By Sean Kotz Special
From: The Roanoke Times
Photo: Rebecca Barnett | The Roanoke Times Cornelia King of Radford has owned Skansen’s Holy Knight, a giant schnauzer, for about a year. He will be 2 years old in September, but Knight is already an American Kennel Club Grand Champion. King said she travels with Knight to shows almost every weekend.
RADFORD — Cornelia King’s first show dog, a giant schnauzer with the given name Skansen’s Holy Knight, is making a big name for himself.
Knight, as he’s known for short, is an American Kennel Club Grand Champion of his breed whose home is the New River Valley. He has garnered a pile of ribbons and accolades all before his second birthday.
He will compete in the Mountain Valley Cluster Dog Show this weekend at the Salem Civic Center and is preparing to compete in the two biggest shows in the country in coming months — the 2011 AKC/Eukanuba National Championships in Orlando, Fla., in December and the 2012 Westminster Kennel Club show in February in New York City, an event for which he’s currently qualified based on his ranking.
Knight is owned by King, who chose the name because she said she felt that “knight” went well with her last name. Holy, however, came at the suggestion of a friend who knew that the breeder’s naming convention required that each puppy in a litter have a name beginning with the same letter, in this case, H.
“He was the pick of the litter,” said breeder Sylvia Hammarstrom, the owner of Skansen Kennels in Sebastopol, Calif. Hammarstrom, who is considered one of the top breeders in the world, started her breeding business in 1950 in her native country, Sweden, and moved the operation to the United States in 1964.
“I had actually planned to keep him,” she said, noting that she had originally planned on calling him Hamlet. “But I sold him to Cornelia based on her good references.”
In part, this is a reflection of King’s love of the breed and reputation in the community. But although she has owned five giant schnauzers before, Knight is her first show dog.
She got him in July 2010 when he was just 9 months old; he arrived in Raleigh, N.C., from San Francisco by air. When they first met, King knew this dog had great potential.
“He was not shy, did not whimper and came to me right out of the crate,” she said.
“His temperament was just so calm, and I felt in a moment there was no fear in him.”
By the time he was 10 months old, he had already become an AKC Champion of Record and quickly proceeded to earn the distinction of Grand Champion before he was a year old, entitling him to compete at the highest levels.
According to the AKC’s official website, to attain Grand Champion status, a dog must accumulate 25 points with at least three wins in major competitions. Additionally, these majors must each have different judges and at least one other competition must be won under a fourth judge. On top of that, the dog must defeat at least one other Champion of Record at three different shows.
At present, Knight ranks No. 1 in the country among male giant schnauzers and No. 2 nationally overall in his breed. He has won two “best in show” titles this year and taken “best in breed” so frequently that King has stopped counting.
To put this in perspective, King said it usually takes a year or two of competition for a dog to become a Champion of Record and many never make it to Grand Champion.
Not surprisingly, reaching such a level requires a great deal of work and commitment as well as natural form and proper temperament.
During the week, King grooms Knight daily, manages his diet and exercise, and reinforces his routine in what amounts to a nearly full-time job. She also shows Knight nearly every weekend, traveling hundreds or even thousands of miles to AKC events.
However, King said, he is also a much pampered pooch.
“I think when people think of show dogs, they think of them as crated animals,” said King, “not being very loved, not getting very much attention or not getting the care they need. But nothing could be further from the truth. Their handlers love them, exercise them and cater to them. The dogs have a very nice life, actually.”
Knight is groomed with special brushes and powders and wears a dog robe to protect his fur and keep it straight. Additionally, he has an array of toys, a couch he freely claims when it suits him and even limited kitchen privileges. He loves ice cubes and when the mood strikes, he’ll nose the dispenser lever on the refrigerator and serve himself.
Knight’s situation is somewhat unusual for a show dog, however, in that he lives with his owner rather than his show handler. So while King works with the dog every day, when he is in the ring, Knight’s handler, Adriano Rocha, puts the champ through his paces during competition.
Rocha, a Brazilian native, has been working with show dogs for 20 years. He operates a business, Blueline Showdog out of Connelly Springs, N.C., and shows several dogs in addition to Knight. He knows Knight is something special.
“His movement and his body type is really just what a giant schnauzer is supposed to be,” Rocha said.
“He is a great show dog with a great personality. Sometimes a dog can be hardheaded, but so far we have not had any problems with that.”
Rocha said Knight clearly loves to be a part of the show and enjoys the whole process.
“You know, a giant schnauzer is a working dog, so they have to have a job,” said Rocha, “and we try to make this his job.
“He has a routine, and after he does his job and he comes out of the ring, Cornelia is there to reward him and it is like a big party for him.”
Holy Knight will be competing at the Mountain Valley Cluster Dog Show today through Aug. 7 at the Salem Civic Center.
Read more and see more photos: The Roanoke Times