Gia the Greyhound: Local Dog Wins Big at Westminster

Melanie Steele raises championship greyhounds at her Bluffton home. But in February, a litter of 5-day-old puppies kept her from traveling to New York City for the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

From her computer, she watched as her 3-year-old show dog GrandCru Giaconda pranced across the green carpet at The Piers to win the Westminster Best of Breed award.

Steele and trainer Rindi Gaudet both knew Gia could deal with the bright lights, flashing cameras and added pressure that comes with the biggest dog show on the planet.

“We prepare our dogs to travel, meet dogs and meet people,” Steele said. “We go to great lengths to make sure that Gia can handle anything.”

Gia has collected many awards so far in 2015, including 10 “Best in Show” trophies on the dog show circuit.

Gia lives in Bluffton with Melanie Steele and her husband, Jack. She trains and shows with Gaudet, a Summerville native.

The Steeles moved to Bluffton from Weddington, North Carolina, three years ago and continued breeding and showing award-winning greyhounds and Scottish Deerhounds. Their kennel, GrandCru Kennels, was established in 1994 and has bred more than 50 champions in the hound, sporting and terrier groups.

GrandCru Kennels is a five-time Pedigree Award winner, and some of its homebred dogs have gone on to win agility, obedience, coursing titles and more. The Steeles are members of the Greyhound Club of America, the Scottish Deerhound Club of America and many other national canine clubs.

They are supporters of the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Foundation and the American Kennel Club’s Canine Health Foundation.

For more than 20 years, the Steeles have been breeding AKC greyhounds, which are a bit different from the popular National Greyhound Association racing greyhound. NGA and AKC greyhounds have different bloodlines and slightly different constructions.

“It is my hobby, it is not a business in any sense of the word,” Steele said. “We do this out of a love for the breed and the sport of purebred dogs, as well as the desire to share the wonderful qualities of these greyhounds with others throughout the world.”