Oh What a Feeling!

In the recent Holiday issue of Borzoi International, I placed my first ads ever - a landmark event for me and my kennel. Many of you readers have passed this notch in your history long ago. Many of you may also no longer be as thrilled with winning points, or finishing champions, as you were at the start of your borzoi odyssey - preferring now to concentrate on those breed or group wins. I relish the day Iím more concerned with what judge is judging group and whatnot, but that is yet to come. For now, Iím quite content, nay, ecstatic, about the news of which I advertised in the last issue - one event being the finishing of a new champion. But that is only the beginning of the story. This event was a major victory (no pun intended) for me for many reasons. And so the story unfolds......

My first borzoi is also my first champion, by pure dumb luck I might add. She was purchased from a newspaper ad, which in itself is no "crime", and I knew less than nothing about the breed except that I liked them. "Miss Eight", as she was called then, for the black markings on her side, had the most color of any of her available siblings - and I am such a fan of color. She was not leash trained, but seemed amenable to being dragged/carried to my truck, and stuffed into the cab. She sat quietly for the ride, then quickly settled in at her new home. Several months later, I was introduced to the sport/addiction of dog shows and took the now-named Nikki. We didnít do very spectacularly - I wasnít sure about grooming procedures, suffered major bouts of stage fright, and spent most of the time staring at the ground while in the ring.

I had purchased another borzoi from the paper - an older, flashier boy. The owner was getting out of borzoi and concentrating on another breed. We had become friends and she was the one responsible for helping me get to the show ring. After many disappointments with Nikki, I decided to bring out Luke, despite a less than stellar mouth. He was pretty and flashy and outgoing and a complete clown, whereas Nikki and I hadnít gotten into the show groove. This eventually led me to a local handler, who helped me learn the ways of grooming and showmanship. I learned that I would have to bluff my way through the ring acrobatics and appear confident in myself and my dogs. I later put Luke up and brought out Ms. Nikki once again. The first show after her re-appearance was in Belton. We had a major in dogs and 1 point in bitches.

I once again began to become quite nervous at ringside. Looking at the pretty, foo-foo bitches outside the ring. Nikki was a very honest bitch - very sound, stout, and she was starting to "get into the game" (along with me). Unfortunately, Iíve always thought her a bit plain, especially when it came to her headpiece. Sweaty palms presided when I was showing her in the Open Bitch class (the only bitch class) - and oh, the feeling of absolute joy when Nikki won. And on to the breed....

By this time, I was a definite wreck - Iíd never gotten this far with Nikki before! We kept up the act for a bit longer, being put through our paces once again by the judge. And the buckling elation when Nikki was pronounced Best of Winners to take the major on the dog side!! Her first points AND her first major - I was bordering on tears!

We showed as much as we could, but I worked in a "retail" grooming operation, so could hardly ever get away on weekends. And when things got tough, I would put her up, losing faith once again. She went out for a little while with the handler during a run of shows in far north and west Texas (if itís over 5 hours of driving, I usually stay home), and picked up a few more points, but I would ask myself whether it was her winning or the handlerís face. I donít know why I found it so easy to lose confidence in Nikki, although I was seeing her lose to bitches that were much less sound than she - bitches that seemed to win just standing still, winning just on their portrait qualities.

What I now find interesting are the last 2 River Cluster shows she attended (1996 and 1997 - in San Antonio). Both years she took Reserve (multiple times) to 2 bitches that are now (or have been) nationally ranked in the Top Ten - Ch. Rising Starís Moonshine Fancy and Ch. Del Sol Ziguernin. So I know Nikki is well-deserving of her champion title, but I just couldnít bring myself to believe it at the time. She finished in September of 1997, after a group of us had built a major after coming so close at that yearís River Cluster. We had 4 borzoi that just needed their final major to finish, and 3 succeeded, one of them Nikki. I had once again put a handler on her. Despite the fact that I had put her other major on her, I didnít have the confidence that I could do it again. During the picture taking, the judge made some really nice comments about her, and he learned from the handler that I was afraid she wouldnít finish, primarily because of her less than fashionable head. His reply, "Well, you can get rid of that in just one generation". And sure enough, we did just that when we bred her to Nigel. Which brings this circle to an interesting close as we continue...

Nigelís finish was a fabulous feeling. I had been told it would be next to impossible to finish him myself, since he was small (Texas seems to like them BIG) and dark (Irish marked black). Our venture into lure coursing was also a big surprise, with Nigel earning his title in six trials, taking 5 BOBís and a Best in Field - that high lasted for quite a while! There were times I lost confidence in my little "scrawny" dog, but I stuck with it. And we succeeded.

I re-live this moment between Nigel and I quite a bit lately. The judging process had been quite interesting, in the end two sets of four dogs on opposite sides of the ring, with the judge looking at the opposing dogs first. I and my friends on the other end mumbled amongst ourselves, hoping this was not a dismissal. After what seemed like eons, the judge stepped over to our side and started looking at our dogs once more, and asked us to move them down and back yet another time. Nigel was second to go of that group, and after the coming/going exercise, we were lined up behind the other dogs. Once again the judge looked up and down our line of the second half, then switched us and the team in front of us, so that I figured I had the "best of the losers" placing. He then pointed at Nigel and said, "one, two, three, four". I have no idea how long I stood there, then felt my eyes widen as I looked at the person behind me, and then literally wandered over to the placing placards, somewhat dumbfounded. I hope I didnít look as dumb as I felt.

After getting our blue ribbon, the nerves struck hard. Winnerís Dog and against a dog Nigel had never beaten before (that I can remember, at least - I know I dreaded every time he showed up). I had to remind myself to breathe, and was shaking almost uncontrollably as I tried to set Nigel back up as I awaited the competition. And around again, then the gesture aimed at my "dark horse", the judge speaks yet again; "You are Winners". Ecstasy. My first completely owner-handled champion!

And how does this trip down memory lane make a circle, you ask? The dog that Nikki took BOW over for her first major/point, would eventually sire Nigelís litter, and now Nigel has blended his geneís with Nikkiís, with lovely results. Oh yeah, Iím happy!