Gryffyn's Big Adventure

The Nationals at Denver was my first experience at such an event - and what an exciting initiation it was! The host facilities were marvelous and the hard work put forth by the hosting club was very evident in our surroundings. I had the pleasure of meeting many whom I had corresponded with over the Internet, that wonderful tool which can make the world seem much smaller at times when it comes to making friends. A big "thank you" to those that labored to put this event together - what a staggering task! I wonít mention names, for fear of forgetting someone, but you know who you are.

I suppose my Nationals experience could truly start when I sent my futurity nomination form in for my bitch Nikki, back in March of 1998, or when we made our reservations in July. Or the tingles I would get everytime I thought about the trip, or the planning for it, or the packing. We discussed several times who we would be bringing, and the equipment needed, and how the heck we were going to get it there. We ended up purchasing a horse trailer to haul the numerous crates, tables and supplies - with the excuse that we could use it to haul poor old Leo somewhere - even though he hasnít been ridden in almost 5 years. Funny how that timing corresponds with when I took on a mortgage and became interested in dogs.

I guess Iíll just start my little reminiscence with the Thursday prior to our departure to "Xanadu":

THURSDAY
Oftentimes I have wished for more hours in the day so that I may accomplish the many tasks I have set for myself, considering I have a seemingly never-ending list of things to do. But whatís running through my mind this day is, "When is it going to be 4:45?", "You mean itís only been 10 minutes? It feels like an hour!" "Why didnít I take today off as well?". Well, you get what you wish for. This certainly seemed like a 48-hour day. I never knew time could crawl like this. Most everything is packed into the van and the trailer. Victorís parents arrived the night before; to be thrown to the dogs that are remaining at the house. Just past the lunch hour my desk was pretty well cleaned off. I became an expert fidgeter in the span of about 15 minutes. I wanted something to do, but then again I didnít - my mind was at home or in Denver. I wonder what the next week will have in store for me? Finally, after finding some quick tasks to work on (although nothing today seemed very quick), it was time to shake off the chains of labor and dash home.

FRIDAY
Well, come morning Iím wishing that time hadnít passed so quickly during the night. Arising at 4:30 in the morning is not my idea of a good time, no matter what the occasion. I am not a member of the early birdís club, and generally respond in monosyllables before 10 a.m. Trudging along, I manage to tidy up and we finished packing the van and load the dogs. Nikki had the seat of honor in between the front seats, in prime begging position. Unfortunately, we did not have enough room to crate everyone, so we hope for an uneventful trip.

For the first time in a long time, I was able to sit back and get into a good book. I had bought several choices to keep me occupied in the car and at the hotel, being an avid reader when I get the chance. With senses tingling, I got into "road mode" and battened down the hatches for our long drive. Victor woke me up as we approached Norman, OK. We had seen the results of the devastating tornadoes there a few weeks prior on the news. Nothing prepared us for what we saw along the highway. Concrete buildings turned into rubble, a neighborhood wiped off the map - I couldnít even begin to imagine having to live through such total destruction. It was definitely a reminder to live life to the fullest each day, because you never know what you may have the next.

While traveling the more uninhabited areas of Kansas, we left the peacefulness of an uneventful trip and hit our first snag. Suddenly I felt a tremor run through the van and I quickly looked out the window, just in time to see one of the tires on the horse trailer blow and begin to shred. We pull to the shoulder and I get out of the van to take a peek. Thankfully we had packed the other side heavier and I figured we could Ďcrawlí to the next town, my head hanging out of the window like an overeager Golden Retriever in order to keep an eye on the disintegrating tire. Some miles down the road we saw an exit that aimed us towards a (very) small town. We found a little shop-of-all-trades and pulled to the back and went in. Like a scene from a movie, the old folks were sitting around along the back wall, getting drinks out of the vending machines and chatting with the different employees. We were the weird "big city folk" and it took about 10 minutes for us to get acknowledged. But they were quite helpful once they got started and we ended up replacing all 4 tires on the trailer. Visions of being stuck along some narrow mountain pass with a flat didnít sit well with either of us, so we coughed up our first big expense - and I had thought it would have been a beautiful bronze borzoi. Finally we got on the road again, and drove and drove and droveÖÖ

Victor nudged me awake about an hour from Denver. It was nearing 10 oíclock and it was time to try and keep each other conscious. We started to see some big flashes of lightning - I enjoy Godís lightshows, but not when Iím going to have to drive through them. We ended up not going through anything that was terribly bad, but it did slow us down even more. We finally pulled up to the front of the hotel. When we walked in I looked around in amazement at our home for the next week. I had never been in such a hotel before and was amazed that they were going to allow 300 borzoi to roam around their halls! We checked in, spent about two hours unloading and setting up in the room and decided that we would make the straight-racing just in time for lunch.

