By Julie Huss
---- — LONDONDERRY — They are top dogs and have the credentials to prove it.
Three Chinooks owned by Kris and Chester Holleran of Londonderry are at the top of their game. They are winning awards for their agility, good looks and personality.
The Chinook is also the official Granite State dog and is one of the “603 Reasons” readers say New Hampshire is special.
Holleran’s 4-year-old Birr took the Best of Show at last month’s prestigious Westminster Dog Show in New York City.
This was the first time in the show’s 138-year history the Chinook was allowed to compete as an official breed category. In previous contests, the Chinook was entered in a “miscellaneous” category.
For Holleran, who teaches biology at Londonderry High School, it’s a testament to the dog’s showmanship, good nature and strong heritage.
The Chinook was officially named the state’s top dog in 2009 after middle school students in Bedford pushed for the honor and worked with legislators to make it official.
Its history dates back to the early 20th century, when breed founder Arthur Tamworth ran a sled during the Alaska Gold Rush years and sought the perfect breed to handle that job.
He bred a large Mastiff-style dog with a Greenland Husky and the first Chinook was born in 1917.
Chester Holleran said the Chinook became famous for leading Admiral Byrd’s South Pole expedition. The breed was also the first dog to climb Mount Washington in front of a sled.
Holleran said when she discovered the Chinook, she found the perfect breed. The Londonderry woman did her research and fell in love with this breed after reading about its temperament, its ability to work and its family-oriented nature.
“We looked at all types of breeds,” she said, “but I really liked this one and said this was the breed for me.”
Birr is the trio’s most decorated dog in the Holleran household; Huck is the oldest at 5 and his son, Tibbs, is 2.
Huck has retired from competition, but Birr and Tibbs are still making their mark on the show circuit. Birr also took top honors at the Eukanuba National Championship and secured his invitation to Westminster last month.
Holleran said Huck knew when it was time to stop.
“He got tired of it,” she said. “The thrill was gone for him. I said, ‘Huck, one more show,’ but he just sat down.”
Birr’s entry into the show world came next and Holleran knew he was special.
“He did very well,” she said.
Holleran does all the handling and showing of her dogs during competition. She said the Chinook is a great dog and she is happy to have them recognized.
“They are good with family, they are good with people,” she said. “They are also bred to pull heavy loads.”
On family outings, Holleran and her husband take the dogs to the trails near Lake Massabesic in Auburn to let them pull a sled up and down the wooded paths.
The dogs are in their element, she said, when they have the opportunity to run and pull.
“It’s a good state dog,” she said. “It’s a true American breed with a lot of ties to the state.”