Top German shepherd Fanucci pulled from Westminster Dog Show

NEW YORK -- One of the favorites to win the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show didn't show up in the ring when the German shepherd breeds competition started at 8:30 a.m. ET Monday.

Fanucci, a 5-year-old German shepherd out Farmingville, New York, had a hematoma on his left ear that caused it to flop. Co-owner Stephanie Schrock told ESPN that the ownership team elected not to show him to be fair to the dog.

"We want to show him when he is best," Schrock said.

Fanucci, won four best in shows in 2017 and was the most heralded German shepherd in the show circuit last year. Fanucci rose to the top of the breed after another German shepherd, Rumor, retired after winning last year's Westminster Dog Show.

That Fanucci even made it to Manhattan for another year is a miracle. In 2014, he fell out of a van going about 60 mph on a New Jersey highway. The dog shattered his right rear leg in at least four places and needed a rod, pins, wires and screws in hopes that the bone would heal.

It did, and Fanucci recovered with the help of acupuncture, chiropractic care, massages, physical therapy and road work. Against all odds, Fanucci returned to the dog show circuit exactly a year after the accident and had a chance to win best in show his first show back.

"It's disappointing," Fanucci's handler, Sue Condreras, said. "We worked so hard to get here, and he had a real chance."