Knotty, the celebrity

Bloodhound Heathers Knock On Wood, aka Knotty, won first place in the bloodhound category at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

A local bloodhound makes the finals at the Westminster Kennel

Club Dog Show-all in a day’s work.

By Bridget Graham-Gungoren/Special to The Malibu Times

He has charisma; he has character. He likes to show off and plays to the crowds … sold-out crowds. He has a fan club with 200 members. Media and paparazzi “hound” him. He is a celebrity living in Malibu-a four-legged celebrity.

Bloodhound Heathers Knock On Wood, aka Knotty, and his owner, Lyn Sherman, have just returned from a whirlwind tour winning two dog show championships in the last month, including first place in the bloodhound category at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, where Knotty also competed in Best in Show.

After winning the Best in Show at the American Kennel Club/Eukanuba National Championship show in Tampa in January, where he competed against the top 25 dogs in each breed, and the first place dog in every county was invited as well, Knotty was assured a spot at the sold-out Madison Square Garden event.

And it is quite an event. Sherman, who was in New York for six days, said, “I attended a couple of award dinners [Top 10 award dinner, Pedigree dinner]… all were black tie affairs.” Knotty also competed in a Top 10 Fashion Show, where only 10 dogs were invited to walk the runway; he wore a $300 camouflage dog coat.

Knotty, who will be five-years-old in April, has won 31 Best in Shows in the past year, the most for a bloodhound, and was the first liver/tan bloodhound ever to win an all-breed Best in Show in the U.S., at a 2002 show in San Mateo, California. Sherman and Knotty have been on the road 50 out of the last 52 weeks, she said.

The judge who awarded 127-pound Knotty Best in Show at the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship said it was because of his confirmation (how he is put together), his condition (physical fitness), his charisma and his character, Sherman said. Knotty should be fit; he runs 20 minutes on his $2,800 doggie treadmill and “hikes” the trails for three miles every day.

Sherman said she is responsible for the conditioning, while handler Ken Griffith, who has been with Knotty for two-and-a-half years, brings out the charisma. The handler is of great importance, Sherman said. “The dog does it all out of love, and Ken and Knotty get along very well,” she said.

Accustomed to media pressure, Knotty hams it up for the audience. “He knows he is a showcase,” Sherman said. He’s a celebrity who plays to the crowds. “He’s like the guys on the beach that think they’re hot,” Sherman said of Knotty’s antics. “He looks for an audience.” He makes eye contact, wriggles his tail, and shows off for the judge, Sherman explained. “He is a once in a lifetime dog … Just like people have different personalities, so do dogs.”

When Knotty walks down the stairs, he has so much skin, that he has to stop midway and flip, like flipping your hair, Sherman said. And he “flips” at the shows. “The more people clap, the more he wags and struts.”

But there was a point at Westminster where the media attention was extreme. “I had to crawl into the crate, in my long black beaded gown, to give him a quiet minute because of all media,” Sherman said.

Sherman also had to hire a security guard at the show because of public and media attention. She said she couldn’t leave him alone even to use the restroom.

The dog world and dog shows are really parallel to the world of celebrities and show business, Sherman said. Dogs have managers, promoters and agents. “It is its own community,” Sherman explained. She said she recognizes more people at a dog show in Texas or elsewhere than walking down the street in Malibu.

The movie, “Best in Show,” is “fairly accurate,” Sherman said of its portrayal of the dog show biz. It showed the funny side of the business as well as very real aspects of the competition, she said. The only pieces missing were the travel, the stress and the expense. But as a “mock-umentary,” it covered most of the life quite well, Sherman said. She was asked to be a part of the movie with another of her bloodhounds, but due to work commitments at the time, she could not be gone for seven weeks filming.

Sherman, who first saw Knotty, born and bred in Canada, at three months old, said, “It was very apparent to me that he was an extra special dog.”

The breeder wasn’t sure she wanted to sell him, but eventually Sherman was able to bring him home.

Knotty has appearances in Chicago next week, and Louisville, Ky. and Philadelphia next month. He has been invited to compete at the world’s biggest dog show, Crufts, which takes place in England, to represent the U.S. in 2006. And then he’ll retire.

“It is hard on a dog, and he’ll be six years old after that show,” Sherman said.

But, all in all, Knotty is sometimes just a dog. He has to travel with the checked luggage to his shows. He likes to sleep on the couch when he is at home. He loves to play with his three bloodhound brothers, dig holes and bark at coyotes.

“At home, he’s a dog,” Sherman said about her prized celebrity.