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Running full speed with cords flying, the 7-year-old Puli is as happy as can be. Photo courtesy Janie Tandy.

What’s your word recognition when it comes to Guinness – a world’s authority on record-breaking achievements or an iconic Irish beer?

Well, there’s a four-legged option begging for your attention, too, who comes from a long line of champions.

Meet CH There’s Nothing Like a Guinness, a 7-year-old, 40-pound Puli, owned and bred by Fran Levinson, of Landenberg, Pennsylvania, that will be in action at The National Dog Show Presented by Purina at noon Thanksgiving Day in all time zones.

Chances are many of you have never heard of this Guinness, or even the corded Hungarian breed, which was No. 143 out of 195 in the American Kennel Club’s most popular breeds of 2020.

A herder in its homeland, the unique-looking dog with flowing wool, dense and waterproof dreadlocks draws plenty of attention and “what’s that?” questions from bystanders in the United States.

While Guinness is a show dog, he’s much more than that.

When asked at what point did she notice he was “special,” owner-breeder-handler Fran Levinson, of tiny Landenberg, Pennsylvania, replies, “At ages 3 and 4 when he wasn’t thrilled with Agility. He needed a job, so that’s why we tried therapy visits. And, boy, did he love them.”

At Sean’s Place in Newark, Delaware, Guinness is the center of attention during a therapy gathering. This was a Paws for People-sponsored visit. Photo courtesy Paws for People.

National Dog Show Therapy Dog Ambassador Team

Levinson has been around Pulis for more than 50 years. “My first Puli found me, but I did not breed my first litter until 2002. Pulik are cute, amusing, intelligent, energetic and loyal. Their soulful eyes are very special. But you have to laugh off all the mischievous tricks they might have played on you while you were out of the house.”

At the National Dog Show, Guinness will be right in his element – among bystanders. When not competing in the Herding Group, where he will be handled by either Michael or Michelle Scott, noted longtime professionals, he will be schmoozing with the audience. “He is delighted to have people pet and adore him. And, of course, he’s fine having his picture taken. If he likes someone, he sits on their foot, glances up at them, until they cave in and pet him.”

Guinness, the love bug, enjoys some bonding time with Mom (Fran Levinson). He needs his hugs and positive strokes telling him how handsome he is, says the breeder-owner-handler. Photo courtesy Janie Tandy.

As a member of the National Dog Show Therapy Dog Ambassador Team, the calm and obliging Puli will be available to the public, not only in the grooming area but at a special booth set up for all of the ambassadors and their handlers.

Getting ready for a show is a Herculean effort. For big shows, like The National Dog Show, preparation begins two weeks ahead with a bath and grooming, followed by a repeat procedure two to three days before the event. “His long coat takes six hours to bathe, condition, towel dry, and air dry. Overall, getting him show-ready requires about 20 hours,” she says.

“Guinness tries to jump on the grooming table before it’s lowered for him. He is not allowed to run loose in the yard before shows, hence is leash-walked so he does not get in trouble – like roll in leaves or grass cuttings – and dirty his clean coat. Another show preparation step involves gathering his cords in small hairbands, which is designed to keep him as clean as possible. They are removed at the show venue, where he is groomed again.

Guinness is entered in about two dozen shows annually, chiefly in the Northeast, with The National Dog Show being the largest.

Guinness is all about love on his Paws for People-sponsored visits at Sean’s Place. Owner-handler Fran Levinson watches. Photo courtesy Paws for People.

A People Dog and a Farm Dog

Since March 2020, Guinness’s visits to the senior retirement community have been curtailed. Guinness and Fran have, however, made several special appearances at schools (including recently to de-stress elementary students receiving COVID vaccinations), a county service building, and a children’s summer camp.

The pandemic has put the brakes on Guinness’s therapy school visits via Paws for People in Newark, Delaware, where he is a member of the organization’s Zoom Squad. Here he is put on camera for short question-and-answer sessions with students. “But he is at his best on the first-hand gatherings, where his comfort zone extends from pre-teens to seniors,” Levinson emphasizes.

In public, the jet-black mop dog, elicits plenty of questions for Levinson like” What breed is that?” “How do you do that with his hair?” “What’s that a mix of – a Poodle and a what?” “Where are his eyes?” “How does he see?”

Guinness joins Dad (Ron Sullivan) on The Green Gator. The Puli loves to help with chores around the 10.6-acre Landenberg, Pennsylvania, “farmette.” Photo by Fran Levinson.

There’s another side to this character, too. Yes, he’s a People Dog, but he’s a Farm Dog, too. Levinson and her husband, Ron Sullivan live on 10.6 acres (Certified Wildlife Habitat) with a modern home and contrasting early 1900s barn. They have six Pulik, all related and all house dogs), and a small flock of chickens.

Guinness has several AKC Agility titles as well as Farm Dog and Canine Good Citizen certifications and has been instinct tested on sheep.

Bottom line, concludes Levinson, “He brings smiles and instills confidence from everyone he interacts with. In these challenging times, that’s something you can’t buy.”

In that context, when asked to offer a few adjectives describing Guinness, she replied, “handsome, happy, loud, sensitive and loving.” That’s quite the package, isn’t it?

Related article: How to Watch the 2021 Thanksgiving Day Dog Show
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