TALLMADGE, Ohio — It's not every day that one gets to sit down with a national titleholder, and I admit, I was a bit intimidated when I found myself face-to-face with a champion.
Meet Eli, the American Kennel Club Virtual Dog Trick Competition's grand prize winner. The miniature poodle and his owner, Leslie Gelesh, live in Summit County.
Eli bested more than 140 other hopeful dogs on his way to sweet victory. Gelesh knew that Eli had the talent and the moxie to win, but realized it would take a little bit of razzle dazzle to really put him over the top.
Naturally, she turned to Batman, for that bit of extra oomph, entering this Batman FURever video in the competition.
"I did not really appreciate [how much] everybody's just over the moon with this Batman thing," Leslie told me. "I didn't know that up front."
Perhaps the theme proved popular among the judges, but you can't deny this pup's skills. Eli ran a gauntlet of 31 Batman-themed tricks in six minutes, and his dramatic flair handed the judges a solid knockout.
At his top-secret training facility in Tallmadge, I was treated to a firsthand look at the magic and the opportunity for a brief one-on-one interview with the champion himself. Now, Eli is still getting used to the spotlight and everything that comes with it, but the members of his entourage are doing everything they can to keep him grounded and humble. So far, so good.
Sure, Eli has certainly taken on the unmistakable swagger of anyone who has been named the best of the best, but he hasn't forgotten where he came from — and he remains a very good boy.