UPMC Therapy Dog to Compete in Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

By: Rick Pietzak and Tim Betler

Hollee Russell, a flight nurse with STAT MedEvac, UPMC’s air medical transport service for severely injured and critically ill patients, will spend next week in New York with her 2-year-old Rottweiler, Josey, who is also a UPMC volunteer therapy dog.  Josey is competing for the Best of Breed category in the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show against 31 other Rottweilers on Feb. 11.

Russell says people are typically taken aback when she tells them she has a Rottweiler therapy dog, but only until they meet Josey, who is usually in costume when she visits patients at local hospitals.

“I dress her up because she is less intimidating. People are more likely to approach her. I have had some kids who were afraid of her, but once they start petting her, their reactions are different.  She calms people down,” Russell said.

Russell and Josey have been competing in regional dog shows since Josey was 6 months old.  Show dogs accumulate points as they win various competitions in order to become a grand champion, a prestigious accomplishment in the kennel club world.   Josey is now two wins away. They will spend this Sunday relaxing at “Barkfest at Bonham’s,” an art gallery display featuring dogs, and then prepare for Tuesday’s competition.

The competition will be streamed online at the Westminster Kennel Club website.