This week’s theme was rescue. In the Dog Bone Challenge, that meant one owner had to first get his or her dog to ring a bell, then coach another dog to dig for a rope that would free its master from a box. In the Best in Show Challenge, it involved an owner getting his or her dog to lead three playful golden retriever puppies out of a maze. Puppies, people. PUPPIES.

Bill and Brittany Star and Travis and Boxer Presley won the Dog Bone Challenge. In addition to the leg up (two hours to get their dogs acclimated to the wee ones), they each received the opportunity to call a loved one. Travis phoned his mother, making him the world’s second biggest Mama’s Boy, after Michael Phelps. (If I wasn’t so tired, I might’ve ovulated. He fought back tears!) Bill dialed his wife, and set the hearts of many a middle-aged women aflutter with sweet words about how the ride of life isn’t fun without her, how he intends to cherish and love her forever, how he wants to go out for Mexican food when he gets home.

The Best in Show Challenge was even more drama. JD did an amazing job of coaching English Border Collie Galaxy through the maze, having her sit each time she got too far out of view from the puppies. Judge Wendy Diamond praised him, while Victoria Stilwell reprimanded him for using the archaic dominance-submission method of training. A fight erupted between Wendy and Victoria that ended, after a commercial break, with Wendy saying how much she respects Victoria, who clearly had been crying. Laurie, who’d been having this same argument with JD in the house, managed to get Maltese Andrew to escort one puppy to safety. Beth Joy was a total bust with mutt Bella Starlet, resorting to empty promises of treats and car rides. (Bella Starlet was so over this competition, I was happy to see her eliminated.) Travis didn’t benefit from the leg up at all. Presley wasn’t interested in the puppies anymore. He just wanted to run as fast as he could through the maze. Bill, god bless him, worked Star so hard that the judges nearly told him to stop. (If I were a contestant, I’d know by now that the judge don’t want you to challenge your dog to the point that she or he physically shuts down.) Star rescued two puppies, which is impressive considering she didn’t want anything to do with them to begin with. In the end, Teresa and Border Collie Leroy earned top honors for Leroy getting all three puppies out at once. The judges were way impressed. I feel like I missed something. What exactly was Leroy, and for that matter, any of the other successful dogs, doing? The puppies just seemed to want to chase him.

So, whose side of the training debate are you on: Laurie’s and Victoria’s (treats and positive reinforcement) or JD’s and Wendy’s? And will anyone miss Bella Starlet and Beth Joy? (As crazy as it was for Beth Joy to say that she sees the world as Bella Starlet does and that helps her, I was kinda envious. But again, I was exhausted.)

Greatest American Dog
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