It was almost surreal.
Vandra Huber was sitting with friends Sunday watching best-in-show streaming video of Crufts at the Seattle Kennel Club Dog Show in CenturyLink Field Event Center while breed competition was going on all around her.
The University of Washington professor of human-resources management who had given the school her retirement notice two days earlier, was not just a casual observer of the world’s most prestigious dog show thousands of miles away in Birmingham, England.
One of the seven finalists, multi-international champion McVans To Russia With Love (Knopa), was a Scottish terrier of her breeding several years ago. From a litter of four, Knopa was a gift from Huber to a friend, Marina Khenkina, of Moscow, four years ago.
“It was nerve wracking,” she said, of watching from afar. “It’s always nice to be there first hand but that was not a possibility this time because I had teaching responsibilities. But I was with friends here, my extended family.”
Earlier Sunday morning she lost the breed here and turned to watching Crufts on her computer. “Both the phone and computer were on. The phone was slower with the feed and about a dog behind,” she explained. “Michael (Krolewski, her husband) and I watched Knopa and Rebecca (her handler Rebecca Cross, of Gettysburg, Pa.) move and we cheered. Then we eyed every dog move. Now I am joking. It is time for the judge to point. A split second later both the cell phone and computer froze.”
Quickly, she called a friend, who picked up the phone and whispered quietly, “Oh, my God, we won,” prompting Huber to ask her to repeat it louder. She did, and Huber began whooping it up and walking around the giant CenturyLink Field Event Center floor “aimlessly.”
A day earlier Knopa won the breed for the second consecutive year and then the terrier group in the four-day show which attracted an estimated 22,000 entries.
As word began to spread quickly around CenturyLink Field Event Center fellow competitors began coming over to offer their congratulations with everything from handshakes to hugs. “What made Knopa’s win extra special for me is being able to share it with friends in this environment. It just doesn’t get any better than this.”
This is the second huge win for Huber. Twenty years ago her Scottie, Champion Gaelforce Post Script (who answered to Peggy Sue) won best-in-show at America’s premier dog fest, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden. Knopa is the great great granddaughter of Peggy Sue.
Asked to compare the two huge accomplishments, Huber, who has been a Scottie breeder since 1982, replied, “Peggy Sue was not from one of my breedings but I was totally proud of her. Winning America’s top dog show is very special and something you can savor the rest of your life. But taking the top prize at Crufts is equally meaningful, particularly when it’s from one of my own litters. It validates that Michael and I are doing the right thing with our breeding program.
“This was done by three determined women. We don’t have lots of money. All of us work. Rebecca is a systems analyst contractor for Pentagon projects; Marina is a travel agent; and I am a full professor at the UW. We were determined, supported one another and set difficult goals. We each gave what we could and it paid off at Crufts.”
The 5-year-old Knopa’s win is the first by a Scottish terrier at Crufts since 1929. As she was surrounded by media immediately afterward, Cross beamed, “It’s been a really wild ride. It hasn’t sunk in yet. I really can’t believe it. She was supposed to retire today, so if this was her retirement show, it makes it even more special. She’s a one-in-a-million dog.”
Best-in-show judge, Ronnie Irving faced a difficult decision choosing between the Select Seven breeds, the Maltese, miniature poodle, flat coated retriever, bearded collie, Alaskan Malamute, Scottish terrier and Saluki.
Irving said: “Knopa is a wonderful Scottish Terrier. She is in excellent condition, had a great coat, moved really well around the ring, she was just fantastic. It was a great lineup of dogs, they were all wonderful.”
This was Knopa’s ninth all-breed best in show to go along with 2013 and 2014 wins at the Scottish Terrier Club of America National Specialty. This year’s national specialty is scheduled for June 4-7 in Puyallup. In 2014, Knopa piled up an impressive eight all-breed bests-in-show and 50 Group 1s in the U.S. plus a best-of-breed win at Westminster last month. She is returning to Russia following the Crufts win.