Clear The Shelters

Puppy Love: Westminster Dog at the Heart of a Human Romance

Clear The Shelters

Vinny, a colored bull terrier, poses after winning his breed at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show in New York on Monday, Feb. 10, 2020. (AP Photo/Jennifer Peltz)

Clear The Shelters

WBRE-TV joins NBCUniversal owned television stations Clear the Shelters™ pet adoption campaign for the entire month of August

WBRE-TV along with animal shelters and rescues from Northeast & Central Pennsylvania will host the popular month-long event in August for local communities’ organizations will offer low cost or waived adoption fees

WBRE-TV today has joined NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations’ Clear the Shelters™ nationwide pet adoption campaign. Launching August 1st and culminating with Clear The Shelters Day Friday, August 28th, the pet adoption drive will include the participation of local animal shelters/rescues. On August 28, participating organizations will offer low cost or waived pet adoption fees to help families adopt a pet.

Eyewitness News and NBC Universal have partnered to produce a 60-minute special highlighting the importance of finding forever homes for shelter animals. The first half hour of the special NBC’s “Clear The Shelters” will run at 7:00PM will spotlight the amazing adoptive families, unsung heroes who work at the shelters and of course, adorable pets who are being welcomed into new homes.

The second half hour WBRE-TV’s “Finding a Forever Home” at 7:30PM will be hosted by Eyewitness News morning anchors, Chris Langlois and Kelly Byrne and will highlight the efforts here in Northeast and Central Pennsylvania to find homes for animals.

From older dogs to kittens to rabbits to birds, NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations’ Clear The Shelters campaign has inspired local communities to take action and open their homes to pets in need. Since 2015, more than 411,292 pets have been adopted.

For more information, visit You can also follow the effort on Twitter @Clear The Shelter, and on social media using the hashtags #ClearTheShelters and #DesocuparLosAlbergues.

Clear The Shelters: Local Animal Shelters

More Local Animal Shelters
This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

It’s a love story that all starts with Spuds MacKenzie.

And this tale of puppy love — and human romance — gets a new chapter under the TV lights at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show Tuesday night. It’s the first time there for a bull terrier named Vinny with owner Grace Thomas handling him.

“I guess when you’re passionate about it, it works,” said Thomas, who’s among a minority of people showing their own dogs at Westminster who haven’t made a career of dog handling.

The gregarious Vinny was chosen Monday as best colored bull terrier (all-white ones show separately), an award he also won last year with a professional handler. He gets to try Tuesday night for top terrier, and if he succeeds, he’ll have a shot at the best in show crown.

The story goes like this: Thomas fell for bull terriers after seeing Spuds, the party animal of late-1980s Bud Light ads, but it was some time before she acquired one. When she eventually did, in 2001, the breeder pressed her to show the pup.

Thomas didn’t know what showing would entail, but she was game to try. So she watched, asked questions, learned the ropes.

“People think it’s all fun. It’s a lot of work,” said Thomas, of Napa, California. She said it takes lots of conditioning and bond-building to get a dog to sparkle in the show ring.

“Owner-handlers” are often overshadowed at Westminster by star professional handlers, some of whom started competing as children.

“It’s hard to have confidence when you go out there with a group of professionals, but you can do it,” Thomas says. “A lot of people feel that only professionals can win, and it’s not true. If you have a good dog, your dog’s going to win.”

For all the professionals’ polish and experience, she and some other owner-handlers feels they bring something of their own to the show ring: their dog.

“The ribbons are nice, but it’s the journey that you’re on with your dog,” Diana Gerba of Menlo Park, California, said Monday after showing her Tibetan spaniel, Marco, at Westminster. “The bond is really strong between him and me.”

Still, Thomas notes, there are other challenges — like juggling dog shows with a full-time job in human resources before her retirement last year. But her professional background helped a bit.

In H.R., she notes, “you have to learn to deal with all types of characters, and bull terriers are characters. And so are show people.”

One show person, Robert Thomas, became a particularly big part of her story.

They met in 2015 in a show ring. He was the judge.

“He fell in love with my dog,” she says.

With her dog?

Yes, “the dog came first,” she says with a laugh.

About a year after that 2015 show, the two started talking about dogs, “and it just grew from there,” Grace Thomas says. They married in 2018.

“I teased her, you know, ‘I only started dating you because I wanted your dog,’” her now-husband jokes. All kidding aside, he calls their relationship “the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Nearly three years ago, he gave her a puppy as a birthday present.

Now that pup, Vinny, just might bring the couple an early Valentine’s Day present at Madison Square Garden.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.