Liru: Multilingual World Traveler, Lebanon’s Top Dog

Above: Liru and Rosa in Brazile. Below: Liru with Rosa and Rodolfo.

For the last five years the City of Lebanon has hosted the Annual Top Dog Contest. The winner is chosen by random drawing, and the winners receive their prizes at the Lebanon Police Department’s K9 Awareness Day.

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Liru, a rather spectacular tiny 3.4-pound male toy poodle, won the first Lebanon Top Dog Contest in 2012 when he was 10 years old. His owners, Rosa Sumiko Uchimura Franconi, a jewelry designer, and Rodolfo Alberto Franconi, an Associate Professor in Lusophone and Hispanic Studies at Dartmouth College, have taught him to understand commands in four different languages: English, Japanese, Spanish, and Portuguese!

This special little dog came from his hometown of Sao Paulo City, Brazil, to his new home in West Lebanon when he was just three months old.

Unfortunately for the Franconis and for Liru, no one had told them that pets could fly in the cabin on some flights. Rosa described the flight hours as endless.

“Finally, at the Miami International Airport, his kennel came out on top of a bunch of luggage. We were so worried that he had not survived the trip. When we saw him moving inside the kennel, we could not hold our tears,” she said. “By that moment, he showed how courageous he was.”

Since his first unpleasant trip, Rosa and Rodolfo now take him everywhere, but in his Sherpa plane bag, of course. The well-traveled pup has been to Brazil every year, as well as Canada, Uruguay, Argentina, Spain, and all over the United States. He has even learned to relieve himself on a training pad that they set up in the lavatory at intervals, so he keeps his carry case clean. He is quite the savvy traveler.

Liru won a small bounty when he was named Top Dog in 2012, including a gift certificate to Affectionate Pet Salon, a bag of products from Stoney Brook Veterinarian, a year’s supply of dog food from West Lebanon Feed & Supply, and serious bragging rights.

The winner also has an important job to carry out. When the winner receives their Top Dog Tag and certificate from the Mayor and City Clerk, they have their photo displayed for a year as part of an awareness campaign aimed at motivating dog owners to register their pets with the Clerk’s Office.

Rosa, Rodolfo, and little Liru were quite proud of that honor.

Liru receives special treatment, too. When Liru was younger, he was diagnosed with a high allergy to most meat, and later had a severe reaction to a steroid shot given for itchy skin. Dr. Kelly at Stonecliff Animal Clinic then suggested acupuncture treatment.

Liru began seeing Dr. Ann Carroll for acupuncture and Chinese herb treatment. Once he began monthly acupuncture treatment and a change in diet, his itchy skin issues disappeared. Liru eats wild-caught salmon, boiled egg yolk, organic legumes, and dehydrated fruits, vegetables, and fish. For treats, he eats agar and nori. Liru expects his meals separated into 4 different dishes and his mouth wiped at the end of each meal!

As Liru has aged since winning the contest—he is now 13—he has not become any less playful, but his activities are more limited. When he was 11, cataracts in both eyes began to affect his vision, so Rosa and Rodolfo adapted, teaching Liru new commands such as “walk straight,” “stop,” “turn left,” “turn right,” “jump down,” and “jump up.”

The new commands allowed Liru the freedom to continue living his life without fear and frustration. He continues to take walks avoiding obstacles, walls, and wrong directions, happily achieving his tasks. As Liru would say, “It’s never too late to be a winner!”


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