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Mrs Mannooch caused a sensation at Crufts in the year 1925 when she exhibited her ‘wonder dog' Choonam Brilliantine. This beautiful pedigree Chow, bred in her Choonam Kennels, won title of Champion and was sold to Mrs Dorothy May Hoover of Chicago on the 17th July, 1925 for the world record price of $9,800 (£1,800), today’s equivalent of over $500,000.
Before his Cruft’s success, Brilliantine had been winner at eight Championship shows and awarded Best in Show in seven consecutive championship fixtures, which may well be a record in any breed. He undoubtedly distinguished ‘Choonam’ as a household name in the Chow-fancier world, making the kennels one of the most successful and famous in the history of the breed.
Dorothy May White (1891 - c. 1975)was married to the multi-millionaire Howard Earl Hoover of Chicago, chairman of the Hoover Company, the vacuum cleaner empire. Her father was President of the Chicago Board of Trade. Dorothy sat for the portrait in the Studio Room of the Hoover Family home at Glencoe, Illinois, which remains in the family to this day. The Hoover's fifteen-year marriage came to an abrupt end the year after her purchase of Brilliantine, the world’s most expensive dog.
In 1926, Harold Knight, a much sought after English portrait painter, was invited to the USA to undertake a series of paintings for the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and, in addition, a number of private portrait commissions for wealthy American patrons. He stayed with Dr William S. Baer, an orthopaedic surgeon at the Baltimore hospital and the owner of an important Chow kennel. Dr Baer, co-author of The Popular Chow Chow (1927-8), was said to have loved his chows more so than his patients. They said he would keep his most illustrious patients waiting to give first aid to any dog that was injured in the street outside his clinic. It was undoubtedly through Baer’s recommendation that Harold Knight was commissioned to paint Mrs Hoover with Brilliantine, famous ambassador of the Chow breed to America, the sire to be of at least fifteen Champions. When the artist’s wife, Dame Laura Knight, arrived in New York several months later, she too was commissioned by Dr Baer, to draw his rare prize black Chow Chow.
The Kennel Gazette, March 1925: Puppy Dogs- 1st, Choonan Brilliantine; a beautiful, well developed ten months old puppy; red with cream shadings, perfectly balanced, stand off coat, good head and expression; he reminded me very much of Ch. Chow VIII; he won right through from Puppy class to Challenge Certificate.
The Kennel Gazette, June 1925: Restricted Open Dogs (red) 1st- Choonam Brilliantine; an outstanding Chow of true type and expression, shown in perfect condition.
The Kennel Gazette, July, 1925: Restricted Open Dogs (red) 1st- Ch. Choonam Brilliantine; a very beautiful dog needing no description from me.
The Kennel Gazette, September, 1925: We have pleasure to announce that Mrs. V.A. Mannooch has presented a very handsome 50-guinea Cup to the Kennel Club for competition at the Kennel Club's Sixty-fourth and subsequent shows. The Cup is given to perpetuate the memory of the famous Chow Chow, Ch. Choonam Brilliantine, who went to America in July.
The Kennel Gazette, September, 1925: The Chow Chow Dog, Ch. Choonam Brilliantine K.C.S.B. 89 FF- It is with very great pleasure that we publish as our second full page illustration an excellent likeness of the famous Chow Chow, Ch. Choonam Brilliantine, K.C.S.B. 89FF, formerly the property of Mrs. V.A.M Mannooch, of the Old House, Great Missenden, Bucks. Choonam Brilliantine (known to his more intimate acquaintances as 'George'), was bred by Mrs Mannooch and was born in March 1924, sired by Akbar out of Ashvale Chop Chop. At his first appearance in the show ring at Cruft's Show this year he was most signally successful and took his first Challenge Certificate at the age of eleven months. It is worth mentioning that the critiques published in Country Life, The Field, The Dog World and Our Dogs unanimously hailed the appearance of an undoubted future champion, and Brilliantine's subsequent record justified the laudatory opinions that greeted his first appearance. At Manchester he again took the Challenge Certificate and also won the Grand Challenge Class for Best in Show. At Holland Park he met the first and only defeat in his career in this country, being awarded second prizes in his breed classes, but this was compensated for at the same show by his win of the Grand Challenge Class for the best in the Show. At the L.K.A he repeated his Manchester performance, thus becoming a full Champion. At Ranelagh again he took the Challenge Certificate and the Grand Challenge Class of the show and followed this up by an identical performance at Taunton, Richmond and Chester. Thus at eight Championship shows in succession he was a sterling winner, and at seven consecutive championship fixtures he was awarded the Grand Challenge Prize for best dog in the Show, which is probably a record in any breed. The whole of his winning career in this country occupied less than five months and was actually completed before he was sixteen months old. Needless to say Mrs. Mannooch received many offers for him and indeed was offered a three figure price the very first day he was exhibited at Crufts and on the 17th of July this year Ch. Choonam Brilliantine sailed for America, having been sold to Mrs. Earl Hoover for £1,800, a price which is , in all probability, the highest ever paid for any dog.
Mrs. Mannooch still owns his dam Ashvale Chop Chop, and hopes one day to mate her again to Akbar. There are a few of Brilliantine's puppies still in the country, fortunately for the breed. He was one of a litter of six, of which all the others were bitches, and the only one of his sisters that has been shown more than once is Choonam Brilliantina. The summary of Ch. Brilliantine's prize wins during his wonderful career is thirty seven first prizes, three second prizes, twenty seven special prizes, seven first prizes in Grand Challenge classes for Best in Show and seven Challenge Certificates.