A Plano service dog will be among the 2,000 canines competing in the elite Westminster Kennel Club's annual dog show next week.
Patton, a 2-year-old, 120 pound Leonberger, is not the only service dog to compete in the show, but his owner and trainer say the combination is rare.
"We could tell from the get-go that he is an exceptional dog," said Maureen Patin, who owns and operates What a Great Dog Training Center in Prosper.
When Patton was a puppy, his owner, Janis Cook, brought him to Patin's facility to work on behavior and agility.
Cook promised her breeder to enter Patton in some competitions, but her primary need was for a service dog. She has diabetes, and Patton is able to sense when her blood sugar is low and alert her. Patton also provides stability for her balance issues.
"I have multiple sclerosis, and my balance is awful," she said. "He kept me from falling."
Patton is Cook's third service dog. While she had some experience showing other dogs many years ago, she said she never expected Patton to have so much success in the ring.
"He started winning and winning," she said.
At the training center, Patton works on his agility and skills to help Cook get around.
For example, trainers taught him to press the button that opens handicapped-accessible doors in public so that Cook can maintain her balance without losing a step.
"We've trained Patton to push directly on that button with his front paw," Patin said.
When competing, Patton works with Dallas-based handler Brian Livingston.
When Patton's leash is handed back to Cook after a show, people are often surprised to see Patton start working his "second shift."
"When I talk to some of the judges after -- they see me place the pack on him and walk him out -- they're very surprised and pleased that he has another job," Cook said.
Cook said Patton is too young to be considered a favorite in his breed, but win or lose: "He's a winner to me."