after his 11th birthday he accumulated the points and criteria required for the honor of a Masters Agility Championship title. This explains the “MACH” in his registered name. He’s a spry and active 11-year-old who still loves agility. Billy and his seven-year-old daughter “Poppet” are the only two agility Beardies chosen in the draw to be with Westminster at the Piers.

Besides sports and recreation, Billy has an extensive advertising career. He’s been filmed so often he should be carrying a Screen Actors Guild card. He’s done print ads for Glamour, Prevention and HGTV magazines. He made a PA lottery commercial last summer. Although he never competed as a show dog at Westminster, Billy was featured in a commercial break during the dog show two years ago. He’s done a series of online videos spoofing TV news broadcasts for a pet cleaning product. Billy poses as the Walter Cronkite-type anchorman in a William Wegman way. Human actors provide the hands while the pups supply the pretty faces.

When Disney filmed the “Shaggy Dog” remake in 2006, Billy was cast as the shaggy dog in a trailer for the UK release of the movie. Trudy recalls: “It was a very chilly February. We spent two days filming in Central Park performing a variety of stunts. Billy rode in a horse drawn carriage with his son Oreo and bolted from a hotel lobby into the park with an invitation in his mouth. They did the take over and over until the card in his mouth was in view. Billy didn’t mind the retakes. It was all part of the fun.”

Billy the Beardie has a big week ahead of him. A Westminster press conference on Thursday, the closing bell at NASDAQ on Friday and then the debut agility trial at Westminster on Saturday. Not bad for an 11-year-old dog. Not bad for an 11-year-old dog diagnosed with mast cell cancer five years ago.

Babylon Town Shelter Adoptables (631-643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: The sweet Pit pups-“Belair, Chevy, Cheyenne” 15-51/52/53 were living in a metal shed and were surrendered just before the blizzard, while dear “Ella” a soft gray cat was one of two abandoned in a box next to a dumpster.

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