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Puppy Power

Host Terry Fator and guest Holly Madison will oversee a dog show at the Orleans Arena on Sunday. Dog walkers will trot out 55 pretty, posing pooches. The audience will “ooh” and “aww.”

All of the dogs will come from “the pound.” “The shelter.” It’s a doggie auction.

And if you go, you will want to bid on every tail-wagging cutie.

“These dogs come from loving homes. They’re ready for loving homes. They’re personal. They’re sweet,” says Jason Smith, Lied’s director of operations.

I’m not exaggerating in the least when I say Lied Animal Foundation’s “Best in Show” is one of the most emotionally fulfilling events I’ve ever seen.

Among the show’s many heroes is hairdresser Jorge H. Rodriguez, who is fostering two “Best in Show” dogs — a 4-year-old pug and a 10-month-old beagle.

He’s housing and prepping them to be show dogs for a day. They’re already good dogs to take home, he says.

“I believe the pug originated in Utah and had a chip, but there’s no trace of the owners,” Rodriguez says. “This is a purebred pug!”

Rodriguez says the pug and beagle are fitting in nicely with his three other dogs. They’re walking on leashes. They’re potty trained.

It’s a tough emotional situation that foster parents such as Rodriguez get into. They take care of shelter dogs for weeks or a month, getting them ready to pose at “Best in Show.”

And then, when someone buys the dogs, foster parents hand them over.

Rodriguez is trying not to get too attached. But how can he not?

“I look at the big picture. They’re going to go to a better home than the pound,” he says. “I’m not doing this for brownie points or for socialites.”

Rodriguez is a real man. He doesn’t volunteer at Lied just to rub dog ears. He volunteers to clean poop from cages and to take in fresh blankets.

Lied asks him and other volunteers to donate at least four hours a month. That’s easy, he says.

The hard part is not going in more often, because if you do, you end up walking in one day and saying, “Hey, where’s the dog that was in that cage yesterday?”

That’s a killer.

Money raised at “Best in Show” will help pay for Lied’s spay and neuter efforts.

“Best in Show” chairman Dale Wynn hopes that, by summer’s end, Lied will open a new clinic on shelter grounds, offering spay and neuter services at a “much, much discounted rate” compared to private vets.

Spaying and neutering is where real change can happen in animal control.

Lied takes in about 50,000 dogs and cats a year. That’s more than all the boroughs of New York combined. It’s more than all of Los Angeles. It’s a tragic embarrassment.

North Las Vegas, the city of Las Vegas and Clark County have just made it the law to spay and neuter pets. Henderson hasn’t followed suit yet. But laws will help.

Lied returns about 20 percent of animals to pet owners, thanks to microchips and Lied’s lost-and-found system, Smith says.

Of those returned animals, 87 percent come in without being fixed. Now Lied can legally fix those dogs and cats without pet owners’ consent and return them without adding a big fee, Smith says.

“There’s a whole lot of animals in this valley, and it’ll take time. But we’ll see the rewards” from spay/neuter laws, Smith says.

Fixing any one outdoor animal can change plenty.

One female dog can reproduce twice a year. If she’s not fixed, and left outside to get pregnant, she and her offspring combined can realistically be responsible for the births of hundreds of (stray, hungry, diseased) dogs over the course of several years.

So you can start to make a difference simply by going to “Best in Show.”

But just think of it as the entertainment bargain of the year: $12 for adults; $5 for kids 2 to 12; $5 for seniors.

If you’ve got serious money, sponsoring a VIP table on the arena floor ranges from $1,000 to $10,000, and you get to check out the silent auction and all that fancy stuff.

“We’re still very Vegas,” Rodriguez says.

If you stay long enough, you’ll see families leaving with new pets.

“It’s the most heartfelt part of the show,” Wynn says. “The real story begins when those dogs get to go home.”

That’s when 55 dogs get to live another day.

Doug Elfman’s column appears Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. E-mail him at delfman@ reviewjournal.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.

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