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Lane dog is a real champion

Joe Schweidop poses with Sunrise Annie Belle, his English springer spaniel. (Anna Jauhola/Republic)1 / 2
Sunrise Annie Belle, an English springer spaniel owned by Joe Schweidop of Lane, poses next to one of her champion trophies. Annie is one of the nation's top dogs for field trials, having taken first in 2010 in New York. (Anna Jauhola/Republic)2 / 2

LANE -- On the edge of the small village of Lane lives an energetic 4-year-old dog named Sunrise Annie Belle.

The English springer spaniel is as bouncy, inquisitive and friendly as any other springer. Her personality changes, however, when she knows she's on the hunt.

"When she's in the field, she's a little she-devil," said her owner, Joe Schweidop, of Lane.

Annie is a national champion in field trials, taking first prize in 2010 in New York and second prize in 2011 in Michigan.

Schweidop emigrated to the U.S. from Germany when he was 18, settling in Pennsylvania.

"I was 18," he said, laughing. "You did many things when you were 18."

He had applied for a visa to go to the U.S., Canada and Australia. The U.S. and Canada visas came through and he chose the U.S.

He was involved in raising show dogs in Germany, so the hobby came naturally to him in the States. He had several show dog champions while living on the East Coast.

He moved to South Dakota in 2005 after he and his two sons took a pheasant hunting trip near Mitchell.

"It was my goal to have one of the top dogs in the country," he said.

Schweidop trained Annie in the basics like commands and retrieving dummies. But, as with most champion dog owners, Schweidop hires a professional trainer, in this case Gary Wilson.

Currently, Annie is training for and participating in field trials in Texas.

"It's a pretty cut-throat business," Schweidop said.

With all her training, Annie took second out of 129 dogs during the 2011 National Open Championship in Michigan in October.

Annie's talent doesn't end with her. Schweidop owns Annie's daughter, Sunrise Heidi, who was the top puppy on the East Coast recently and is training for the amateur class soon.

He also owns Sunrise Return of Yankee, aka Sunrise Turner, who has received high rankings in open class competitions in 2011.

"Heidi's the next generation, another champion," Schweidop said, smiling.

He often smiles when talking about his dogs. Schweidop gains an immense amount of pride in his champions, particularly Annie, who works hard in training and during field trials. Schweidop said Annie, like all other field trial dogs, train just about every day.

Despite it being an expensive process -- each bird used costs $12 -- Schweidop loves his hobby.

He said the training is so intense that Annie is pretty wound up by the time she comes home.

"She comes home to me for R&R," Schweidop said.

As far as he knows, Annie is the only springer that runs field trials in South Dakota.

A plumber by trade, Schweidop thoroughly enjoys his hobby. At 71, he continues to work to afford training, travel and expenses that come with raising dogs for field trials.

"It's very rewarding," he said.

"Pride. It's all pride. It takes a lot of motivation."