SATURDAY
We quickly learned that walking 9 borzoi would take up about 4 hours a day. The fact that 2 of those hours came quite early did not do much for me. At home Victor does the morning shift since heís up early. I do the afternoon shift when I come home from work. I was not completely overjoyed to be up and pottying dogs in the wee hours, much less trying to function. But thatís the sacrifices we make when we serve the Ďzoi. We straggled out to the Air Force Academy to view a new event for us. I had never seen straight racing before. I hadnít entered Nigel because he hadnít been running up to par since being bred. Plastic didnít seem to hold much excitement for him anymore after discovering the joy of "nookie". If only I had known about the furry, squeaking lure they used for this event. I would have at least brought Nigel to the field from the hotel, if not entered him. The sounds coming from the field when the pack was running to the end were not only audible, but tangible - a pounding that you felt to your inner depths.

I also had the pleasure of putting faces to the names I had heard of or corresponded with: Mary Childs, Bonnie Dalzell, Sara and Simona from the Borzoi Discussion list, just to mention a few. We sat down to a tasty lunch of fajitas and watched the awards being passed out a little while later. I regretted not having brought Nigel out to see if he would be interested in playing this sort of game. I wonít make that mistake twice. Hopefully, we will be able to experience some straight racing down in our area sometime soon.

SUNDAY
Once again we found ourselves at the AFA just before lunchtime. Since JCís were being run after the ASFA trial, we had again slept in a bit in order to conserve energy for the rest of the week. Not long after we arrived we were treated to a big drop in temperature as a dark cloud moved over the field. I knew I should have brought a change in clothes! I wandered around stoically in shorts and a newly purchased commemorative sweatshirt. After a filling lunch it was time to get down to the business of running the JC tests. I was surprised that many dogs werenít earning their legs. Many started out strong, then when they reached the first major turn, just kind of wandered off. Thankfully all of the ramblers returned without much ado. I had brought Arthur and Perci to try for their JCs and Victor had his two youngsters, Bullet and Summer. Arthurís first run was practically a carbon copy of the majority of the others - a strong start, then faded away after the first major turn. Arthur was intent on something else. He had decided that despite the fact that "mother" had walked him around, that he truly needed to leave his calling card in the middle of the field. I heard a cheer from the gallery as a fellow fancier (canít remember her name) came out waving the big orange plastic shovel she had been awarded earlier for her dogís "business". She gleefully passed it on to me and we went to retrieve the other trophy from the field. Perciís run was decidedly non-existent. As soon as I turned him loose, he turned tail and ran under the tent. Both Victorís kids decided that the start was fun, and running back to him was even more so. At least on Arthurís second run, he got into the game and earned the first leg of his Junior Courser title. So we had our first ribbon! (And the pictures are awesome!)

MONDAY
We finally wandered down to the exhibition area to catch some obedience and see what the place looked like. I noticed the vendors setting up and decided to check out what items were around that would cause me to part with my tax refund. At one booth, I noticed a lovely statue that I had seen on the eBay auction site - and in my favorite colors to boot (tricolor)! I snatched it up and when I turned to talk to the fellow at the booth, I caught sight of his nametag. None other than Les Healey, who was the first person to sign my Guestbook on my website and whom I had corresponded with quite frequently. I had completely forgotten that he was coming to Denver, since I have recently been very remiss in keeping up correspondence due to a new job and duties within the newly formed Lone Star Borzoi Club. I was so excited to get to meet him and check out the borzoi goodies he had brought with him. I promptly relieved him of the Northline statue.

We then sat down to watch some obedience since a friend of ours was in the ring with her older girl, who definitely had a mind of her own! You could actually see her debating on whether or not she should follow the given command, more often deciding to ignore it, and even once taking time for a good scratching. I must say her owner demonstrated remarkable patience and dignity throughout the whole ordeal. I think I would have been bright red and crawling off to hide, I get embarrassed so easily! All in all there were several wonderful obedience performances.

Unfortunately we missed the Canine Good Citizen Testing since we had to walk dogs so they would make it through the festivities later in the day. I also needed to start grooming several youngsters for the Futurity competition; Arthur, Merlyn and Danu. Of course, I had to attempt and groom myself also - Ha!! Trying to get my wild mop into a French Twist was just not going to happen - I finally just piled the mess on top of my head and sprayed away. Victor was looking dapper in his tux with bright blue cummerbund and bow tie (and a matching lead to boot). We got down to the ring and picked up our numbers and I began my usual routine of sweaty hands and a nagging need to go pee. We ended up being the only ones in our age classes! I had hoped to see what the other competition in our age group would be like, but it was just not to be. The only competition was between Arthur and Merlyn, and Arthur earned his second ribbon. At least I won more than my fees paid back, and could use that to buy more goodies for Victor to shake his head at.

