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Miles, the ‘unadoptable’ mongrel abandoned at a shelter, could now win at Westminster Dog Show

Miles, a rescue dog from Pennsylvania, will defy the odds when he competes in historic competition

Olivia Hebert,Meredith Clark
Sunday 12 May 2024 15:25 BST
Related: 5 Dog Breeds That Have Never Won The Westminster Dog Show

A plucky mongrel named Miles, who was abandoned at a rescue shelter, now has a chance of winning the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

The annual dog show, the US’ second-oldest continuously held sporting event, takes place between Saturday 11 May and Tuesday 14 May. It is also notably the longest, nationally-televised live dog show since 1948. For more than a century, the event has captivated dog lovers worldwide.

Miles is one of 2,500 dogs set to compete in this year’s show in Queens, New York. Classified as an All-American dog — the term the club uses for mutts — Miles competed in the agility preliminaries on 11 May, and is a fan favorite with his underdog status.

In a recent interview with The New York Times, his owner, Christine Longnecker, described how Miles transformed from an “unadoptable” dog at a rescue shelter into one of the top agility competitors in the country.

Ms Longnecker, a horseback riding teacher based in Erie County, Pennsylvania, adopted Miles six years ago from the Because You Care animal shelter in McKean. At the time, Miles (then named Tuck) “wasn’t receptive” toward others and would “snarl and growl” in their presence. That is, until Ms Longnecker came around.

“All of a sudden this overwhelming sadness washed over me, the sense of his not being able to prove himself because he’d been told that he was a bad dog,” she told theTimes, describing the first moment she locked eyes with Miles. “My heart broke into a million pieces.”

She enrolled Miles in a class at Countryside Agility in Pennsylvania, and found her dog had a natural talent for the sport. Now, at age seven, he is reportedly on his way to achieving his third Master Agility Championship (MACH). Not only has he competed at the Westminster Dog Show but he’s also competed twice at the annual American Kennel Club agility nationals, finishing each time as the top All-American dog in his field.

Miles is described as “vaguely Doberman-y, with a partially black, shiny coat and a long snout,” though a DNA test revealed he’s “40 per cent cattle dog, 23 per cent Labrador, 10 per cent Border collie, and 27 per cent mélange of hound.”

Founded in 1877, the Westminster Kennel Club judges canine competitors for the annual dog show — which only allows for purebreds to compete — as well as the Masters Agility Championship and Masters Obedience Championship. The agility competition rewards speed, intelligence and enthusiasm, and allows for dogs of all backgrounds to compete.

According to Ms Longnecker, Miles’ unlikely story shows that not all dogs must be pure-bred to have a shot at achieving the coveted agility title.

“Miles is proof that you can overcome anything with a little bit of belief and a lot of love,” she said. “You don’t need a ‘well-bred dog’ to have a best friend to play in dog sports with. You can find one right down the street at your local shelter.”

When he’s not competing in sports, Miles acts like a “big, spoiled, cuddly baby” in the house he shares with Ms Longnecker’s two other dogs and two cats. He’s also found a role for himself during Ms Longnecker’s riding lessons, where he barks at horses to make sure they’re jumping correctly.

“They say you save a rescue, but a rescue saves you,” his owner said. “Miles is the best thing to ever happen to me.”

The Masters Agility Championship finals are on Sunday 12 May. The final competition will air live on Fox from 2pm to 4.30pm ET, or can be livestreamed on the FOX Sports app.

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