Feeling so much like a stranger in my own mind, not really knowing how to handle the high barres I have set for myself with the inner voice command, “You will do this!” I have been challenged to the point of exhaustion from running away from myself and everything except Jelly and Tresor. I have embraced them closer to my heart than ever, they mean so much more now. When I look around me, I see that Tresor and Jelly are all that remain. And yet, their coming to me was the result of so random and haphazard events that collided for a moment in time with me, for each one separately.
It is autumn again, and in autumn, I seem to have reasons to go to the veterinarian to take care of problems. This time, poor Tre was sprayed by a skunk in the yard, followed by a physical encounter with another creature that bit his leg so badly that it required a veterinary visit. So we have been off to Washington, NJ a few times now, and still have one more trip to make.
Tre is still who he his, full of great male pride and fire! I thought I could walk him myself again, and bought a prong collar. Nothing could have been further from the truth. The prongs did not stop him from dragging me across the street to have a fence fight with the neighbor’s Golden Retriever, a youngster who has a fire in him as well. He had to be dragged off the fence by his owner before I was able to regain control over Tresor again. So, it was back across the street and into the house before I broke another bone.
Sadly, whomever I find to help me with Tresor, with walks, dog sitting and general help whom I can trust, either disappears, moves, gets sick, whatever; they go away. I always take these losses hard, knowing how they impact Tre. None of the losses is worse than the recent loss of LT who made a sweeping exit with a major hissy fit. Aside from destroying me, but what am I, he knows this hurts Tresor the most because he loves him. My Boy. I look at borzoi photos on FB all day, and see pictures of happy borzoi running in big fenced yards, or free in fields or meadows, and my heart breaks for all the shortcomings my life attained. Yes, I fall short. And, there are the other people in my life, they just turn their backs for seemingly no real reason and walk away in rage….. this is a pattern that mystifies me. Then there are the ones that stay…… they contract fatal diseases and die. As I write today, that is happening now with a wonderful man who has been Tresor’s most recent steady friend and a truly good person we know. I am truly devastated about him.
Not to be overly sad and negative, I have tried to find my strength amidst all of these travails. I identified an unusual idea that I thought would be good for me, regarding an employment opportunity, and I followed up on it. It turns out that I now work part time at a local department store. This has really been a huge help for me. It puts something else in the forefront of my thoughts, something that attests to my strength, diverting me from my pain. I am still active in my dog clubs and attend their meetings, programs, and shows, and I still serve on the boards where I have those responsibilities. However, I have a new world that I have entered, one that demands making new social relationships, and addresses my financial shortfalls, since owning two borzois on a retirement income is not easy.
More about this later…… My new pattern of absences from home has been noticed by a certain borzoi…. and he has let his disapproval be known perfectly clearly!
Like so many Mays before, this is the time for the borzoi clubs in the area to hold their specialty shows. This is also the first weekend that there are dog shows held outdoors. It gives me a good reason to get away from home, even if they are a long distance away and the weather is not predicted to be its best. Nothing can really take away the excitement of being in Tinicum Park in Erwinna, PA, when it is full of dogs and their exhibitors. It brings back many memories for me, including one of showing Opal when she was a puppy. She even won her class!
I used to find out in advance when this show was held years before we had our borzoi and I even knew Bob by finding the dog show schedules published in Dog World Magazine, (I did not know about the AKC Gazette then). I would set out by myself when I was in my thirties to attend this show, that being the Bucks County Kennel Club Show. I also attended the Hunterdon County Kennel Club Show held on the Flemington Fair Grounds off Rt. 31, NJ. That has long since been sold and paved over and the dog show moved to a sight off Rt. 29 in Ringos nearby. But the Bucks County Kennel Club Show remains where it has traditionally been held.
I knew that all the doors into the dog show ring were closed to me. There was no obvious way to me how one got from one side of the ring (outside) to the other side of the ring (inside). You knew your place by some unwritten text, and you followed it. Everyone was always very nice and smiled at you as they walked their dogs to and fro but you knew you were always an observer, as if you were at the theater watching a well performed play. I always bought a catalog, which helped it make more sense to me, being so rich in information as it was. Still, I was a single, working girl, and had no time or means to buy a show dog, nor would I know what to do with it if I had the wits to even buy one. Eventually, I began to feel acutely lonely at dog shows and stopped going as often. I married Bob in 2000 and he had no interest in acquiring a show dog whatsoever. However, in 2002, we were offered an opportunity to enter the dog show world with a male borzoi named Casanova. His breeder, N-23, was looking for a show home for him. Without even thinking, we said yes. That was how it happened.
