Between shooting a Shakira video, posing for print ads, and volunteering at Baptist Hospital, how does a stud find the time for sniffing butts? "I'm a Starbucks fiend, so we spend a lot of time there," says Mark DeCaterino. No, Mark isn't the stud well, he is a cool guy and a rock guitarist but we're talking about his champion Rhodesian ridgeback, Mandela's Matada Jelani Zulu, who will be competing this weekend in the Greater Miami Dog Club Show.
DeCaterino, who serves as the publicity chairperson and will be appointed to the board of directors of the club next month, has been showing Zulu for two and a half years. "We started winning really early on and pissing people off," says DeCaterino, who shows Zulu about eight times a year. "Have you seen [the film] Best in Show? It's exactly correct, but really exaggerated.... People understand it's political." As we watch a video of Zulu in a recent conformation (the beauty pageant part of the show, where the dogs show off their gait and structure for the judges), DeCaterino explains what the judges are looking for, the role the handler plays in the competition, and why the dogs are felt up but the bitches are not: "Altered dogs cannot compete, but people have actually had their dogs altered and then given them prosthetic testicles, so the judges have to feel them."
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But Zulu isn't one of those snobby show dogs who sits on a velvet pillow all day; he is certified with Therapy Dogs International and spends time visiting children and adults including terminally ill and Alzheimer's patients at Baptist Hospital. And he has his own agent. "He was in the Shakira video with Alejandro Sanz, 'La Tortura,'" says proud papa DeCaterino. "He beat me onto MTV."