Local owner's dog among top in the nation

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Saturday, February 26, 2011
— Merilee Baker was barking up the right tree in 2006 when she bought Tony, a brindle Great Dane.

"I bought him hoping I'd have a show dog, but I wasn't positive," said the Janesville woman.

Tony proved his owner's instincts were right after becoming a champion at the young age of 22 months.

Even more impressive, Tony, whose registered name is "Roserun's Bamboo Tiger," won an Award of Merit for Great Danes earlier this month during the Westminster Kennel Club's 135th Annual Dog Show in New York City.

"I was thrilled. That's a really big win because all those dogs are top dogs," Baker said.

This included 22 Great Danes who competed for the title of Best of Breed, Best of Opposite Sex and three Award of Merit placings.

Baker enrolled Tony in classes at the Janesville Kennel Club when he was a puppy. By the time he was 13 months old, he began working with a handler and entered his first competition at 14 months.

Tony wasn't shown much in 2009 "because we were letting him grow up, develop and mature," Baker said.

But during 2010, he competed more than three dozen times and became the No. 1 brindle Great Dane in the country, Baker said.

Tony lives with his handler in Crete, Ill., where is on a strict diet and exercise regimen. Baker visits monthly.

Tony will turn 5 years old later this year, and because Great Danes are known to not have long life spans, Baker and her handler have decided he'll retire from show dog competitions at the end of this year.

"It'll be time for him to come home," Baker said.

Last updated: 4:12 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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