Karen Tracy of Franklin Township has had a roller coaster of emotions since last year's Westminister Dog Show in Madison Square Garden.

Maddox, a dog she co-owns, competed at a very young age and won an "Award of Merit." Tracy expressed her confidence that Maddox will be back in 2010.

Just weeks later, on the afternoon of March 6, a gas explosion at the boarding kennel Tracy owns killed 17 dogs, including some very valuable chows.

Fortunately, Maddox wasn't at the kennel when this occurred. As a result, through Tracy's undaunted determination and steadfast assistance by Tracy's friend and handler Jan Kolnik, Maddox is returning to the Garden on Monday for another shot at Westminster honors.

Tracy admits it has been a difficult year; that she hasn't recovered emotionally from the fire. She hasn't been able to rebuild the kennels but still owns seven chows.

"It took her months to go back to a dog show after it (the explosion) happened," Kolnik said of Tracy. "Maddox has been good therapy for her."

Judging for chow chows will occur Monday at 12:30 p.m. Kolnik, a resident of Towamensing Township, will be parading Maddox around the ring.

Maddox will turn 3 in April and is presently the top-ranked chow chow in the nation. He competed over 45 weekends in the past year and has had 78 consecutive breed wins. He had over 50 group placements and won three "Best In Show" awards.

"This is my first dog ever to win a best in show," Tracy said of Maddox.

Kolnik, who has handled many dogs and numerous breeds, said of Maddox, "He's a neat dog and he's so easy. Everybody loves him. He's different. He's truly the word 'special.'"

Maddox was born at Tracy's Pazzazz Kennels.

His official AKC names is "Liontamer's Dial 1-800-Hotstuff." The co-owner is Gerry and Richard Roberts of Maryland.

Maddox has bred a son, Genghis Khan, which has been purchased by Martha Stewart. Two dogs that were owned by Stewart were killed in the fire last March.

One of the dogs owned by Stewart which died in the fire was also named Genghis Khan. The dog was just four months old when he died.

Maddox is a great-grandson to Paw Paw, one of the dogs Stewart had purchased from Tracy. Paw Paw died a natural death some years ago.

Tracy has become a regular at Westminster, having owned dogs which were shown there for about the past 12 years.

The first dog was T-bone.

Next were Tang and Keno, which both got Awards of Merit.

Journey followed and won "Best of Opposite Sex."

Following Journey was Harley.

Kolnik has been training dogs for 13 years. She raises shar peis, and has had several of them compete at Westminster.

One shar pei, Louie, won an Award of Merit. Another, Envy, took Best of Opposite Sex. Last year, Lexi won an Award of Merit and although it was Kolnik's dog, she wasn't the handler. Instead, Kolnik handled Maddox.

With Kolnik holding the leash, Maddox has competed in shows throughout the nation in the past year, including California, Florida, Texas, Michigan, and Massachusetts. The most recent one was held in Atlanta last weekend.

Kolnik gave her secrets to handling a show dog.

"I think you have to become a team with the dog. You and the dog have to bond. They idolize you," she said.

Since Kolnik began handling Maddox, she said "he practically lives with me."

"Maddox has been good for Karen," said Kolnik.

Tracy said showing dogs is very expensive and the expenses to show Maddox are picked-up by the Maryland co-owners.

"It's not a cheap hobby," she said. "The more you're out there, the more it costs. The more you win the more it costs."

Tracy said although it was difficult for her to get back in the mood for showing dogs after the fire occurred, she is doing a lot better.

"I'm still working with dogs to show after Maddox," she said.

She added that although the fire snuffed a lot of her enthusiasm, she won't be stopped.

And, she stressed, "I wouldn't be without a dog."