RANCHO SANTA FE — Seconds before stepping into the spotlight at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, handler Lori Wilson, looked down and said:
“Chanel, we’re going into the Best of Show at Westminster.”
Chanel did not hesitate at all, it was like she was saying, “Let’s go,” Wilson said. “It was thrilling.”
Although the beautiful whippet lost Best of Show honors to Sadie, a Scottish Terrier from Michigan, the local girl did pretty well for herself anyway. She earned Best of Breed and Best in Group honors at the most prestigious dog show in the U.S.
Her owners Lori and Carey Lawrence of Rancho Santa Fe could not be more proud.
The Westminster show, held at Madison Square Gardens in New York on Feb. 15 and Feb. 16, is a premier event to which only champions are invited and attendance is limited to 2,500 dogs.
“It is sort of our Olympics,” Lori Lawrence said.
She said it was obvious that Chanel had the “it” factor when she was just a puppy, but they never dreamed she would be showing and winning on this level.
Chanel is in the top 10 dogs in the nation and at the end of January she was No. 3 in the country, yet she is still quite young.
Chanel just turned 2, but she has been on the show circuit since the age of 6 months.
In her very first week out at a large prestigious show in Lompoc, Chanel did well.
She won five point majors, the most a dog can win at a time. The couple was amazed with this feat because Chanel was in the puppy class competing against dogs 1 and 2 years old. Even more amazing for the couple was that she won 10 points in two days.
“We knew we had something special on our hands,” she said.
It took only two weekends in three shows to complete her champion requirements, an accomplishment that sometimes takes other dogs up to three years, she said.
“She was on the map very, very quickly,” Lawrence said. Chanel won the hound group against 600 other dogs at the Palm Springs Kennel Club Show at 13 months old.
“She went back to Palm Springs this last month and won the whole show against 3,000 dogs,” she said. “She was the first whippet to do that.”
Whippets might be recognized from the television show “Frazier,” when a lonely Niles picked a whippet as a pet, but whippets have a history from the 1800s when they were bred in England and coursed to chase rabbits.
“It was a weekend sport or pastime,” she said.
Whippets are fleet of foot and have been clocked at running 35 miles per hour.
Although the Lawrence family breeds whippets and has a business called Starline Whippits, they have only five dogs as pets.
“We don’t have a so-called kennel, which makes the win sweeter because we don’t breed very much,” she said.
And Chanel loves to be in shows.
“She knows what is expected of her, she absolutely knows,” she said.
Wilson said you can see it in her eyes.
“She’ll wag her tail. She will jump up and down and gets really springy. She barked at me in the Best of Show ring and jumped and barked,” said Wilson, who has handled Chanel for about a year and a half.
“She is liked by many people and has opened doors that may have not been friendly before. She is a little ambassador. She has brought new fans and new friends and made whippets noticed more,” Wilson said.
Chanel got her name from the Lawrence’s daughter Nicole, a college student who wanted to name the litter after designers.
“We have Fendi, Dolche and Versace,” Lawrence said with a laugh.
She admits that Chanel is a little spoiled.
When she is not showing off at shows, she sleeps in Nicole’s bed, plays with her littermates and runs around with the family horses on their 4-acre property.
To learn more about whippets or Chanel, visit www.starlinewhippets.com.