Meric is a German shepherd with a champion's heart and a gentle soul.
The 3-year-old Pasco pooch is an American Kennel Club national grand champion -- ranked ninth among shepherds in the nation.
But his competing almost was cut short earlier this year when he hurt himself playing in his backyard with owner Candee Foss of Pasco.
"Meric ran into our block wall and hurt his back," she said. "We took him to Washington State University where they did an MRI, which showed some swelling on his spine."
Meric began an intensive therapy routine that includes chiropractic laser treatments, hydrotherapy treadmill workouts at a Finley rehab center and a whole lot of love and time spent with his owner.
"We are now swimming him at Northwest Animal Therapy and Rehabilitation and are seeing phenomenal results," Foss said.
Meric's hydrotherapy under the supervision of Jeni Hayes involves a combination of treadmill, whirlpool and swimming pool workouts designed to help strengthen and condition the injured animal.
Meric is led into the hydrotherapy stall -- an open, rectangular tub that's about 5 feet high on all sides. After the door closes, the treadmill starts slowly and water begins pouring in.
He keeps pace with the treadmill and as the water rises to almost shoulder level, Meric has to push through the whirlpool.
"Walking in water really helps with range of motion and takes the pressure off his limbs while building back his strength," Foss said.
She also took Meric to a chiropractor in California specializing in German shepherds.
Meric was a birthday gift to Foss from her husband Fred.
"I've been involved in the German shepherd breed for more than 30 years," she said. "He's a beautiful dog that truly represents his breed, and we started showing him with great success. He has a great temperament, and I fell in love with him."
He's so good mannered he's earned the AKC's designation as a Canine Good Citizen Dog, and soon Meric will be trained as a hospital therapy dog.
Before that, Meric will strut his stuff once again at the American German Shepherd Nationals competition next month in Colorado.
And this weekend, you can see him compete in the AKC Tri-Cities Cluster Fall Dog Show at Columbia Park, sponsored by the Richland Kennel Club.
He competes Saturday and Sunday in best of breed, group placing and best of show categories. The dog show is from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Admission to watch the judging is free.
-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; firstname.lastname@example.org