ST. ALBANS – Every Thursday, a superstar walks the halls of Villa Rehab.

She’s a known attention hound with a love for an adoring crowd, whether the crowd be the thousands-strong audience of New York’s biggest stage or her weekly visits with her diehard fans in Villa Rehab’s quiet corner of St. Albans.

They also bake her treats, for this superstar loves treats.

At first glance, onlookers might not expect the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog strolling through the St. Albans-based rehabilitation center and nursing home every Thursday to be a champion, but Beatrice is a bonafide star.

She has two wins at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show under her bee-bedazzled collar, taking home Best in Breed awards for Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs in both 2017 and 2019.  “She loves it. She loves the crowd,” Beatrice’s owner Deanna Never said. “We call her ‘Queen Bee,’ and she is definitely that.”

Never is a breeder, running Swiss Run Swissy’s in Georgia where she professionally breeds Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs. Beatrice isn’t the first Westminster alum Never’s raised, but she is Swiss Run Swissy’s first Best in Breed.

The Westminster show is one of the largest conformation – or breed – shows in the world, with dogs from a specific breed compared against others of the same breed judged by the qualities believed to be desired from that breed.

Annually, the show, with plenty of pomp and circumstance, hosts 3,000 competing dogs and judges awards for both the individual breeds and for the show overall. Competitions are held between Piers 92 and 94 in New York City with the largest competitions – group competitions and Best in Show competitions – staged at Madison Square Garden.

But while Beatrice’s show schedule might require her to attend training and conditioning – she visits a pool at Green Mountain Meadows K9 Wellness Center twice a week – and a certain poise for her regular shows, she wears a different collar in the halls of Villa Rehab.

Here she’s down to earth, wandering between residents with a wagging tail and appetite for the homemade treats residents are more than likely to give her.

Never and Beatrice pose with Beatrice’s ribbon from the 2019 Westminster dog show. (Courtesy of Deanna Never, Swiss Run Swissy’s)

According to Ronda Parizo, the activities director at Villa Rehab, Beatrice’s weekly stops at Villa Rehab are more than just friendly visits for residents – they’re therapeutic. “When you feed a dog, you get that sense of caregiving, which is great to have,” Parizo said.

More scientifically, Parizo explained simply petting a dog like Beatrice releases endorphins and calms anxiety. “Their anxiety levels are down… and the vibe afterwards is just uplifting,” Parizo said. “It’s great for communication – they’re not just talking to Deanna, they’re talking to Beatrice.”

Never, who used to visit Villa Rehab with another of her Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs, has been bringing her breeding business’s champion to Villa Rehab for three years now. “She’s quiet and gentle,” Never said. “We realized she’d be perfect for it.”

This year will likely be Beatrice’s last year at Westminster, Never said. Still, Never said she expects that she and the five-year-old Beatrice, middle-aged for her breed, will continue visiting Villa Rehab in the future. “I love being able to give back,” Never said. “I see the smiles on their faces… just knowing we made a dozen people happy.”

It seems Villa Rehab will be happy to keep inviting the champion dog, too. Last Thursday, Beatrice wandered between residents with her tail held high. Residents appeared to share Beatrice’s excitement, petting her and feeding her treats made in Villa Rehab’s kitchen.

“I’ve heard people say ‘I met a superstar,’” Parizo said. “We’ll ask ‘Have you met somebody famous?’ They’ll answer ‘I’ve met Beatrice.’”

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