The New England Patriots’ 2020 draft came and went without much fanfare … with one notable exception. Though the Patriots’ picks were largely viewed as anticlimactic—even after losing Tom Brady to the Buccaneers in free agency, New England did nothing to address its quarterback deficiency—the Pats’ draft did produce an unlikely hero.
Nike, canine sidekick of Bill Belichick, stole the show on Day 2 of the draft, taking keen interest in New England’s second-round selection while perched at the kitchen table of the legendary head coach’s Nantucket home. Belichick’s longtime girlfriend, Linda Holliday, provided the backstory, claiming Nike had caught a whiff of some leftover treats and was dutifully waiting for his reward when ESPN cameras panned to him. The pooch’s draft cameo quickly went viral and now Sherry Holloway, the world’s leading breeder of Alaskan Klee Kais, is witnessing the Belichick effect.
“It’s been quite an experience,” Holloway told Sports Illustrated’s Conor Orr, noting requests for Alaskan Klee Kais have skyrocketed since Nike first became an internet darling. Holloway also credited the coronavirus pandemic and resulting stimulus checks as contributing factors in the breed’s newfound popularity.
Klee Kais, which bear the appearance of miniature huskies, are a relatively new breed—they weren’t recognized by the American Kennel Club until 1997. They’re also extremely hard to come by as prospective Klee Kai owners are put through a rigorous adoption process including a 50-line questionnaire inquiring about such topics as available space (Holloway has called the dogs “Houdinis” for their ability to escape) and household habits.
“You can’t just pick up the phone and get one,” Holloway explained. “It’s almost like adopting a child, I would say.” Belichick isn’t the only celebrity owner of the highly sought-after breed as singer Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner of Game of Thrones fame owned Klee Kais at one point. Miley Cyrus also had a Klee Kai who passed away in 2014.
Holloway, who owns 15 Klee Kais of her own, is thrilled to have Nike as the breed’s new posterchild. “He looks like he did OK for himself.”