It was then I learned that a person is sponsored or invited to join breed clubs. It is usually by the breeder of the first show dog you acquire. That is how we were able to participate in dog shows; it was through the kindness and generosity of “Casanova’s” breeder helping us to become members of the Borzoi Club of Central New Jersey, a membership that I hold to this day, and I consider a great honor. That is how a person meets breeders with whom to make friends and purchases high quality show dogs to get started. We did it that way and it brought us great joy. We achieved many wonderful accomplishments from our endeavors. It was more challenging and expensive than we thought, and it included a heartbreaking tragedy, but we never would have turned that opportunity down. My only regret is all the years I lost by not knowing how to break into the dog show world sooner. I probably would not have had a borzoi, but a terrier breed. I adored terriers but our opportunity came with a borzoi. My husband did not care for terriers, so I did not look back. I became enchanted with borzoi then, as was he, and now I cannot imagine having any other breed of dog.
Mikhailya and Opal Ringside, January 2008
We were a happy family. The story of our kennel and how it grew is on the Blyss Kennels website (www.blysskennels.us) for all to enjoy. My only regret is losing Opal from a devastating illness as a youngster. Also, there were challenges and problems raising Tresor”, our pick puppy from our only home bred litter. However, his littermate, “Magnus”, made up for that. He was taken as pick puppy by the co-breeder, N-5, and he turned out to be one of the best international show-dogs and producers in many, many years. She sold him to Belisarius Kennels in Japan, he went on to sire the magnificent all-time show-bitch, “Lucy” of whom we are all proud. And our “Mikhailya” was the bitch who started it all:
“Lucy”, the grand-daughter of our bitch, “Mikhailha”, and “Tresor’s” niece, went on to become one of the greatest show borzoi ever in history in 2016 – 2017. She won Best of Breed twice at Westminster; in 2016 she won Reserve Best in Show at Westminster; in 2016 in April she won the Borzoi National Specialty Show; and in 2017 she won the Breed again at Westminster and Group 4 in Hounds; but became the Number 1 Hound in America, a first time achievement for a borzoi. In a few weeks, she will be entered in the Borzoi Club of America National Specialty Show for the second time. She won the show last year. It would be so exciting to see her win again.
Although some things do not always work out as you plan, and that is very difficult to accept, other things happen that are beyond your wildest imaginings. One may receive the worst of heartaches but the greatest of joys by loving dogs and having a show kennel.
However, nothing was worse than losing Bob suddenly in 2011. It required me to sell our special house that we had that was so perfect for our borzoi, and I had to place Tresor in a loving home. In 2012, I downsized in a comfotable home nearby with Mikhailya, Casanova and Paris. Much has been written about this on the Blog and the website. One by one, my beautiful borzoi succumbed to old age and died. However, in February 2015, I bought a beautiful retired show bitch, “Jelly”, from a dear friend, the breeder, N-24.
Then unexpectedly, five months later, “Tresor” came home to me, after four years of living with another family. By getting him back, I felt blessed and vindicated for so much that had gone wrong in my life. Having him back was like being given a great gift. I was so happy I had a house of my own, with a well fenced back yard to offer him. I felt I made up to him something I had taken away – my presence and my love. It was inconceivable to me that I had placed him. Fate left me with no choice. I was and still am very grateful to his family that had him for four years and cared for him so well, but even more grateful that he is back home with me and he is mine.
A great deal of what I have written today is looking back. I don’t know what made me do this today, and perhaps it is not a good idea to do it as much as I do. I am often told to look ahead. There are many things I do not like to reminisce about. However, when I look back on my dogs: their lives, their stories, my life with them, their spirits that feel so alive here with me, I feel as if I am sharing a contemporary story. For me, it is a story rich in memory and I cannot escape it, for it envelopes me. I miss them all so much, every day. By reminiscing about them, I feel their spirits close to me, as they were when they were alive! It is the thing that gives me the strength, that kind of strength I need that is so basic It is the strength that enables me to get out of my bed in the morning, to put one foot in front of the other, and have enough energy to get me thorough the whole day ahead as I am alone…..except that they – Jelly and Tresor – and even all the others that went before – are there!
