When Pepper, a 6-month-old Aussie shepherd mix, showed up at the Harrington house in Craig, the family's first instinct was to find out whom the dog belonged to. They did, and they returned the dog to its nearby home several times.
There was just one problem: Pepper kept coming back.
After a while, Pepper's charms wore on the family. They eventually got permission from her rightful owners to adopt the multi-colored dog, making the pup one of their own.
Today, she has a place at 11-year-old Britni Harrington's side, and together, the pair has earned a state championship ribbon.
From a field of about 30 competitors, Britni was picked as grand champion at the Colorado State Fair for junior novice dog showmanship. She also won a red ribbon for dog obedience.
"It was surprising," Britni said. But, she added, "We thought (Pepper would) be pretty good."
Britni, who's in her first year competing, earned second-place finishes at the Moffat County Fair in both dog showmanship and obedience. Her family's plan was for her to gain experience at the state fair.
A top-10 finish wasn't out of the question. A state championship exceeded their expectations.
"We actually went down this time saying, 'This is for experience,'" Britni's mother, Buffi Harrington, said. "We were very, very surprised. It was awesome."
Pepper, who is now more than a year old, got a treat for her solid performance at the state fair. She earned herself a comfy bed in the hotel room and a pig's ear, which she quickly devoured.
"She got all spoiled when we won," Britni said.
Britni, a student at Craig Intermediate School, and Pepper spend hours a week training together. Their hard work paid off with a strong showing at the county fair and then the state fair.
The Harringtons were told that Britni is the first state grand champion in the dog show competition from Craig, Buffi said.