Shepparton has voted and the numbers speak for themselves – your 2020 Top Dog is Taizer.
The American Staffordshire terrier is described as an “absolute sook” by his owner Lauren Freeling.
The win has surprised Ms Freeling, who has experienced multiple instances of people mistrusting her dog because of his looks.
“I wasn’t going to enter him into the competition, but my mum encouraged me and I thought it was a good opportunity to support the breed,” Ms Freeling said.
“They get a bad wrap for being big nasty dogs, but if you get them from a reputable breeder they are all big sooks ... they are very intelligent, loyal, courageous and above all else a devoted companion and ideal family dog.”
During the voting process Ms Freeling also came across comments belittling her dog because of his breed.
“They would have had to know I could see what they were writing. I put a sad face on her comment and left it at that.
“I won’t walk him around the lake anymore because whenever he sees a shih tzu he thinks it is Oscar (a dog he used to live with who was put down) and he’ll lay down and whine and try to get to them. The amount of people who’ve picked their dogs up and given him dirty looks upsets me.”
The American Staffordshire terrier breed is an offshoot of the popular British Staffordshire terrier which is a far smaller, rounder, and more energetic breed.
Taizer entered the Freeling household as a 13-week-old puppy seven years ago.
He enjoyed his early life as the odd dog out in a house full of show shih tzus before moving out with his owner.
Taizer is a bona-fide show dog himself, having represented his breed across the country and achieved the title of Australian Grand Champion.
These days Taizer spends his time dutifully guarding his owner’s house in what she calls “a rough part of town” and watching over several young children.
Protection of the house is a role Taizer takes seriously – to the point he has almost been killed doing so.
Two years ago Ms Freeling came home to find blood all over the backyard and a woozy but seemingly uninjured Taizer.
After rushing Taizer to the vet, he proceeded to vomit up a further 600 ml of blood.
“It turned out his stomach lining had ulcerated and ripped apart … it was touch and go,” Ms Freeling said.
Police advised the family it was most likely that Taizer was poisoned by someone trying to break into the house who was scared to get close to the dog.
“That made him even more of a sook,” Ms Freeling said of the close call.
Massive sook or not, Taizer has been crowned Shepparton’s Top Dog of 2020 fair and square with 1391 votes.
Ex-racing greyhound Rupert gave Taizer a run for his money after amassing a close 1261 votes, but ultimately Rupert settled very happily into second place — almost as happily as he settled into life as a beloved pet.
Third was a photogenic and fluffy Samoyed, Gypsy, who received 598 well deserved votes.