In the ring, Addict the Portuguese Podengo is the center of attention. A member of a breed enrolled in the Miscellaneous Class, Addict competes year-round in American Kennel Club sports like Lure Coursing, Flyball, Fast CAT, and Agility. And when he’s not in the ring, Addict segues seamlessly to duties as a service dog for owner Veronica Miller of Monroe, Washington.
A Natural in the Ring
When Miller got Addict, she wasn’t involved in the world of dog shows. “I was asked by his breeder when I got him as a puppy to do some Open shows to help build the breed’s visibility, and I begrudgingly agreed,” she says. “At four months, Addict walked into the show ring like he owned the place.
Miller will never forget Addict’s evolution from puppy to show dog. “The first judge handed me a ribbon and said, ‘You need to train that puppy,” she recalls. Veteran breeder and fancier Katie Campbell also expressed that she saw something special in Addict.
That same day, Addict won a Group 2 in the Miscellaneous Class. He took Best of Miscellaneous the following day at the Seattle Kennel Club show. At his first Seattle show, Addict was still a total puppy, playing tug with Miller, even as a sizable crowd looked on.
“He finished his first Certificate of Merit at eight months old and his second shortly thereafter. He loves being a show dog and turns it on every time we walk into the ring. Unfortunately for him, I show very little these days, [but he] knew from the outset what it meant to be a show dog, even if I had no clue,” Miller laughs. “He had the ‘it’ factor we all talk about in show dogs, and I was just along for the ride at that point.”
Life as a Service Dog
While Addict’s sports competitions take him far and wide, he is also working 24/7 as a service dog for Miller, who suffers from severe migraines. At about eight months old, Addict began alerting his owner before her migraines would come on. “I didn’t realize what was happening for a few more months, and then began tracking his behavior and my symptoms,” she says. “He was throwing himself at me and basically being a bit of a jerk about three to four hours before I started getting auras and needing medication.”
Moving forward, she retrained his alert pattern to instead pawing at her arm. But if ignored, Addict would become more insistent. Before he began alerting her, Miller would be “taken down” by severe migraines several times each month. “His alerts have allowed me to live a normal life,” she says, “and not worry about taking extra days off work, missing events with friends, or simply being homebound for days in pain.”
While Addict loves being the center of attention in sports, as a service dog, he is totally focused on Miller. “He is friendly in that if someone approaches, he will stand nicely for a greeting or petting, but he would rather they just ignore him,” she explains. “He has never been one to seek attention from strangers. Podengos should be friendly but aloof. Addict is all about me all the time. No one else really matters to him.”
Miller recalls one notable occasion where Addict deviated from his typical behavior. The pair were on a flight to Denver when the plane hit major turbulence. Miller remembers, “The woman next to me was pale and obviously in distress over the situation. Addict crawled onto her lap, which he never does with strangers, and the woman quickly relaxed. It was the first, and only, time that he has gone out of his way to help someone else.”
Once the plane landed, Addict crawled back and laid down under Miller. “In the terminal, the woman came up to thank me and wanted to pet Addict,” Miller says. “True to his personality, he ignored her. By then, she was just another person, and his job was done.”
Addict the Canine Athlete
Addict keeps Miller busy most weekends. In addition to numerous three-to-four-hour drives from her Seattle suburb for events and competitions, they also fly to Illinois, Indiana, Florida, Texas, Michigan, and Kansas. And then there’s the annual drive to Greeley, Colorado each summer for a gathering of Podengo fanciers. Addict loves all sports in which he competes but he “loves to Lure Course, with Fast CAT a close second,” says Miller. “Hunting is what Podengos do best, and Lure Coursing approximates it best.”
Like most Podengos, Addict is very intelligent. “This doesn’t mean training is always easy, as they can be independent thinkers,” Miller emphasizes, “but it means that they can figure out complex behaviors and training exercises. They pick up on things quickly and want to move on. The more challenging the exercise, the more Addict remains engaged.”
The backstory behind his name comes with a few twists. Because Flyball dogs often have memorable call names, Miller and her husband, Stephen, wanted to choose a standout name for their dog. “Like racehorses, special dogs leave a mark on the sport, and Addict is certain to be one of those. Stephen picked the name since he knew I was hooked on hounds. A lot of people think his name is Attic or Atticus, so there is often a bit of explaining to do,” she laughs.
Few in Numbers
Since enrolled as a FSS breed in 2004, only 551 Podengos have been recorded as of December 2022, according to Linda Duncklee from AKC Registration. Though they’ve since moved up to the Miscellaneous Class, people often ask Miller about Addict or misidentify his breed as a result. The most “amusing” example came at a 2021 Can-Am Flyball Classic in Indianapolis, where she was competing with Vandal, her other Podengo.
“Vandal was racing on a multi-breed team where each dog has to be a different breed. Only one All-American dog is allowed per team. A fellow competitor lodged a complaint with the judges that we were running two All-Americans, as Vandal was ‘obviously’ a mixed breed. Vandal had been racing years at this point, so it was surprising someone would be questioning her breed. I had to pull the AKC registration for them and explain the breed in detail.”
At home, Addict is in hound country. He and six other dogs have access to 20 acres of private farmland with hiking trails and old-growth trees. Miller characterizes this space as a “small piece of heaven.” Addict loves running through the woods, swimming in the pond, and helping with rodent control around the family’s outbuildings.
While Podengos may not be the most recognizable to all dog owners, they have surely made their mark on people like Miller. Through both their talent in the sport and their intuition as supportive service dogs like Addict, Podengos are becoming more visible to the dog world.