With the apparent arrival of spring throughout the town and its magnificent surroundings, that being Mountainside, Summit and the Watchung Reservation in particular, I ventured about outdoors to experience it firsthand while it was still fresh in its glory. Starting with the Watchung Reservation, it was magnificent to see the leaves out their first day after being buds. Then, there were the flowering bushes and trees everywhere I drove about: azelia, Bartlett pear, and magnolias. And then there were the flowers, both wild and cultivated, and I cannot say enough about them. At a club luncheon with friends on Thursday, a women recommended taking the time to stop and see the field of daffodils at the Reeds Arboretum in Summit, a place I drive by all the time. I realized how foolish I was never to stop and sit for a while, so I made it a point to later that very day. As that silly saying goes, “Take time to stop and smell the roses”.
I had been there before, actually for meetings and programs in the old mansion that has been preserved for such purposes, but never actually to enjoy its many gardens. I thought that was rather a dumb omission on my part, too, always thinking, I must find the time to drive by this way and drop in for a while…… but never do. I found my effort to have been well worth it. Yes, the many thousands of daffodils were still in bloom, and according to the nearby plaque, all 30,000 of them, in a geological bowl shaped formation caused by a glacier. How beautiful a vista they made! Seeing all those blossoms in one place reminded me somewhat of the Presby Memorial Iris garden in Montclair, NJ, not too far away. My husband, Bob, who grew up in Montclair, used to take me there. We both had a great love of irises and had them at the first house we shared together, on Oak Tree Road in Mountainside, before we had our borzoi and lived on Summit Lane. It’s too early to visit there yet, about another four to six weeks for irises.
Perhaps I can retain some of the splendor we achieved in the Oak Tree Road gardens here. It will be difficult because I am doing it alone. Yes. That word again. Alone.
My landscaper can bring in the mulch and other soil supplies, but for the most part, I will be on my own. I find when I am in the garden working, still in the weeding phase, the borzoi are nearby. I know they would rather be out walking somewhere, especially the Watchung Reservation. Tresor would like to be running loose, looking for another dog to fight, disobeying me by not coming back when called. Jelly just wants to walk by my side like the Lady she is. She knows how to present the best possible picture of her canine self.
Everyone Jelly meets falls in love with her on sight. I take her on long walks with me and she meets people wherever we go. She also gets taken to the Scouting Field in Watchung Reservation where she runs and plays off leash with a Dalmation named Lazarus. He is a constant there and her best friend. I leave her there with his owner, and she brings her back to me hours later after she and Lazarus have had their long and happy canine play date.
Afterwards, it is the dogs’ dinner time and they eat heartily. Jelly may not always eat her breakfast, but she always eats her dinner. The days are moving along more the way I would like them to of late. The departure of winter is an enormous help for me. I am able to do more varied things and enjoy my surroundings and especially the borzois I love so much, my beloved Tresor and Jelly. Moreover, in addition to the enormous weeding project outdoors, I am tackling the job of interior, or shall I say, mental weeding, trying to get rid of all the bad thoughts and memories of the winter before that disturbed me so much.
I would like to add one more thing before ending, that on Monday this week, April 17, my Jelly was seven years old. I am so lucky to have her. She is a comfort to me in this world that I never believed could be possible. I can never thank her breeder, Frances Wright, for letting Jelly come to live with me two years ago. I am forever in her debt.
I posted the following on Facebook the day after the election. I do not customarily comment about the outside world and I never wander into the fray of politics but I felt I would have been remiss to say nothing. I felt it was sad to see the country so bitterly divided along partisan lines, with each side believing they and they alone had the true answer and the contender, with the opposing viewpoint, would lead the country astray. What do you do when something like this happens? Especially when the losing candidate won the popular vote? That does not help because many on the losing side believe that should be the vote that counts! So, this is what I wrote on Facebook after reading many toxic, ugly messages from my “Friends”.
“You know, I am not going to allow anything to take away my bliss today. The process worked. I am living here, in the town where I grew up, in my house that I own, with two beautiful champion Majenkir borzoi of which I am so proud and that I love. At this point of my life, I have learned life is about adjusting and accepting, getting along and wishing everyone well, even those on the other side of the argument. In the meantime, let’s take good care of those creatures that have been entrusted to us, borzoi, other breeds, other species such as horses and donkeys, whatever. Good luck, America.”
