Joi Hosker of Macclenny is the proud owner of a very special dog named George.
The 5-year-old plott, whose registered name is “Hosker’s Georgie Boy” won the Award of Excellence in the plott hound division of the American Kennel Club/Eukanuba National Championship held in Orlando December 17.
George will also compete in the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in February.
Both are among the top dog shows in the country and competitors are determined through an invitational system. Ms. Hosker’s dog was one of only 25 invited to be a part of the plott hound division in the AKC/Eukanuba competition and will be one of only five invited to compete in the upcoming WKC show.
“The Eukenuba show was just amazing,” Ms. Hosker told The Press December 19. “This year there were a record-breaking 14,000 entries.”
But George’s road to such a high level of competition has been a rocky one that could easily have ended in tragedy.
The dog came into Ms. Hosker’s life as a puppy when he was given to her by a friend.
When George was old enough, she started him in routine training to get him ready for hunting. In time, the dog showed such potential she began entering him in AKC dog shows. George did well and soon garnered enough points to earn an AKC championship ranking.
But an unfortunate turn of events almost derailed the plott from the champion path he seemed destined for.
In November of 2009, the illness of a family member was making demands on Ms. Hosker’s time and to keep George’s instinct and abilities in prime shape she made arrangements with a hunter and trainer in Lake City to work with the dog temporarily. Soon after, she received a call from the hunter informing her that George had escaped the kennel and ran away.
She began searching for her missing dog in Florida and Georgia, making countless phone calls to veterinarian offices, dog pounds and animal rescues. She contacted hunting groups and hung posters of George in Lake City. She also placed ads in magazines and online, and offered a reward.
“I did everything I could think of to locate George,” she said.
She knew it was possible that George had broken out of the hunter’s kennel and run away, but a nagging suspicion kept her from completely believing it.
“I was convinced the hunter had sold my dog then fabricated the story to cover it up,” she said.
Months dragged by and the search for the missing dog continued. In March, 2010 a chance conversation with another hunter Ms. Hosker knew inspired her to post an ad on a website called Baydog.com.
And then a phone call changed everything. Jeremy Rhodes, a hunter in North Carolina. called to tell her he thought he had her dog.
But the joy of locating George quickly turned bleak. The dog had been injured by a bear during a hunting trip and was in an animal hospital, not expected to survive.
Mr. Rhodes explained that he went to Baydog.com in search of a replacement dog for the injured one and saw the post. He confirmed had bought the dog from the hunter in Lake City.
The veterinarian treating George sent photo images to Ms. Hosker that same day.
“He was dehydrated, his kidney function had been affected and he had internal bleeding,” said Ms. Hosker. “You could hardly see him for all of the IV tubes hooked up to him.”
But a distinct patch of white on his chest was unmistakable. It was George, all right. The dog was later reunited with his owner and through her efforts he recovered.
Having George back in her life was reward enough, but the story had an even happier ending. Only six weeks after his injuries, he was back in training. Within a year he earned enough points to qualify for AKC grand championship status.
George is co-owned by Macclenny resident Josh Davis.