KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Heart of America Dog Show is in town this weekend, but one grand champion won’t be competing.
When you look at him, 168-pound Oscar seems perfectly happy lounging on the floor or playing at home in his big backyard.
But the nearly 3-year-old pure bred Cane Corso was once a grand champion on the dog show circuit, qualifying this year for Westminster.
“He would step out into the ring and be just real built, fit, muscular and kind of wow everybody,” Emily McLeod said.
McLeod and Dave Jennings said they agreed to house and co-own Oscar with a breeder who was more interested in the dog shows.
“The breeder would call us and say, ‘Hey, can I take him to this show?’ and we would say sure,” McLeod said. “And he would go to a show, and he would be handled by a professional handler, and then he would come home.”
But as Oscar piled up the ribbons, the breeder wanted Oscar to go on the road for months at a time.
“So you are going to take a dog that’s had a giant backyard, plenty of exercise, multiple walks a day, interaction with people, and you are going to take him and put him in a metal crate, and you are going to put him in the back of a van, and you are drive him from show to show,” Jennings said.
The couple said they agreed to let Oscar go to one more show in Colorado while they discussed future plans.
But then they got a text saying Oscar was never coming home — allegations the breeder denies.
“It was hard to eat. It was hard to sleep,” McLeod said. “We don’t have kids, so it was like our kid had been taken.”
When they considered a police report, they were told it was a civil matter.
“The only step we had to get him back was number one to find him and take him,” Jennings said.
So that’s what Jennings did, driving to Virginia, where he found Oscar inside a crate at a show. He walked right out with him before anyone noticed.
“It was really nerve-wracking to have to go that extent,” Jennings said.
The couple said when they found him, Oscar was underweight with sores, hookworm and ear infections.
“We were literally appalled,” McLeod said. “It was abysmal the condition he came in.”
That was six months ago. Since then, the couple has filed suit for sole ownership of the dog. But the breeder has filed for immediate return of her property, denying many of the allegations.
The couple said they’ve spent more than $10,000 in legal fees and wish they’d just drawn up a contract from the start.
“We would advise anybody be very clear on what you are OK with and not OK with because it’s very expensive to figure out this later,” Jennings said.
And in the high stakes world of dog shows, where breeding can be lucrative, they said they’d never co-own a dog again.