I cannot help but be reminded of a song that has an optimistic and happy message about America without being too silly about it, by a talented man, Steve Goodman, (1948 – 1984) sadly taken way before his time by a then killer cancer that could probably be cured today. Perhaps we would all benefit from going back and taking some time to listen to it. I am speaking of the 1985 Grammy Award posthumously bestowed song, City of New Orleans.
Tomorrow, Saturday, October 1, 2016, is the date of the Morris & Essex Kennel Club Match Show with ancillary events including Meet the Breeds.
This year it is being held near to the site of its original grounds, The Dog Field in Madison! These were the grounds of the former estate of Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge, 1892 – 1973. She was a great dog fancier in her time and established the Morris and Essex Kennel Club. Some of the grandeur of her day will be revitalized in tomorrow’s events in Madison, NJ, where she resided. My main borzoi breed club, Borzoi Club of Central New Jersey, will be holding a Match and hosting a Meet the Breeds there tomorrow. It should be great fun. Hoping the weather holds out, meaning, hoping it does not rain. Sadly, I will not be bringing any dogs. How I wish I could bring Tresor. He is a wonderful ambassador for his breed, as was his great dam, “Mikhailya”, however he is too dog dominant to be around so many other dogs and would make a grand fool of himself and embarrass both his mistress and co-breeder.
There seems to be no end to the peregrinations of the unquiet mind . I travel so many circuitous roads along my journey believing all the while I have found it this time and only to be disappointed later. How many times can I do this, I ask?
What is the root of this restlessness? Could it be the words that echo throughout my memory, “If you don’t like it you can get out”? or, “It’s my way or hit the highway”. Or just a simple, “I”m going, don’t look back.” Whatever it is, I have embraced husbands, horses, dogs and cats, travel, and expensive real estate to no avail. Now I dream of a fantasy donkey that I cannot even offer a home to. And so, I sit beneath this roof here with at least the borzois, Jelly and Tresor, Angels, who give me love in full measure. I know I am lucky but why do I want to run away? Why is it so hard to just be here, in this time and place, and simply be happy or content? Is so much really wrong?
We just got back last night with the borzois from Cape May, a lovely, charming town with a large section of preserved Victorian houses, many of which are small hotels or bed and breakfast inns. They were decorated for Christmas and we went there specifically to take a Christmas house tour. It was splendid to be there at Christmas for me again after an absence of decades and to show it to LT. There is so much splendid beauty to see within the walls of very old, wooden structures that require much maintenance simply to hold up to the extreme exposure to wind and water over a century and more! They are all labors of love, each one a unique jewel in itself. It is a beautiful thing that there are not only so many of them preserved but so many people who chose to dedicate their lives and spend their financial resources maintaining them in this prime condition. If my own little Mountainside cottage costs me what it does, I can only gasp at the thought of the cost of maintaining such stately mansions as these. This section of town is nothing less than a living museum. I can see it no other way, and I am not alone in my opinion. I am so pleased to see the town bursting with tourists as excited to see it lit up for Christmas as I was! There was also a Christmas Parade that’s starting point was marching down Broadway, the street in West Cape May where our “pet friendly” inn, Highland House was, giving us a perfect viewing station out of our bedroom window! We were told that this year marked its 50th year of high quality fun and class that you just don’t see in New Jersey every day. It was complete with floats, fire trucks lit up like Christmas trees, talented musicians and singers, so much so that we thought we were watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Cape May, a true year round town, is a town all of New Jersey should appreciate with pride. I am always so happy to be there! The borzois and LT enjoyed themselves immensely, too!
But then it is time to return to the inevitable place my home with Blyss Kennels in Mountainside. It is not my farm in Pennsylvania or my own small home by the sea, homes that consume my days fantasizing about. In one, I have a large fenced field for the borzoi, and a barn where I keep one retired horse and a donkey. At my home by the sea, it is totally different. My house is more like my Mountainside cottage, only it is decorated differently. There, I only am there with my borzoi, Tresor and Jelly. I grow flowers in a garden and lead a more relaxed life. I am more content and at peace here. All is well. But, I do not feel this way here in my current home, although I am working on achieving my serenity with the life I have. Too many fantasies about my wandering ways are dangerous.
