Westminster Dog's Death Surrounded by Mystery
updated 03/02/2013 AT 04:00 PM EST
•originally published 03/01/2013 AT 03:25 PM EST
Only days after he strutted his stuff at Madison Square Garden, the white-haired furball passed away from symptoms that bear resemblance to ingesting rat or mouse poison, says the veterinarian who treated him. Cruz began coughing up blood on Feb. 16, and just a few hours after being hooked up to an intravenous drip and receiving oxygen, he was dead.
Though there is no evidence to support that he was poisoned intentionally, his handler, Robert Chaffin, and one of his owners, Lynette Blue, are not ready to rule out the possibility.
"It would have been easy for someone to throw something in his cage," Chaffin said, noting that dog shows have a history of drawing the ire of animal activists.
During his time in New York, Chaffin was at Cruz's side every step of the way, including thoroughly checking their hotel accommodations to ensure that the Samoyed did not accidentally ingest something harmful. While it is most likely that Cruz stumbled upon the poisonous substance elsewhere, his owner, Blue, laments, "It's starting to feel like something we may never know … It's devastating."