TUESDAY
No sleeping in today!! Sweepstakes class began at 9, and not only were Arthur and Merlyn entered, but Perci and Victorís young dog Bullet as well. I had managed to find a victim to show Arthur (a big thanks to Liz Thibeaux) while I wrestled with Merlyn and Victor showed Perci. The onset of puberty combined with a long trip and strange surroundings had made the boys very irritating to work with. I could understand it more in Merlyn and Perci since they had not been out very much, but Arthur had attended several shows with no problems. Perci was pulled back out for a heart-fluttering down and back, but made a lovely snake-designed line and remained in his original place in line. Both Victor and I ended up out of the ribbons and strolled back to the room to start getting the girls ready during lunch. Danu was once again out strutting her stuff, along with her "house-sister" Summer. Danu ended up in the ribbons by virtue of two absentees, but Ms. Skinner had some nice comments for her. It was once again back to the room to walk dogs. We also wanted to see some of the agility classes before a group of us Texans went out to dinner. When we returned to the ring, I had Nigel along to observe and possibly soak up some of the agility experience. He had been through 7 agility classes and shown great promise - his instructor was very happy with his performance. He is amazing at the dogwalk, zips up the a-frame and over jumps, and zooms through the tunnel (although he is slow to come out at the end). We met with several of our friends squished in on the sidelines. Some of the dogs had a distinct mind of their own, similar to our friendís borzoi girl in obedience - it was quite entertaining. While we were watching, Nigel made a new friend. A little girl had become enthralled with him and was all over him, hugging his neck and holding him by the collar. Thankfully a friend of mine got some pictures of this, since Nigel is never around small children. He was equally enthralled with the little girl. When a friend joined us with her baby, Nigel started to get up to check out the tiny, dangling feet. Surprisingly, the little girl tugged on his leash to get him to lay back down with her and told him "No. No baby!" I was almost dying of laughter, especially when Nigel laid back down beside her!!

WEDNESDAY
The middle of the week, the middle of the Nationals and the beginning of Regular classes. Arthur was entered in 12-18 and Perci and Bullet were in Bred-By. Without much ado, we returned to the room ribbonless to prepare Bulletís mother Sorscha for the Veteran Sweepstakes that evening. We hadnít originally planned on entering her in the sweeps, but since my oldest bitch was two weeks too young, and we enjoy Gary Newtonís art, I figured it would be well worth the entry fee to get the artwork for the price of an entry fee, especially since Sorscha was going along anyway for the Brood Bitch class. Considering that while in Denver we visited Garyís booth and purchased 3 of his bronzes, a lovely head study wall-hanging for the price of an entry fee was a deal! I canít wait for my first piece to arrive!

We again met with friends for dinner, and I was beginning to feel a bit haggard. I am one of those people that need a lot of "shut-down time", and having to be "on" all the time was beginning to get to me. I did manage to make it to the education seminar featuring three well-known judges. It was very interesting to see the differences and similarities in the judging style of some of our peers.

THURSDAY
Merlyn had been entered in Open Dogs, but I pulled him because he seemed to be getting too frazzled and I didnít want to put him off of showing altogether. This also allowed a little extra sleep-in time. We had the two girls to prepare and show after lunch, but once again ended up out of the ribbons. Then it was time to put on a happy face and go down to the Hospitality Suite. Our fledging organization, the Lone Star Borzoi Club, was hosting the suite for the afternoon. We started setting things up for the raffle and silent auction that we were having as a fundraiser and waited for visitors. It was seeming a bit slow, but soon we were "standing room only". I was able to meet even more people, and it turned into a rousing good time, especially when we started calling out the names of the raffle winners with people cheering them on. When it was all over, we tidied the room up, buoyed by several nice comments on our club and itís organization.

FRIDAY
We attended the annual meeting and luncheon and were pleased to see our parent club in action. Besides that, the food was wonderful, with the dessert being especially decadent. During the course of the meeting, I thoroughly enjoyed Karen Cartabonaís comment regarding the fact that not all the board members or club members may get along with each other or agree with each other, but they are still able to work together to get things done. ĎNuff said.

After lunch, it was time once again to get dogs ready for showing. Sorscha was in the regular veteran bitch class, then on to the brood bitch class with her get Bullet and Summer. Nigel was entered in Stud Dog and Nikki was also in Brood Bitch. We had once again recruited some poor souls to help us in the ring (another big thanks to Sara Ose for her help, and another lady, who I unfortunately didnít get the name of, who was on "stand-by"). We also once again left empty-handed. We were starting to get really disheartened - we had hoped for a little bit more excitement than this! Of course, this put me in the perfect mood to spend money, which was the right attitude for this night! Another exquisite dinner along with a silent auction and then the regular auction! I managed to "win" several items at the silent auction, including a small bronze borzoi donated by some friends from Texas, some deco-style candlesticks, an enamel pin, a Ďzoi statue, and a tie tack from the year the nationals were held in Houston. Then we took a peek at the items up in the 50/50 auction and I set my sights on a big hydro-cast (whatever that is) borzoi statue. I fought hard for that sucker and it now sits upon the mantle in our living room. It turns out that there was another one auctioned later that night, and it went for even more - so I figure I got a deal. We felt it was our last blast since Saturday was the BOB competition and all we had entered was Nikki, who hadnít been shown in over a year and a half. In our minds we were already packing up to go home.

