Dog competition

Mike Polk Jr. Meets the Poodle Who Won the 2021 AKC Trick Dog Contest

Eli ran a Batman-themed 31-lap gauntlet in six minutes to win the grand prize.

TALLMADGE, Ohio — It’s not every day that you sit down with a national title holder, and I admit I was a little intimidated when I came face to face with a champion.

Meet Eli, the American Kennel Club Virtual Dog Trick Competition’s grand prize winner. The Miniature Poodle and its owner, Leslie Gelesh, live in Summit County.

Eli beat over 140 other hopeful dogs on his way to sweet victory. Gelesh knew Eli had the talent and the moxie to win, but he realized it would take a bit of glare to really put him over the top.

Naturally, she turned to Batman, for that extra little boost, by entering this Batman FURever video into the competition.

“I didn’t really like [how much] everybody’s in heaven with this Batman thing,” Leslie told me. “I didn’t know that at first.”

Maybe the theme proved popular with the judges, but you can’t deny this pup’s skills. Eli ran a Batman-themed 31-lap gauntlet in six minutes, and his dramatic flair gave the judges a solid knockout.

At his top-secret training facility in Tallmadge, I was treated to a glimpse of 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 all that goes with it, but those around him are doing everything they can to keep him grounded and humble. So far, so good.

Sure, Eli certainly took the unmistakable swagger of anyone being named the best of the best, but he hasn’t forgotten where he came from – and he’s still a pretty good boy.