Grand Champion Chantelle Barefoot in the Park, a.k.a. Tracker from Harleysville, is a golden retriever with a big head, natural blond hair, and a loving, brown-eyed gaze that turns strangers into soul mates.
Tracker, one of the country's top 20 goldens, is the Bon Jovi of bowwows, the Bradley Cooper of canines - and a contender for best of breed at the Kennel Club of Philadelphia's National Dog Show this weekend.
But he was just one of the golden gang as he raced and played in the grassy backyard of owners Nancy Lewine and Jenny Cochran recently with gal pal Skye, 5, their daughter Sage, 3, and puppies ZipADee and Tang. Seeming to float above the lawn with an effortless, lighter-than-air gait, he was pure joy in motion.
"He is Tracker and he knows it," said Lewine, 60, referring to both his attitude and his two "I'm Tracker and I Know It" videos, which have gotten more than 16,300 hits on his GoldenSoul Dogs Facebook page and created a Tracker fan club at shows.
The videos include scenes of Tracker kissing a baby and a toddler on the lips, swimming in a pool, prancing around the show ring, enjoying a belly rub from a fan, making a snow angel, balancing a carrot on his nose before flipping it into his mouth, and snuggling his newborn puppies - all to the disco beat of LMFAO's "Sexy and I Know It," with "Sexy" overdubbed to "Tracker" by Lewine's son, Chad, an aspiring singer.
Cochran, 55, who trains Tracker and his kennel mates, and Lewine, who handles the details of showing the goldens almost every weekend on the national circuit, found their dream puppy five years ago.
"Tracker's movement is just beautiful," Lewine said. "You look at an Olympic athlete and you see that same fluidity."
Cochran had grown up in Milton, a small borough in Northumberland County, Pa., where her dad trained his border collie, Corky, to retrieve pheasants. Her job was to brush the burrs out of Corky's long coat after a day in the field. She taught Corky to pull her around on a skateboard, discovering even as a little girl that she had a profound love of dogs and the even more profound patience to train them.
Her first show dog was her Newfoundland, Baloo, who was so huge that one day when she was walking him in a Harleysville park, a woman approached and asked Cochran, "Why are you walking your cow?"
Decades ago, as a newbie trainer at her debut dog show, Cochran led Baloo into the obedience ring, where he immediately spotted her dad and pulled her across the ring to greet him. "The experienced trainers were looking at me like, 'Who is this person?' "
Cochran, who has taught fourth grade in the Perkiomen Valley School District for 29 years, had become an experienced trainer by the time she and partner Lewine, a management consultant, found themselves visiting a championship show dog breeder, gazing into the eyes of a golden puppy 6 weeks old and already exhibiting his "I'm Tracker and I Know It" attitude.
"There's a saying in the dog show world," Lewine said. " 'I want the bad dog,' the one who gets in trouble and attracts your attention.
"You see them in the show ring and they just shine, and you wonder if that's something they train in the dog. But there's an element that isn't training. They have that little extra spark. . . . They want you to see them."
Even as a puppy, Cochran said, "Tracker was the bad boy. . . . He was the one digging the hole. He was the one who got every other puppy to follow him. He was go-go-go."
They were looking for a golden who could go for the gold, and Tracker was clearly that. So they took that bad boy home.
"Tracker has challenged all my training skills," Cochran said. "I started by teaching him to shake. He got it right away. He was like, 'Shake left paw, shake right paw, OK, got it. What's next? High five, got it. What's next? Give me 10, OK, got it. What's next?' "
What's next is the National Dog Show on Saturday and Sunday at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, Montgomery County, where more than 1,800 dogs will be representing 186 breeds. Tracker will be up against 40 golden opponents.
He's been collecting titles since 2011, when he won his first blue ribbon as a puppy at the Golden Retriever Club of America's national show in Atlanta. At age 2, he earned his American Kennel Club championship. After winning his Bronze, Silver, and Gold Grand Championships, Tracker spent 2015 going to shows nearly every weekend, picking up 23 best of breed ribbons to rank 14th in the Golden Retriever Club of America's Top 20. He came close to winning best of breed at the National Dog Show in Oaks last year.
Even if they haven't seen his Facebook videos, visitors to the 2016 show will easily find Tracker. "He loves petting so much that . . . he will sometimes lie in the aisle so people can pet him," Lewine said. And any child who kisses him, she said, will get a big, wet smooch in return.