I have been very busy these days after months of lethargy and depression catching up with work that had been put aside. When the weather become warm, I want to start gardening and taking care of the lawn outdoors. I need to be very disciplined however I can be most tempted to stray when a film I truly love comes on the schedule for Turner Classic Movies. Last night, when I should have been sleeping, the movie scheduled was among my top 5, Splendor in the Grass, directed by Elia Kazan, starring a very young Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty, made in 1961. Another lifetime ago, I may add. I know I can write volumes about this movie and why Iike it so much, but now is not the time. I will say, even having seen it a dozen times, each viewing is as new and raw and shocking as was the first time. It is difficult to watch the growing pains of two young people who love each other trying to do the right thing while everyone around them is acting badly and the world as they know it is undergoing profound social changes, even in the Nebraska heartland. And yes, it is excruciatingly painful to watch them as they come undone and become unrecognizable people from whom they were at the beginning of the story. Together, once so close, they launch their adult lives in such different places, determined not to think much about happiness anymore, and say a simple good by before setting off apart.
As actors, the careers of Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty exploded with stardom and success, including Oscars. It is always a joy to watch their films, each one so different yet rewarding. They talents are boundless. Natalie was taken far too prematurely with a tragedy that defied all logic, as if it were part of the plot of the movie she was making. It never added up to me…… But the death of a great movie star usually does not. They never really die. The movies and the stars I love so much share my heart with the dogs and the horse I have loved so much. I am so grateful for the technology that enables us to watch, rent or stream virtually any movie we want to watch almost anytime for a very small amount of money. They are my companions in my loneliness.
After dogs and horses, I guess I love film and photographs as an art form more than anything else.. I love good films, how they are made, who their directors are, the writers, the fashion, but most of all, the stars themselves. I think a good movie will reflect the culture in which it was made. I also believe a great movie fills what an audience needs at the time. A film maker is judged by how accurately he makes that judgement call. Tonight, the Academy Awards is being televised. I usually love to watch it. I was just settling in. Suddenly, on an imulse, I flipped over to TCM (Turner Classic Movies). I found a film had just begun that happened to be among my absolute favorites. I wanted to stop everything and watch it. That is exactly what I did. I had no power whatsoever to resist it. The movie was National Valvet. It was made in 1944, and in color. It starred one of Elizabeth Taylor’s earliest movies (her fifth). It was also a very early film of Mickey Rooney. Also featured was Anne Revere, who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her noble performance as the simple mother who encouraged her young daughter to ride her horse, The Pie, in the Grand National Steeplechase Race as she shared the story with her that she herself had swam the English Channel when she was just a teen-ager. Another treasure in the film is the debut of Angela Landsbury in her first film role as Velvet’s eldest sister. You can find a lot of quotes on the Internet from National Velvet but the one that is my absolute favorite is not there. There is a very similar one, almost verbatim, in the film, Black Beauty, by the young mistress who loves him. It goes something like: I would as soon not go to heaven than see The Pie unhappy.
That about sums it up for the way I have felt and still do feel about the way I love my own dogs and the one horse I had the privilege to own in my life. The movie underscores the sentiment shared by so many young woman almost universally, that these is nothing better than a horse. To believe anything else is an illusion. When I think of my own life and the dogs and horse I owned, I diminishes in worth compared to theirs. They are so precious and dear to me. It is that by loving them, somehow I am loved in the way I was never loved by those who failed to love me. Or, it is that by loving them, it does not really matter anymore that significant others did not love me. My ability to love my horse and my dogs becomes my victory over pain and rejection, my gift to myself when others took away all my joys and acceptance, and then were there again, even God himself, to take even more from me.
Undoubtedly, National Velvet is among one of the best movies ever made for its drama, excitement, beauty and values. But not to go unmentioned, all of the Lassy movies, some of which Elisabeth Taylor also did a superb job acting in, are equally excellent. So, whether the Academy Awards are on TV, or the Westminster Kennel Club dog show, or another truly excellent movie, I think if either National Velvet or a Lassie movie appears on the TCM schedule, I will just change my plans impromptu and make myself comfortable. Truly, I cannot resist them.
Today, Sunday February 9, 2020, the Westminster KC dog show began judging breeds for the first time on Sunday at Pier 94, making breed judging a three day event. The Group judging would remain the same, at Madison Square Garden, Monday and Tuesday night, with Best in Show on Tuesday night. Borzoi were judged in Ring 1 at 9:30 am, so I was sure to be awake and up, ready to watch the judging via live streaming through the Fox News app. It was wonderful and magical to watch it live from the comfort of my easy chair in my living room without having to leave the house and travel to NY City. Upon making myself comfortable, imagine my surprise to see again descendants of my own beautiful Majenkir bitch, “Mikhailya”, Ch Majenkir My Ksar Mikhailovna. One bitch was handled by a Borzoi Club of Central NJ member, Mami Shuma. She was Majenkir Circle in a Spiral, a “Max”/”Magnus” daughter and a “Mikhailya” grand-daughter. In addition, Shota Hirai was in the ring handling CH Belisarius Jp Wild Rumpus “Lam”, a daughter of “Candy”, who won Best of Breed, down from Magnus. And, a third Majenkir borzoi, who won Best Opposite Sex, GCHB CH Majenkir Bookstore Spellbinder “Vigow”. Yes, I have been lonely and heartbroken for the loss of my own beloved “Mikhailya” in June 2013 and nothing can ever make up for her loss. Everything ended for her and me when Bob, my husband, died suddenly in March 2011. But she lives on in these dogs and the many others who carry her genes forward after her death. I had asked the Borzoi Breed Archive to compile a reverse pedigree for her going out five generations. They complied, showing that “Mikhailya” has approximately 150 offspring located around the world mostly because of her son, “Max”/”Magnus”.
