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For decades, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show recognized the best in purebred pooches from around the world. This year, the Hallmark Channel decided it was time for the underdog to receive affection and accolades. The inaugural 2018 American Rescue Dog Show aired last night on the Hallmark Channel, hosted by Rebecca Romijn and Rich Eisen.

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The mission of the first-ever national rescue dog competition is “to celebrate rescue dogs in a personality-driven competition.” Pups from across the country competed in categories such as Best in Couch Potato, Best in Wiggle Butt, Best in Underbite, Best in Talking, Best in Snoring, Best in Senior Dog, Best in Fetcher, Best in Kissing, Best in Special Needs, and Best in Listener. Each winner received a $5,000 donation to the rescue organization of their choice.

The ten winners of their categories then faced off in the final round of Best in Rescue. Ultimately, 11-year-old Jackie, who won the Best in Senior Dog category, was awarded the Best in Rescue prize of $25,000 donated to A Purposeful Rescue. The senior dog was left at a shelter when she was ten years old and hours before she was scheduled to be euthanized, her family rescued her. This bedtime snuggler loves everyone she meets and enjoys playing fetch and swimming.

Hosts Romijn and Risen were joined by celebrity judges Linda Blair, Rick Springfield, Brandon McMillan, Andrea Arden, and Lisa Arturo. Additionally, Ross Mathews and Larissa Wohl covered all of the four-legged fun as the show’s commentators. The show’s official mascot was Happy The Dog, Hallmark Channel’s own rescued and adopted pet who stars in movies and TV specials while also serving as a certified therapy dog and emotional support animal.

“We are proud to honor rescue pets and raise awareness of how truly special these animals are,” said Bill Abbott, President and CEO, Crown Media Family Networks. “There are beautiful animals available at local shelters and we encourage our viewers to choose adoption through our pet programming, which is at the heart of our brand.”

Every day, thousands of animals across the United States are euthanized because shelters don’t have the capacity or resources to care for them until these animals can find forever homes. Not only was the 2018 American Rescue Dog Show almost too cute to watch, but it also raised awareness about an important issue facing this country. It’s overwhelmingly wonderful to see a network dedicate primetime hours to helping animals in-need.

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