Benny the Ice-Skating Dog Helps Kids, Adults Build Confidence

Benny is one of five 2021 AKC Awards for Canine Excellence recipients. He won the Exemplary Companion category. This category recognizes dogs without formal training or certification that have nonetheless distinguished themselves in some way and have made a meaningful contribution to their owners or communities.

Apparently, when they handed out a job description to 5-year-old Benny three years ago, he ignored it.The template for the Labrador Retriever, America’s most popular breed for three decades reads hunter, assistance dog, show and agility competitor, search and rescue along with other canine jobs.

But not ice skating!

For the plucky 50-pounder, it all started in August 2018, when professional photographer Rick Vierkandt, who was working on a cheer video called “Go Knights Go,” for the National Hockey League’s newest team, the Las Vegas Golden Knights, reached out to Benny’s owner, Cheryl DelSangro, of Las Vegas, a former professional skater who began skating at age 5 in Cleveland, about including Benny in the production.

And since then Benny on Ice has been a whirlwind adventure that has touched the lives and hearts of many and earned the pair the American Kennel Club’s coveted 2021 AKC Humane Fund Awards for Canine Excellence Exemplary Companion Award.

Benny on Ice
DelSangro met Vierkandt shortly after she brought home Benny seven years ago. “He is a pet photographer and I took Benny to him for some Christmas photos,” she recalls. “Later, Rick contacted me to determine I was OK with Benny doing some modeling for him, which he did before the Cheer video.”

Benny had never skated before. For the cheer video, Benny skimmed across the ice on paws. After viewing that, DelSangro saw potential for taking it to a higher level. “I started to think I could teach him to skate. I taught our daughter when she was 17 months old, and I figured Benny had better balance than a toddler. I had not skated for about 15 years since moving to Las Vegas. In essence, this brought my two passions – dogs and skating – together.”

That initial outing, with DelSangro alongside Benny at all times, was destined to be full of surprises. And it didn’t disappoint. “We had no idea that he would be able to skate the first try or that he would love being on the ice, enjoy the cold, even though he thrives on swimming in the heat. What I didn’t expect was his desire to chase after me,” she smiles. “It was almost like he was copying me.”

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