(ABC NEWS) The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show that earlier this month made headlines by crowning an affenpinscher as Best in Show for the first time ever, is back in the headlines today after the unexpected death of another competitor.

Cruz, a 3-year-old Samoyed who competing in his first Westminster this year, died Feb. 16 while competing in another dog show in Colorado — just four days after the Westminster competition ended. Both the dog’s co-owner, Lynette Blue, and his handler, Robert Chaffin, suspect the dog was poisoned.

“We have gone through all the steps of where he was, what was done, and he was always on a leash,” Blue, 67, who has co-owned Cruz since birth and has raised and shown the fluffy, snow-white breed of dogs since the 1960s, told ABC News today. “He was never outside. He was always with the handler.”

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