Most of the hundreds of dogs competing for Best in Show at the National Dog Show this weekend outside of Philadelphia have enjoyed pampered lives. (As my colleague Carolyn Davis reports in the Inquirer.)

Not so Vivian Peyton.

The Staffordshire Terrier mix started life as a bait dog in a dog fighting ring.

Now Vivian Peyton is a certified therapy dog and will be honored for her good deeds at the show.

It took a while for Vivian Peyton to come around. Skinny and wounded, she was plucked from what might have been a one-way trip to the Animal Care and Control Team shelter in Philadelphia by New Leash on Life - a wonderful program that matches troubled dogs with prisoners. She graduated from the three-month program earlier this year and she now will be the toast of Valley Forge this weekend as one of the Purina Therapy Dog Ambassadors at the National Dog Show at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center today and tomorrow.

After passing her canine "good citizen test" in the prison, Vivian was adopted by Michele Pich, a veterinary grief counselor at PennVet, where she comforts grieving pet lovers and visits children at the Ronald McDonald House. (See the story about Michele and Vivian's work in the Daily Pennsylvanian here.)

"We are incredibly proud of Vivian Peyton for showing the resiliency of animals and what can be accomplished with love and care," said Marian V. Marchese, the founder of New Leash on Life. "She will always be New Leash on Life's ambassador dog."

New Leash on Life USA is a prison dog-training program that saves the lives of shelter dogs by training and socializing them to enhance theiradoptability while helping inmates learn to train and care for dogs. With New Leash on Life USA, dogs live in the cells with their inmate trainers 24/7, making graduates highly desirable for adoption and ensuring the long-term success for both humans and canines.

(Photo/Connie Kang/Daily Pennsylvanian)