Beloved cancer center therapy dog competing in Westminster Dog Show

UPPER WEST SIDE, Manhattan (WABC) -- A beloved therapy dog at a New York City cancer center is getting ready to compete in the Westminster Dog Show this weekend.

In the world of dog competitions, the flat-coated retriever is known as Argon's Black Diamond, but at his day job, he goes by his government name on his issued ID, Plum.

"When we go up on the floor, the first thing I hear people going is 'the dogs are here, the dogs are here,'" said owner MaryJane Koren.

Once a week, the 3-year-old brings comfort to cancer patients as one of the therapy dogs with the Caring Canines program at Memorial Sloan Kettering along with Koren, a retired doctor.

But this Sunday, Plum will compete in the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in the Best in Breed competition.

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"We met all of the qualifications of being a championship dog and they picked him from a lottery," Koren said.

Plum got his therapy dog certification in 2019, when he was just under 2 years old. But he's been competing in shows since he was 5 months old.

"My ringtime is 8:30, so I'll get there at 6:30 in the morning, and I'll take him to him to his handler who will fluff him up, brush him a bit and make sure he looks gorgeous," Koren said.

"He gets in the show ring and he wears that hat, he knows that's his job. And he comes to the hospital and he knows that's his job," said Jane Kopelman with MSK Caring Canines.

Plum is one of 45 dogs at Memorial Sloan Kettering who visit the hospital's more than 9,000 patients.

"Pre-COVID, we were in the midst of a recruiting campaign, but it was put on hold," Kopelman said.

That recruiting campaign is back on - and what shining star they have to try to bring more dogs on board.

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