Congratulations to our “Top Dog” and Grand Champion, Riley, an adorable rescued Basset Hound entered in the Dog Show by Debbie & Pat Moran. This famous dog and it owners had a $5,000 donation made to the Friends of Haywood County Animal Shelter in their names. Thanks to all of our four-legged friends for making this a memorable day!
A FOUR-LEGGED FOURTH, excerpt from The Mountaineer, 7/5/18
Debbie Moran didn’t enter her floppy-eared, four-year old basset hound, Riley, in the Laurel Ridge Fourth of July Dog Show for fame and glory. “We brought him out here just for the heck of it,” she said. “We weren’t really expecting to win anything. But win is exactly what Riley did, not only in the Best Tail Wagger category, but also in the Top Dog contest, which determined the most popular dog in the entire show by way of audience vote. The prize? A $5,000 donation to the Friends of Haywood County Animal Shelter in Riley and Moran’s name, made by the Harmon family, owners of Laurel Ridge Country Club.
Moran rescued Riley from Wisconsin and is in the process of training him to become a therapy dog. She was thrilled the donation would help animals in situations similar to that which Riley came from. “I think it’s a great cause,” said Moran. “Especially when I think about Riley’s history and what we’re trying to do with him. I’m on board for anything that helps animals.” Moran may have been surprised that Riley – who was decked out in a red, white and blue outfit, including an objectively adorable American flag baseball cap – was named Top Dog. But announcer Ed McHugh certainly wasn’t. “The judges fell in love with him,” he said. “When I saw him for the first time, I knew it was over.” McHugh provided a humorous play-by-play as the dogs paraded out in front of a large audience under the pavilion at Laurel Ridge. The event was open to the public, and 18 dogs in total entered the competition.
There were five categories in all: Best Tail Wagger, Best Trick, Most Patriotic, Best Groomed and Junior Division. The winner of each category advanced to the Top Dog championship round. The winners were as follows:
- Best Tail Wagger: Riley, basset hound, Debbie and Pat Moran
- Best Trick: Bella, chihuahua, Bob and Deb Morgan
- Most Patriotic: Chesty, west highland terrier, Carolyn Miller
- Best Groomed: Beemer, wire fox terrier, Sharon Osborn
- Junior Division: Otter, shepherd/lab mix, Alexis, Sarah and Jason Speier
“Look at that pup,” thundered McHugh as Miller’s red, white and blue-dyed west highland terrier, Chesty, made the rounds. “Next stop: Westminster. I’m not kidding you, folks.” McHugh himself was donning his finest patriotic apparel: a short-sleeve, three-button shirt featuring an American flag design and words from the Declaration of Independence scrawled in cursive on the back. The stereo pumped out tunes that alluded almost exclusively to dogs and freedom, including such classics as “God Bless the U.S.A.” and, of course, “Who Let the Dogs Out?” “We make it fun,” said McHugh. “I know I have a great time. The audience, in my estimation, has a great time, too. People seem to enjoy it.” McHugh was quick to praise the “work on the front end,” as he put it, meaning the individuals who completed behind-the-scenes duties to make sure the event ran seamlessly. Said McHugh: “This place turns like a top. Everything is in place when they give me the microphone and let me mouth-off for an hour. I think anybody can do what I do with all the planning that goes into it.” McHugh was a volunteer, as were a number of other individuals – Steve Foreman, Jane Noppenberg – who put in the dirty work to help the proceedings unfold without a hitch. Sponsors included the Animal Hospital of Waynesville, Forever Lawn , Happy Hound Grooming, Maple Tree Vet, PetSmart, Smoky Mountain Dog Bakery, The Dog House, Carolyn Taylor and Linda Twomey.
This year marked the first time the Laurel Ridge Fourth of July Dog Show had been held since 2015, according to Mandy Heatherly, office manager at Laurel Ridge. The show was born out of the Harmons’ love for dogs – the family has owned and trained canines for many years, said Heatherly. Back in 2015, proceeds from the event were given to Haywood Spay and Neuter. This year, Friends of Haywood County Animal Shelter was chosen as the recipient because “many of our members have rallied for this cause,” said Heatherly. The event has undergone other changes as time has progressed. At one point, a local artist donated a picture of the winning dog in conjunction with the monetary proceeds. This year’s event featured an appearance from Sgt. Brandon Gilmore and the Waynesville PD K9 unit at the conclusion of the dog show. The Harmons have worked closely with the Waynesville PD “donating generously to equip their K9 unit,” said Heatherly. The demonstration proved to an enrapt audience just how important a well-trained canine can be in myriad sketchy situations law enforcement members may find themselves in.
Also, in previous years, the winner of the dog show had been determined by whichever canine received the highest number of cash donations, according to McHugh. That framework was abandoned after people who “had more money than they can count just kept stuffing the box,” as McHugh put it. So, to level the playing field, it was decided that the winner would be determined by a written popular vote, and that the Harmons would donate $5,000 of their own money to the Friends of Haywood County Animal Shelter. “The Harmons are extremely generous people,” said McHugh. “And nobody really knows about it, because they don’t flaunt it. It’s just the way they are.”
The winner-by-popular-vote approach seemed to work well Wednesday afternoon, with Riley – perhaps the overwhelming favorite – taking home the Top Dog title. In the moments following the victory, Moran and Riley walked out on the floor for a round of photos. Riley’s hat kept falling off as he sniffed the ground. “I don’t think he has any clue what’s going on right now,” said Moran. Moran didn’t do it for the glory. She had no need for the fanfare: the ribbons, the paparazzi, the taxing media interviews, and all the other trappings of fame. But considering the glitz and glamour was accompanied by a generous donation to a cause that Moran truly believes in, she’ll gladly endure all the unwanted attention – and with a smile, nonetheless.