Where are they now: Greyhound racks up awards after Westminster win

GrandCru Giaconda with professional handler Rindi Gaudet photographed in June at Palmetto Bluff. Gia won Best of Breed at the 2015 Westminster dog show.
GrandCru Giaconda with professional handler Rindi Gaudet photographed in June at Palmetto Bluff. Gia won Best of Breed at the 2015 Westminster dog show. Submitted photo


This week, The Island Packet is updating readers on the most interesting people -- and animals -- introduced during the past year.

In our third installment, we check in with GrandCru Giaconda, an award-winning greyhound who made headlines by winning Best of Breed at Westminster in February.

When we introduced:Feb. 17, 2015

Where we left them: GrandCru Giaconda, a greyhound owned by Bluffton resident Melanie Steele, won best of breed in the 2015 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in February.

What's changed: Gia has continued to travel the dog show circuit, racking up awards.

Bluffton greyhound GrandCru Giaconda kicked off 2015 by winning best of breed at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

But taking honors at the Super Bowl of canine competitions hasn't led her to kick up her paws and gobble dog biscuits all day.

FILE: Gayle Bontecou judges the Greyhound group during the 2015 Westminster Kennel Club on Feb. 16, 2015 which includes Grandcru Giaconda, who is professionally handled by Rindi Gaudet and owned by Bluffton resident Melanie Steele. Gia won the bes

Gia has been traveling all over the country since then, winning 13 "best in show" awards this year. She's competing in another national show in Orlando, Fla., this week. And she will return to Madison Square Garden for the Westminster show Feb. 15 and 16 for another shot at best of breed and hopefully a win in the hound group.

Owner Melanie Steele, who moved to Palmetto Bluff three years ago from the Charlotte area, says Gia craves the spotlight and keeps in top condition, including visits to a chiropractor and sometimes an acupuncturist.

"She loves it," Steele says of Gia's performing and attention. "She loves the people. She nudges everybody's pockets to see if they have treats. She's quite the little show girl."

Steele likens Gia to a well-conditioned athlete, who keeps in top physical form by running twice a day. When on the road, handler Rindi Gaudet of Summerville, follows Gia on a bike while holding the leash.

Each month Gia visits a chiropractor to work out the kinks to keep her light on her paws in the show ring. Steele says certain stubborn knots and tender spots require acupuncture.

It all helps her move with greater ease and graceful gait, capturing the judges' and audiences' attention.

"She knows exactly what's going on," Steele says of Gia's performance acumen. "People applaud for her. She must stand still. She must move a certain way. She's there to do a job."

The only time Gia breaks from her training is after she wins a "best in show" award. Then it's her favorite treat: a double quarter pounder with cheese.

At almost 4 years old, Gia is in her prime. Steele says she typically shows a dog for only two years, possibly three. Their prime showing years are between ages 3 and 5.

So 2016 will likely be Gia's last year as a show dog. Steele plans to breed Gia in 2017 while she's still fertile.

"We want to make sure we have puppies from her because she's so special," Steele says.

Steele won't leave the breeding up to chance any more than is necessary. She has champion show dogs' semen stored at N.C. State University's College of Veterinary Medicine.

While Gia is having pups, it will be brother Grange's turn to hit the show circuit. He's already shown promise, winning the 2014 National Greyhound Specialty. Gia's sister, Vera, who will breed in 2016, will be next to compete after Grange. She won best puppy in a show in April.

The three dogs' mother was a champion too, also owned by Steele. Era won best in breed two years in a row at the famous Westminster show and placed second in the hound group.

While Gia has quite the pedigree, she doesn't have her snout up in the air about it.

"She's sort of clown-like," Steele says, who is racking up accolades of her own. A breeder of greyhounds for the past 25 years, Steele has been nominated for an annual Winkies Achievement Award -- the dog-show world's equivalent of the Oscars -- for outstanding breeder.

And when the shows are all over and Gia is finished having pups, she'll enjoy a happy retirement, Steele said.

"She gets to do whatever she wants."

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