Lake Norman & Mooresville

August 17, 2008

Could this gentle Lab be the next new cover dog?

Jordan is calm and obedient visiting patients as a volunteer therapy dog at Presbyterian Hospital Huntersville.

Jordan is calm and obedient visiting patients as a volunteer therapy dog at Presbyterian Hospital Huntersville.

Back home with the Ybarra family, he's like any other spoiled kid.

“Here, he's just off the wall,” David Ybarra told me last week in the family's home in the Wynfield community off Gilead Road. “You're not going to stop a Lab from running, jumping, twirling. All four feet come off the ground when I ask, ‘What do you want, do you want your food?'”

Jordan's overly animated response to meals made the 80-pound shiny black Lab a perfect candidate for ALPO dog food's national “Real Meat Moments” video contest. The winner gets its image on ALPO labels nationwide.

David Ybarra filmed and edited Jordan's culinary cravings over four hours and entered it in the contest. He said he did it on a lark, so friends could see Jordan on the Internet. Last week, ALPO announced Jordan as one of 19 national semifinalists.

“Jordan is definitely a Meat Maniac and had no trouble showing us that his meat meal is the highlight of his day,” Sheridan Budin, ALPO assistant brand manager, said in an e-mail announcing Jordan's selection.

You can vote on the Internet for your favorite videos among the semifinalists. Votes will help narrow the field to five finalists. I gave Jordan's video a vote of five out of five “bones” on the site.

Comedian Joy Behar, a dog lover and co-host of the national talk show “The View” is the celebrity judge and will select the winning pooch on Sept. 15.

Internet voting continues through next Sunday and will represent 10 percent of the total judging criteria. Videos will be judged on originality, appropriateness to the contest theme and the dog's star potential.

David Ybarra said he tried to capture Jordan's real movements and excitement over the mention of food. Ybarra's wife, Beth, can't get the dog food out of the can each morning and Jordan is already trying to scarf it down. As I interviewed David Ybarra, Jordan's perfect white teeth clasped a closed can of ALPO Chop House I'd just set on the floor.

Ybarra said he was careful not to include theatrics in the video, like the guy in another video whose dog eats ALPO off the guy's face. Ybarra's video shows Jordan bounding down steps to the kitchen, then sitting obediently until Beth opens the can and puts the food in a bowl.

Ybarra, 48, is a graphic designer at Rack Room Shoes corporate headquarters in Charlotte. He's had Labs as pets for 20 years. He and Beth also have a son, Dallas, 16, who won three gold medals in equestrian competitions at the Special Olympics North Carolina Summer Games in Raleigh in July. Dallas had a brain tumor at age 5 that put him in a wheelchair for three years.

David Ybarra adopted Jordan, now nearly 3, from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal Care and Control shelter. Jordan was underweight, and Ybarra later discovered he had worms that required treatment. Jordan also has hip dysplasia; Lab Rescue of North Carolina has said it will pay for any future surgeries, Ybarra said.

Jordan is the first Lab that Ybarra had trained and certified as a therapy dog.

Ybarra said that whoever gave Jordan up for adoption wrote as the reason on an animal control form: “Didn't have the time for him.”

Maybe, Ybarra said, the former owner will see Jordan's face on an ALPO label someday.

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