It began a few days ago, quiet, small whimpering sounds, scarcely audible. Then, we heard them, as they became louder and more frequent. Tresor was speaking to us. He was in pain. We took him to our trusted veterinarian, and she did in fact confirm he had some areas of muscular pain and prescribed some appropriate drugs. However, they did not seem to work. He passed a night whimpering more frequently and loudly. This was not working out, so we took him back to the vet’s for further examination. He was examined more thoroughly, blood was drawn, and he was sent home with more meds, including Tramadol. He should feel better soon.
According to my experience, these kinds of events occur often with borzoi. Perhaps it is not the breed as much as the line, or perhaps it is both. I find myself using the word “fragile” to describe them, and hear that word used more and more by my other friends, breeders and owners alike. It has terrible implications, from owning dogs that will either die young or often will be ill. I currently know young male borzoi with heart valve disease and cancer. Two recently died after impregnating bitches who whelped litters after they died. To me, that speaks volumes.
I am not writing this to show my kennel’s dirty laundry or that of my breeder’s or friends. Only to reveal the high price we pay for shepherding these majestic dogs through their lives. For I do not believe we ever really own them. We care for them while they grace our lives with their presence. Sometimes that presence is long but other times, it is brief. It became easier for me once I saw it that way, rather than owning them then losing them. That model was too, too terrible.
Tresor should feel better today for these are effective medications, for sure. Yet, I worry, and at nearly seven years, I know he is no longer a “young” adult dog anymore but has crossed the threshold to being a “senior” dog, or classified in the dog show world as a “veteran”. Either way, his great nobility granted him by his breeder’s line is in no way affected. He has great presence, grace and nobility, making an impression wherever he goes. People are drawn to him, and he is always a sweet, gentle dog.
My life will be stripped bare of so much that is happiness when it is his time to depart. A great chill has already descended over Blyss as our Boy’s health is threatened, and he struggles to be well. I will lose a friend, a serious occurrence for me, one who has so few. How little I care so long as I have Them, and he is half of Them, my Jelly and my Tre! No one truly understands this. Even LT, upon reading the poem I recently wrote for Tre became cross with me. So yes, he is so important that friends walk away and I feel it is okay. I have my pair of borzoi at Blyss Kennels again.
I am proud and pleased to announce that Tresor went Best in Opposite Sex yesterday at the Borzoi Club of Greater New York Specialty show. He was with a handler, Mary Cummings, who did a gorgeous job is displaying him at his best. He was relaxed and happy throughout his time in the ring. At one point, a puppy lunged at his face and he nobly ignored it like the gentle-man he has become since coming home.
Unfortunately, we could not stay for the photos because it involved a long wait. LT was under the weather so I needed to leave immediately after the judging. So, the day was a mixed bag in that sense. I felt badly for my friends, my sister-in-law, N9, who drove down from New Hampshire, and Jelly’s breeder N24, who also had a long ride back to Cross River, NY. Our drive was relatively short in comparison to theirs. At home, we tried to take some photos but they did not turn out very well. So, I took a photo of his ribbon on his portrait, although it is not a very good one. He is coming along nicely. I am very proud of his accomplishments since coming home on July 3rd.
It seems odd that I have worked so hard at having a beautiful home to live in, including residing in a beautiful town, which includes spending a king’s ransom on renovations for each home, as if I were a multi-millionaire, which I am not. And, in spite of spending the most on Blyss House, the house located on the first ridge of the Watchung Mountains, no sooner was it spent than it had to be sold. Today, I find myself here downsized at the foot of that same mountain. It is only a mile away but a million miles in terms of how I live. Gone is the glass adorned house that so generously gave me all the brightest of sunlight, so high above the ground that your vista was the tops of the trees. Gone is the splendid view of the mountains rolling into the western horizon, green undulations in spring and summer, colored in fall, black in winter, but always compelling. How often did I sit there in my living room and gave thanks to all I had: husband, house, borzoi. Why did it have to end? But end it did.
In downsizing, I did my best to keep things as close to just the same as I could. I found a very dog-friendly house with a fenced back yard. The house was for the three remaining borzoi first. I have no doubt they approved and were happy there. The only sadness was the death of Mikhailya too soon, the following June. I did not expect that.
The neighbors had grown fond of her, and acknowledged her passing with kind words, flowers and cards. I was so moved. I thought they did not like me, but then I knew I was wrong. Somehow, I had come home.