Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Long March

South Windsor Kennel Club, 11/22/08
1st/WB/BOS, 4 points
Springfield Kennel Club, 11/23/08

It's over. The Long March is over. I still can't believe it!

Now presenting... CH Breaksea November Storm HIC CGC (AKC certification pending)!

The big event took place on Saturday in Springfield, of all places. After our heartbreaker of a weekend at this cluster last year, I wasn't sure what to expect for this year. Probably half of my older blog posts contain complaints about showing in Springfield. The Better Living Center is large and noisy, and dogs who have shown all summer at the outdoor shows sometimes need time to get used to being indoors with the acoustics, the hair dryers, and the rubber mats. Still, that's where the majors are, so that's where you have to go...

I don't mind telling you that I'd been on edge since sending in the money for this cluster. Even with Lesley's kind offer to bring two bitches, plus Deb bringing Diva, there were no guarantees that we'd have enough entries -- and if we did, that all of them would show up. You never know until you get to ringside and count noses. (Lesley is one of Trav's breeders. A while ago, she offered to help build a major by bringing one of her girls and a puppy girl who is full sister to Trav. Majors aren't that easy to come by in New Jersey these days, either.)

Fast-forward past all of the anticipation to ringside on Saturday. All 7 of the class bitches showed up! At least the problem of adequate numbers was solved. Everybody needs majors.

I spotted Karen Bowens and her sister Gail with Joel and another of the class bitches. "You guys are a long way from home," I said. "Hey, we have to go to where the majors are," replied Karen.

We had known for a while that the judge forbids the use of bait and toys in the ring to get dogs' attention. This wasn't a big deal for Dinah, who only baits when she feels like it anyway -- but the multiple signs saying "NO BAIT OR TOYS IN THIS RING" must have discouraged the habitual bait-throwers at the show. We haven't had too many real bait-hurlers in the Beardie ring when I've been there, but I've heard stories about spectators receiving flying liver surprises when passing by. Good for the judge!

Handsome Joel took Winners Dog -- no surprises there at all. Joel is just a week or so past turning 2, and he still has an adolescent coat of many colors -- but he's a beauteous boy, and Karen handles him nicely.

Deb was worried about how Diva would react at this huge, noisy indoor show. Diva was mighty unhappy at the last two outdoor shows, and made that plain when trucks rumbled by on the highway or golf carts rolled past the rings. She acquitted herself pretty well indoors, though. Aside from a little "where's Mommy?" behavior, she seemed much less nervous when she entered the ring and had a job to do. Kathy reported that she settled in a little. With time and practice, she will learn to settle in the ring -- even if she has to show indoors to avoid the motor vehicles. Diva ended up taking 2nd in 12-18, but not Reserve -- but that doesn't reflect the progress the little girlie has made. She'll get there.

The Open Bitch class was over before I knew it. Dinah showed well and didn't appear to miss the lack of bait. The judge carries a little buzzer in his pocket that he uses to get the dogs' attention, and she gave him the right reaction there, too. (I didn't hear the buzzer, but Kathy told me about it later. It didn't appear to scare any of the Beardies, even the ones with some noise issues.) The judge wasted no time in putting Dinah first. Karen, who had been showing an Open Bitch, called congratulations to me as she exited the ring.

The steward indicated Kathy and asked me, "Are you two related?" I said that we weren't, but apparently we've been showing together long enough that we've started to look alike.

Next thing we knew, Dinah had taken Winners Bitch. Lesley's girl Fanny took Reserve. "We were cheering for you!", she told us.

Could it be over that quickly? Did Dinah really take the 4-point major? Gail came up behind me, put her arm around my shoulders, and told me that the major had held and that Dinah was finished. Dinah took BOS to Sparky and Joel took BOW, so Joel benefited from the 4 points in bitches and finished too. There were many hugs and high-fives all around. "She even looks different now that she's a champion," Karen told me.

Deb remarked to Kathy that I didn't look particularly excited that Dinah had finished after all this time. The truth of it was that I couldn't get over the shock -- we've been trying, and trying, and trying for ages now. The first emotion I felt was relief, and the second one was joy. Both came long after plain and simple amazement, though.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't have any idea that Dinah might finish at that show. I had a bottle of champagne and some plastic cups in my backseat, but didn't bring them into the building for fear I'd have to carry them back out untouched. Dinah got her reward for a great performance, though -- she got to wrestle with Her Trav. We opened up the champagne, and followed that with wine and lunch at the tavern on the grounds of the Big E. Greg, who had a half-bottle of champagne at home, toasted the new champion over the phone.

The only disappointment of the whole day was that Val, who has been a constant with help and encouragement throughout the Long March, couldn't be there. She'd dropped a tile on her foot, bruising it pretty badly, and didn't feel quite right hobbling around the show wearing one shoe and one slipper. (Yeah, excuses, excuses!) Pat and Trav came on their own and set up with Lesley and Sue, so he had some prep help -- but Val didn't get to see the Princess finish. Pat called her right away to tell her the news, and she called me and posted the news to the BCCME email list.

My friend Elizabeth emailed me to congratulate me and added, "And she finished in her natal month. Now she can be Breaksea November Champion."

Newbie Tricks

Kathy has a new client now, sort of. She showed Lucy the Cavalier in Fitchburg, and reported that Lucy squeaked for her mommy the whole time she was in the ring. Her owner got her groomed with Kathy's help, and handled her herself. While Kathy, Deb, and I were watching Cavaliers, a Great Dane owner Kathy knew came up to us and mentioned that for practice, she had entered her bitch in Novice, Am Bred, AND Open classes in all three days' worth of shows. Talk about getting some handling practice! Of all of the newbie things we've done and heard about, that has to be one of the newbie-est!

Nose Count, Redux

After Dinah finished, some of the owners of the other bitches came over to ask me whether I would keep Dinah in the class the next day or move her up to BOB. This is another one of those situations where you're damned no matter what you do: either you stay in the classes and risk taking another major away from someone else who still actually needs one, or you move up to Breed. If one other bitch doesn't show up, then you've broken the major for the remaining bitches.

Our friend Kandis was planning to show one of her bitches on Sunday, so the number of class bitches remained constant even after Deb and Diva headed home. Kathy checked with her to make sure that she was still planning to come, and then we decided to move Dinah up to Breed early on Sunday morning. We still had 6 bitches for a major, and Dinah was out of the way.

Lesley and her puppy Callie took the points on Sunday, so the little girlie is off to a good start. Callie isn't a flashy bitch, but she's nicely put together and moves beautifully.

We Were That Close (Again)

In her debut as a special, Dinah very nearly got the breed. She showed the best she has ever shown, possibly. The judge realllllly liked her, enough so that he took Kathy aside later and told her that he thought Dinah was absolutely gorgeous, and would have given her the breed if he hadn't liked Sparky's front just a little better. Kathy was very satisfied in knowing that she got to make Cliff sweat a little in front of Sparky's owner. :-)

The part of the show that Dinah liked best was getting to play with Her Trav. No matter where we were at the show, the second she glimpsed him, she HAD to go see Trav! I asked him if he had anything to say and he told me "Arrrrrrr."

Shortly after the Beardie judging was over, I ran into Barb Rimoshytus and Rio. She congratulated me on Dinah's finish, and reported that Rio was still chasing his one last major. He had gone Reserve that day, and she'd been hoping for those last 3 points. They'll come. Rio's a beautiful boy, and he will shortly live up to his registered name of Brookfield's Slam Dunk. Just you wait!

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