Dog Show - LEAD
Credit: Steven Donahue, See Spot Run Photography

For most, Thanksgiving is an annual day to celebrate being around family and friends and show gratitude for all of the wonderful things in their lives. But for one lucky dog, there is a whole lot more to be thankful for this year.

Every year following the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC, the National Dog Show presented by Purina airs and the country's top dogs take to the ring to show off their stuff. Hosted by the Kennel Club of Philadelphia, the show marked its 15th anniversary in 2016, cementing itself as an official can't-miss Thanksgiving tradition. In the words of John O'Hurley, the program's host, the National Dog Show has "become an extraordinary family tradition on the greatest family day of the year."

Last year's Grand Champion was none other than "Good Time" Charlie, the Skye Terrier who trotted his way into the hearts of the judges. It's not easy winning the treasured Best in Show award at the end of a long day of grooming, preliminaries, and group rounds. The judges of the competition are looking at the dog that best exemplifies what is known as the breed standard based on bone structure, shape, movement, temperament, and condition.

Dog Show - 2
Credit: Steven Donahue, See Spot Run Photography

This year the competition was stiff, but one long-legged hound took home the hardware. Gia the Greyhound and handler, owner, and breeder, Rindi Gaudet took home the esteemed award after winning the preliminary Greyhound round, the hound group, and then the final strut around the ring for Best in Show, where Gia trotted among the likes of the tiny Pekingese, the energetic West Highland Terrier, and many others.

The Best in Show award is an honor for any dog as they have to beat out the 1,800 other dogs from the seven groups—sporting, hound, working, terrier, toy, non-sporting, and herding. Gia proved that she was best of the best as she nearly galloped around the blue carpet with her head held high and her chest puffed out—a signature stance for the Greyhound breed.

While Greyhounds used to be bred almost solely for racing, the breed has seen a resurgence of popularity as retired pups are living out their years on the couches of families around the country. The dogs are ridiculously fast, reaching up to 43 miles an hour in only a few short strides, rivaling some cars driving down busy roads. However, Gia would rather stick her long snout up in the air and prance her graceful gray body around a show ring than race for a prize.

Dog Show - 1
Credit: Steven Donahue, See Spot Run Photography

While dog shows may seem like all pampered pooches and adorable puppies, it is actually so much more than that (although the spa treatments these dogs get are beyond enviable). Showing dogs is a family sport, and the event hosted pups and handlers of all ages. A friendly spirit of competition in the air, handlers, owners, and groomers alike chatted along the rows of dogs, while some canines licked passing guest's faces and others napped quietly in their crates, waiting for their shot at fame.

But no dog left happier than grand champion Gia, her long head held high, sure to have many celebratory treats and cuddles in her future.