GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The National Dog Show has become as much a Thanksgiving staple as the traditional turkey or pumpkin pie.
The 21st annual show was expected to be as popular as ever for people who love to see dogs on their television screens. And this year, there was an additional reason for Michiganders to tune in.
Of the nearly 2,000 dogs spanning 200 breeds that entered the competition last weekend, 16 hail from Michigan, including at least two participants that were on TV.
Jennifer Martin and her 2-year-old Chesapeake Bay retriever Nike came out victorious over more than 40 other dogs of the same breed at the Kennel Club of Philadelphia.
“It was pretty much dreams come true,” Martin told News 8. “You’re in awe of going into the group ring with all the cameras and all the lights and seeing the celebrities out there for that. It was a lot of fun.”
Nike, whose full name is GCHB CH Pond Hollow Sweet Victory JH NA NAJ CGC, competed in the finals for the sporting group, which includes several breeds. The results are being kept secret for Thursday’s broadcast.
This was the second year in a row that Martin brought Nike to the National Dog Show. Nike has previous wins in other national shows and is also being trained for agility competitions. Martin said Nike has a lot of energy. She went goose hunting the day before going on the 10-hour drive from Davison, Michigan, near Flint, to Philadelphia.
“We stay pretty busy with Nike,” Martin said.
It’s not just Nike. The Martins have another Chesapeake Bay retriever, 6-year-old Leonidas, who is currently ranked No. 1 in agility for his breed in the U.S. Martin said he has been on multiple television shows this year alone.
“He’s probably more famous than Nike,” Martin said.
Martin has had a lot of success in dog shows already, despite being relatively new to the sport. She first got the idea six years ago from a coworker, who encouraged her to get a show dog. It started with Leonidas and after two years of searching through multiple breeders, Martin said they finally got the “right show dog” in Nike.
“She’s a pretty phenomenal dog,” she said. “She’s kind of like a once-in-a-lifetime dog that I’m lucky enough to own.”
Another competing Michigan pooch is from Shelby Township, near Detroit. Keli Mazzenga and her 3-year-old giant schnauzer Bode also made a splash in Philadelphia.
Bode, full name Jupiter De Cethuz, took home the top placement in his breed, beating out two other giant schnauzers. His owner describes him as a “silly,” “protective” and “family-oriented” dog who loves nothing more than to eat an entire chicken, bones and all.
This year was the first time the duo participated in the National Dog Show and it almost didn’t happen.
“I only went because my mom asked me if I wanted to go,” Mazzenga said. “I competed (in shows) as a child because I was raised in them from my mom.”
Dog shows run in the Mazzenga family, with nearly 40 years of experience between them. Mazzenga’s mother was the one who brought Bode to the U.S. from Argentina nearly four years ago and the two have been inseparable ever since.
“I usually say, ‘If the dog can’t go, I don’t go,'” Mazzenga said.
It’s that bond that has kept Mazzenga in dog shows all these years. She remembers quitting for a little while but quickly coming back because it meant so much to her.
“It’s a hard sport but if you have the dedication and the drive and you have thick skin, it’s a great sport to do with your dog,” she said.
Mazzenga said that Bode was entertaining the crowd at the show all weekend long and he may even return for an encore next year — though his puppies may also be ready to take over for dad, she said.
The National Dog Show aired at NBC on Thanksgiving.