From April 9 – 16, 2016, the Borzoi Club of America held its annual National Specialty Show in Kansas City, KA. Borzoi from all over the world attended, although most were from the continental United States. The bitch, Lucy, the grand-daughter of Blyss Kennels’ Mikhailya, the daughter of Mikhailya’s puppy, “Magnus”, the same bitch that won the Reserve Best in Show at the Westminster KC Show on February 16, 2016 was going to be there, I knew, to compete in Best in Show. I was excited about attending and was letting it be known among my closest friends, especially Jelly’s breeder, N24, that I was willing to go with her and share expenses. Another local friend and breeder, N31, had recently approached me about going with her. I was thrilled and I told her that I was willing to go out to Kansas with her and share expenses. However, nothing ever came of it. Close to the last minute, I was stunned to learn that N24 had accepted a ride and invitation to spend the week with my mentor, N5. As it turns out, N5 owned the stud dog of N24’s current litter, so the plan to go together had a lot of credence and logic to support it. Still, I was shocked but remained gracious in both thoughts and words throughout the ensuing conversation. I simply said, “Of course you must accept. How wonderful for you and your puppies. You will have a wonderful time.”
The following week, they were expected to be in Kansas City by Monday morning, April 11, 2016, when N24 needed to show her puppies in Futurity, and on Tuesday, April 12, 2016 when they were entered in Sweepstakes. I had every reason to believe they had both arrived as they had planned. But on Wednesday, I saw a photo on Facebook put up by N5 saying she was driving out that very day and with a completely different person. Therefore, where was N24, and how did she get to Kansas City?
I decided to investigate. I phoned my other primary mentor, N7, whom I knew was at home. She informed me that N5 canceled her trip plans with N24, suddenly and abruptly the night before the scheduled trip, on Friday, leaving her on her own to get to Kansas City. However, when N24 realized she was without a companion for the long journey, she did not call me. Instead, she reached out to S31, the same person who had spoken to me previously. Therefore, my friends (N5, N24, and N31) were all sitting ringside together to see Lucy win Best in Show. Knowing this, I had to make a tough evaluation of who my friends were and were not.
As it turned out, Lucy did win “Best in Show” at the Borzoi National Specialty. On Saturday evening, however, the reaction on Facebook about her win was very subdued. I could not even tell for sure that Lucy had even won. So, I placed another phone call to N7 because I knew by then she would have known. However, she demurred. I had to wait until the following day when her owner posted their win results. Not only was Lucy’s win for Best in Show explicitly confirmed, her son, “Vinto” was there, too, from the classes . Apparently, he won Winner’s Dog. Funny how N7 failed to mention that when we spoke on the phone.
In the fifteen years I have had borzoi, I have had so few successes in the breed that my kennel can almost be considered a back-yard hobby kennel. Many tragedies struck Bob and me that could have taken us down and out altogether. But no, I persevered even after Bob died in 2011. Certainly the death of Opal took me out emotionally for several years. Then, Casanova and Paris did not make it in the show ring. Although Mikhailya did wonderfully well, she broke her leg in January 2008, which was a huge expense and kept her out of the ring for years. When we bred her, we took the puppy, Tresor, and he was very sickly for his first two years. That again drained our financial resources.
However, we were more than the sum of our tragedies. Mikhailya lifted us far above that. Mikhailya was our shining star, and Bob and I worked hard to attain her high standard. We owned her for eight-and-a-half years, and I kept her after Bob died. Her breeding in 2008 was my idea and I begged N5 to let us do it, since she had long lost interest in Mikhailya and no longer cared about breeding her. Yet, I persisted, and it produced one of her greatest dogs, “Magnus”. I have much to be proud of. A dog of my direct lineage, with N5, won the Borzoi National Speciaty and came a hair away from winning Best in Show at Westminster.
Today, looking back, I am so proud of Mikhailya. I feel she was robbed by dying at ten. I wish she could have lived longer to have seen this, or to have known it, or to have least lived to have seen Tresor come home as he did in Juy 2015. In one litter, she proved to be one of the greatest producers of her time. Was this “luck” I ask you? No, emphatically not. I planned this litter for several years hoping for the right time to come and it did. I was no longer working in a job outside of the home. But even that would not have been enough to ask to have her breed. I asked for the breeding because I believed in Mikhailya; I had faith in my bitch. Looking at her pedigree, as well as from living with her, I saw a very sound bitch from borzois (males and females) who not only won in the ring but produced in the whelping box. Bob and I really did not deserve her, she way outclassed us. However, we always gave her our best, never realizing what it was that she would be giving us.
Moreover, I embrace Mikhailya to my heart in my dreams, and there, in my arms, I kiss the soft fur on her neck, her “ruff”. Her body is soft and warm, not cold and stiff the way it was when she was euthanized. Why did she have to die, I ask, why, why? I’ve grown to love her more and more every day since then. I wish I could tell her, to let her know. I wish I had been a better owner to her, that I did not have to go to work, that I was always home with her the way I am now with Jelly and Tresor, her son. I wish I had more money, so I could have given her more opportunities in the ring, or hired a good professional handler on the level she deserved. I wish for so much! Mikhailya, who gave us that one beautiful litter, the litter that included Magnus, the litter that gave me my beloved Tresor, putting an end to grief once and for all, for she, Mikhailya, was a once-in-a-lifetime-dog. To me, her worth is greater than the sum of all the girl-friends who left me behind at the National when her get did so well. It was the honor of living with Mikhailya bathed in her special love: love that comforted me when Opal died, love that comforted me when Bob died, that special love, Mikhailya’s love, was the best win of all.