Nurse arranged meeting with Westminster Dog Show champion after seeing how watching dog perked up woman's spirits.
Everyone wants to touch him, to have their picture taken with him, to share his moment in the national spotlight.
"He’s a rock star," cooed the paparazzi of Illinois’ new favorite son.
All the newsbabes from here to St. Louis invited him to sit in their laps. He’s a dog. He couldn’t say no. He moaned. But he was nothing but patient with the press. He only had eyes for 91-year-old Rosemary "Rosie" Kramm of Peoria.
"I can die now," Rosie said happily. "I can leave this planet. Oh you cute baby."
Such is the charisma of Uno. After a century of competitions, he’s the first beagle ever to win Best In Show at Westminster Kennel Club, the pinnacle of all dog shows. A crowd favorite from beginning to end, he charmed New York City into a five-minute ovation when he took it all on Feb. 12.
"The minute I saw that dog — they go running like hell — I thought, ‘There’s the dog.’ I thought I’d never see the champion, especially this one," said Kramm. "I just hope I don’t have another stroke."
Actually, Kramm’s mini-stroke in late January is exactly what brought Uno to Peoria, in a roundabout fashion. Nurse Leah Santini noticed the one thing that perked Kramm up was watching Uno at the dog show. Since the Chillicothe woman has had a few of her own beagles at Westminster, she posted a little note to other breeders.
Chalk one up for dog people everywhere.
Co-breeders Kathy Weichert and Leah Bertagnolli drove all the way from St. Louis to Peoria so Kramm could meet Uno Wednesday. Then they had to drive all the way back for him to make an 8 a.m. news show today.
"We call ourselves Team Uno," Weichert said, adding that Uno has also been certified as a therapy dog. They consider this the most important stop the beguiling beagle could make. "You get a number of requests. Certain ones touch your heart."
A number of requests understates the case. Like Miss America, the Westminster winner has a full schedule for at least the following year — and Uno has been more of a sensation than most. Among other things, he’s already got his own float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.
"He really is a people’s dog," Weichert said. "He loves people and people enjoy him."
With all the press and appearances, he’s only in Illinois for five days. That winds up in Chicago next Tuesday, when Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn declares March 4 to be Uno Day in Illinois. But Uno visited the ailing Kramm first. And if anyone could almost steal the show from the dog, it’s the irrepressible one-time lead singer for Red Deames and His Band.
"Oh no wonder they love you," she murmured sotto voce to Uno as they posed for a room full of reporters. "No wonder you won."
His velvet cheek pressed to hers, Uno sighed. Technically speaking, he’s not a stud yet. But he’s got all the moves down pat.
Terry Bibo can be reached at (309) 686-3189 or at email@example.com.