Everyone goes to a dog show hoping to win. But not everyone expects to.
That certainly was the case with Giant Schnauzer breeders Chris and Holly Reed of Port Allen, Louisiana, as they headed to the 2021 AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin.
Every December, AKC’s flagship show draws some of the nation’s top dogs to Orlando, Florida, before airing on ABC in January. Eventually, the field of more than 5,000 contenders is whittled down to just one, single, solitary dog.
And this year, that dog was “Bayou,” a 4-year-old Giant Schnauzer bred by the Reeds, along with their late mentor Maryann Bisceglia and Mike Reese. (Bayou is owned by the Reeds along with Laurie and Mike Mason.)
To be sure, GChG. Lagniappe’s From The Mountains To The Bayou, as Bayou is formally called, didn’t come out of nowhere. A multiple Best in Show winner, he was the top-ranked dog of his breed and the nation’s number-10 Working dog going into the show. But given the high-wattage competition, the Reeds figured they would be happy to win the breed. And maybe – just maybe – make the cut in the group.
As he watched Bayou make the shortlist under Working Group judge Norman Kenney, Chris Reed upped his expectations just a sliver.
“I thought maybe he could get fourth place,” he remembers. But that placement went to another dog, as did third. “I was just about to say, ‘OK, we’re done, what do you want to eat for dinner tonight?’” when the judge pointed to the odds-on favorite – the nation’s top dog of all breeds, the Samoyed GChP Vanderbilt ‘N Printemp’s Lucky Strike – for second place.
And then the big black dog from Louisiana took first.
“I sat from the end of the Working Group until Best in Show basically in disbelief,” Chris Reed remembers. At evening’s end, when Dana Cline continued the theme and pointed to Bayou for Best in Show (with the German Wirehaired Pointer, GChS Heywire N Deep Harbor Love That Dirty Water, taking Reserve), the Reeds rushed down to the arena, bouncing from security guard to security guard until they found one willing to believe they owned the newly crowned AKC National Champion.
From a Single Puppy to Best in Show
Serendipity has never been in short supply when it comes to Bayou. The Reeds had originally considered buying his mother when she was a puppy, but opted not to, so her breeder – Maryann Bisceglia of Ingebar – decided to keep her. When Biscelgia discovered she was ill, she asked the Reeds if they still wanted Sarah, and shortly before her death that’s where she went. When it came time to breed her, the Reeds opted for another Ingebar Giant who lived with the Masons high in the Rockies in Colorado – that’s the “From The Mountains” reference in Bayou’s registered name. As for the Reeds’ kennel name, Lagniappe – pronounced “lan-yap” – in Cajun country it means “a little something extra.”
But in Bayou’s litter, there literally were no extras: There was only Bayou. And the Reeds think being a singleton puppy may explain his outsized personality.
“He had lots of toys and stuffed animals, no competition for food or attention, and he got pretty spoiled pretty fast,” Holly Reed remembers. “And I think it made him a better show dog.”
A Giant Schnauzer had never won Best in Show at the AKC National Championship, and responsible breeders like the Reeds are always concerned about any negative effect the glare of publicity might have. (That is, if people can even identify the breed: Passersby sometimes ask if Bayou is a giant Scottish Terrier or a supersized Schnauzer-Poodle mix.)
An Instinctive Guardian
Originating in Bavaria, where they helped farmers herd livestock and later served as guard dogs, Giant Schnauzers have a strong protective instinct. As a result, they need firm boundaries and thorough socialization.
“They are very much thinkers, and if you’re not the leader in your household, this dog is fully willing to step up and take that role,” says Holly Reed, adding that she will talk people out of the breed if she feels they don’t have the time or ability to rear one correctly. “I warn people with children all the time that this breed is very protective of its family. You don’t need to do any training to teach them to be protective. But you do need to train them to not be too reactive, to be protective in the right situations.”
Chris Reed points out that while Bayou and other well-socialized Giants appear unflappable, that’s because they have been conditioned to accept the flurry of activity that goes along with the show scene – and to place their trust in the person at the other end of the lead.
But even in Orlando, Bayou’s instinctive watchfulness wasn’t too far below the surface.
“One of the days while we were showing, Alfonso asked me to move away, because Bayou kept looking in the same area,” Holly Reed says, referring to professional handler Alfonso Escobedo. While he’s on the road, Bayou lives in Houston, Texas, with Escobedo, fellow handler Ashlie Whitmore, and their young child Andres.
Escobedo was concerned that perhaps Bayou was guarding Reed, but even after she stepped away, Bayou continued to throw his ears forward and stare intently in the same direction.
Soon, the two humans figured out what had the Giant so concerned: There was a baby crying in the distance, and Bayou was worried his littlest family member might be in distress.
Grooming is another challenge for prospective Giant owners. “It’s a big commitment,” Holly Reed stresses. While show dogs are hand-stripped, most pets are clippered, but finding a groomer who is willing to handle a breed as large and often stubborn as a Giant Schnauzer can be difficult. Getting a puppy accustomed to standing on a grooming table and being clippered and blow-dried is absolutely critical, she adds.
What’s Next For Bayou?
The Reeds had entertained the idea of retiring Bayou after the AKC show, but perhaps now they’ll extend his career for a little while longer.
“There was no pressure on us,” Chris Reed says of that fateful trip to Orlando. “We said, let’s just go and have a good time.”
No matter where Bayou’s career leads from here, that’s pretty good advice.