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Rescue dogs, some from Orange County, have their day in the spotlight on the 2018 American Rescue Dog Show’

No, it isn’t the Westminster Kennel Club dog show. It may look a little like it, but this isn’t the dog show you’re likely used to seeing.
This is the “2018 American Rescue Dog Show,” and while it may in some respects resemble that annual event attended by a who’s who of dogdom, it’s different — in a very important way.
Like Westminster, this show features dogs competing in various categories, whose participants are winnowed down until one remains: the best dog in the show. And, like Westminster, these dogs are showing off their heritage. But unlike Westminster, the lineage isn’t what matters.
The heritage these dogs share, as you might guess from the show’s title: They are all rescues. Sure, some of them are purebred. Some competitors were even invited because of their breed. But not because of their pedigree. Because they’re all adopted.
A pack of basset hounds vie in the — what else? — Best Basset Hound category, one of 10 featured on the “2018 American Rescue Dog Show.” (Courtesy of Hallmark Channel)
The “2018 American Rescue Dog Show” features canines competing in 10 categories: best couch potato, best wiggle butt, best underbite, best in talking, best in snoring, best senior dog, best fetcher, best kisser, best special needs dog and best listener. Winners in each of the categories go on to the best in show round, where the “best rescue dog” will be crowned.
If you know anything about Westminster and other club shows, you know this is just how it’s done there, except at traditional dog shows dogs compete based on their breed. Here, breed doesn’t matter. Cute and cuddly do.
“I call it ‘cuteness overload,’ ” says Michael Levitt of Michael Levitt Productions, executive producer of the show. Levitt, who grew up in Orange County, has been combining his love of helping dogs with his production talents to bring the plight of rescue dogs to the public’s attention for several years, starting in 2014 with “The All-Star Dog Rescue Celebration,” which aired on Fox in 2014 and 2015. The show starred Hilary Swank and other celebrities, including Betty White, long an advocation for animals, and featured hundreds of dogs looking for homes.
The show was dropped after two years, Levitt said, because Fox’s policies changed, and “I’ve been working for the past two years to try to get a dog rescue show on TV.” He met Hallmark Channel President and CEO Bill Abbott, who Levitt called “a huge animal lover and supporter of rescue.” Levitt’s goals and Hallmark’s campaign called Adoption Ever After were a perfect match, Levitt, and “2018 American Rescue Dog Show” was born.
Levitt and his team put the word out in November via social media that they were seeking rescue dogs from around the country to feature on the show. Video entries — over 2,000, he said — came in, and a team of rescuers and producers chose the 52 who will be featured on the show. Included in that number are pups from Orange County adopted from rescue groups including All About The Animals, Lake Forest; CARMA Rescue, Mission Viejo; Greendog Foundation, San Juan Capistrano; Coastal German Shepherd Rescue, Irvine; I.C.A.R.E. Dog Rescue, Rancho Santa Margarita; The Little Red Dog, Mission Viejo; Adopt-A-Saint (Bernard), Lake Forrest; and Southern California Bulldog Rescue.
Several Orange County residents and their rescued dogs are featured on the show, which was filmed Jan. 13-14 with a live audience at the Fairplex in Pomona. In addition to highlighting the dogs’ abilities, cuteness overload and silliness, the show features excerpts from interviews with contestants, the names of the forever families with whom the dogs live, and the names of the rescues that saved and placed them.
“It really reinforces the warmth and the connection between a dog and the people that have them and that dogs are family,” Levitt said. “And of course celebrating the wonderful work of rescues that are on the front line every day.” But of course, he added, “The dogs are the stars.”
Indeed. I can’t think of a better dog show than this. Some of these dogs faced abandonment, near death in shelters, medical and behavior problems and other issues before they were rescued and placed in homes, either forever or foster. I can’t say enough about the wonderful work rescues and the people who save animals do, or about how great it is to highlight that work and those dogs in this way. I hope this show becomes an annual event that continues to remind us just what a great thing rescuing a dog (or any animal) can be.
And if you’re wondering whether any of the dogs from Orange County won … well, you’ll just have to tune in and see.

“2018 American Rescue Dog Show”
Hallmark Channel
8-11 p.m. Monday, Feb. 19
Source: Oc Register

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