SATURDAY
Nikki had done me the kindness of keeping her coat for the Nationals. Alas, she is one nekkid creature now - not "naked", but "nekkid". Jeff Foxworthy says that the Southern term for being unclothed and up-to-something is "nekkid" - and this bitch is always up to something! But today I actually had coat to groom, and I was being really picky about how she was looking, although I felt as if I was just putting myself through the paces for my own gratification. We ambled down to the ring and saw the daughter of a good friend going in for the final judging in Junior Showmanship. Then Best of Breed judging began. It was interesting to see all the males crowding into the ring. We watched with our friends and listened closely to the comments they were making. Several males really caught our eye and we made notes in our catalog. We even had some friends make the first cut

Then all the bitches filed in. Nikki and I were towards the end of the line and we were to be judged in the next group. As we filed out I figured it was good practice, and sat back down with our little group. When it was time for us to go back in the ring, I began to get nervous. I fidgeted while waiting and could barely speak when spoken to. Nikki stacked perfectly and behaved like the angel she can be while Mr. Edlin went over her. She was pretty happy, so I had to try and keep her calm on the down and back. Then when we went round the ring, I looked down at her and saw how happy she was, and I just smiled at her and had to hold back the tears of pride I felt in my old girl. When he pointed at us to get in line with the first cut, my heart jumped and I was mumbling my surprise when I reached my place. The fellow in front of me smiled and asked me about my amazement and we chuckled over it. After all the bitches had been examined, those that hadnít made the cut filed out. The judge started moving us some more then went down the line to make some more cuts. I nearly leapt for joy when he pointed at us for yet another go-round. We quickly took our place in line - Nikki wagging her long plume of a tail, and Iím sure I resembled a deer in the headlights of a car. The final judging would take place after lunch. When we exited the ring, several friends met me for a little celebration. I was in ecstatic tears. Five of our friends from Texas (one now transplanted elsewhere) had made the first cut. Nikki and another Texas bitch had made it to final judging.

It felt like eternity. I was amazed, joyous, nervous and proud. I had no idea what to do with myself during the lunchbreak. I certainly couldnít eat for all the jitters. Nikki had placed herself upon the couch for a well-earned nap. She had just been happy to trot around the ring and have a good time.

We made it back down to the ring and I again began my fidgeting as we waited to be called in. I got the "thumbs-up" from some friends as we filed back inside the ring. While stacked I looked around at the borzoi in the ring and saw dogs that I knew and respected from their advertisements, a Westminster winner among them. When we took our turn going around the ring again, I held the leash high and probably had the silliest grin on my face as I looked down at Nikki in her moment in the sun. When the judge went down the line again, we unfortunately didnít make the cut for an AOM, but Nikki had gone so much further than I had ever expected. We had her picture taken with Mr. Edlin and then went back to the suite to wind down.

The Awards Banquet was wonderful, with good food yet again and plenty of talk of how everything had gone that past week. I had a blast listening to the comedic stylings of the vet from the Emergency Vet show. I could relate to quite a bit of it after working as a groomer for over 7 years. But then, it was time for "good-byes" and to rest up for the journey home.

~~~~~~~~~~

My first Nationals experience was nowhere near to what I had expected, and we still had a wonderful time. It was definitely a thrill to meet all the people, although Iím afraid Iíd forget someone if I tried to list them. I couldnít believe that there were actually people who knew who Nigel was when I was walking him around! And there were a few who knew me from lurking on the Borzoi list and seeing some of my posts - I was just amazed!! There was also the heart-stopping news of the disappearance of PD, and then the welcome news several days later of his retrieval.

We stopped by Nadineís for the "post-party" and snagged some more delicious food. The Animal Planet crew was also there talking with people about their borzoi and asking about several of the breedsí idiosyncrasies such as leaning and grinning. We had 8 of our dogs running about in Nadineís big pen and they asked us to get them running around so they could film them. Needless to say, we were happy to oblige. We had enjoyed ourselves immensely, but it was time to hit the road. We drove through the night and reached home about 7 the next morning. We were so happy to see the rest of the "kids". No matter how much I enjoy showing, be it conformation, coursing, or any other canine event, nothing beats coming home.