In addition to BOB and BOS, the next dog selected was Select Dog, GCHS CH Belisarius JP CI My Big Boy
Select Bitch was GCHB Crown Jewel Princess Eugenia
Award of Merit was CH Justart Majenkir Status Symbol
Award of Merit CH Estet Classic Timofei
It was a very strong class, one worthy watching and cheering. Good luck Monday night in the Hound Dog Group!
I have endured much since Jelly’s death nine months ago, trying to accept my decision not to acquire another dog, or at least not another borzoi. It has been a long time to be alone and unhappy, and I will admit to having made some grave mistakes. They were followed by a very difficult period of serious health problems, more than one, but not excluding a worsening of a depression. I sought relief where I had done so before, with my physicians, and it was agreed that the time might be right to consider bringing another dog into my life but a breed other than a borzoi. After much consideration, I decided to acquire a beautiful Silken Windhound from Mary Childs of Wind ‘n Satin Kennels in Ohio. She is a long time borzoi breeder, and active, life time member of the Borzoi Club of America. In recent years she has taken to breeding Silken Windhounds. When she learned I was interested in acquiring one, she contacted me. She happened to have the most perfect individual in her kennel for me, a four-and-a-half-year old bitch, a Grand Champion who had recently whelped a litter and was ready to place in a regular home. After the sharing of some photos, it was confirmed that this perfect angel would come to Blyss. Her name is Kensie. Immediately upon her arrival, Kensie knew what she was there for, and that I was her person. She never whimpered or looked back, she never uttered a sound of disturbance or complaint, or put a foot wrong. She simply adored me upon entering my home as if she knew she had a reason to be there, mainly being to heal my broken heart.
Lorene, Karen Ackerman, and Mikhailya’s grand-daughter, Hawk Eye
There are no words to describe the loss and grief I feel knowing all of the Blyss borzoi are gone. And even Jelly, so wisely chosen from Bibikov Kennels in Cross River, NY, and destined by Frances Wright to come to Blyss ever since she was born, has joined them in farewell. I wander around as if I were a blind person, bumping into life’s obstacles, not knowing how to get out of the way of pain. And at the end of the day, every day, I ask myself, “Why am I here?” And I have no answer.
I can only contemplate that as alone as I am in my humanity, even a higher being does not want me.
I had the joy in May of attending the Spring borzoi specialty shows in NJ and PA, and was honored to have Wendy Finlayson of Mayvale Borzoi, in New Zealand, be my houseguest for one week. After the shows, we were invited for a day to Majenkir, a true high point. The last time I was there, it was all of nine years ago, to deliver the puppies of the one Blyss Kennels litter to Majenkir, the inimical “Magnus”, and his littermate who was lost, “Zephyrus”. I say “Zyphyrus” was lost because he was sold to a family on the west coast and was not heard from again after the male owner of the couple died suddenly and he and the wife went to live with one of the adult children. Not long after, “Magnus” was sold to Belisarius Borzoi, in Japan, to the Ozekis. So, after nine years, I had the joy of being invited back with Wendy and other guests, Frances Wright of Bibikov, Don Foran from the UK, Karen & Howard Spey of Bookstor, and a few others. It was a lovely May day, and many wonderful photos were taken. We were then treated to a wonderful dinner at a nearby restaurant, The Lake Edge, on the shore of Swartswood Lake, that had the misfortune of burning down a few months later. Karen had many new young dogs to show us that day. The place looked as lush and gorgeous as ever, as if with the passage of time, it only got better. The borzoi never looked lovlier, as if she had honed her craft to such a degree that she no longer bred mere mortal canines, but canine deities. More would be seen of them at the fall specialties four months later. I cannot hold back the piece of intelligence that those particular specimens, a sire and his daughter, are direct descendants of my Magnus, the very borzoi pup I delivered to her on that day in March 2009, a grandson named “Vigow”, and a grand-daughter named “Symbolic”. At the Borzoi Club of Central NJ Specialty Show on September 7, 2019, “Vigow” won Best of Breed, and his daughter, the puppy-bitch shy of 18 months, “Sympolic”, won Best Opposite Sex. I was so totally over the moon happy!
While I was at the Borzoi Club of America Specialty Show in May, in Gettysburg, PA, from May 11 – 18, I renewed my acquaintance with the regional governor in the west, Karen Ackerman, who happens to own a Mikhailya grand-daughter, and a Magnus daughter, “Hawk-Eye”, who courses and does Open Field Coursing. I met her with her husband and Hawk Eye several years ago at the National in Huron, Ohio so I was thrilled to see her again in Bethlehem, PA. I just learned that she has a littermate of Symbolic, Lyra, who courses with Hawk Eye, and I was absolutely thrilled to learn of that, because I know that she has a second progeny of Mikhailya and Magnus, and that puppy bitch, too, has a great life.
I know that Magnus, and therefore my Mikhailya, have progeny all over the world. This makes me so proud, but I wanted to know who they were, how many there were, and where they lived. In order to obtain this data, I needed a report known as a “reverse pedigree”. Therefore, I requested one from an organization that compiles this information, Borzoi Breed Archive, in Vienna, AU. At first they said they did not have this capability and therefore could not provide it to me. Then, I received traumatic, tragic news about Magnus from a most unlikely source.
One day in June, I received a letter from Keizo Kaida, the former employee of Belisarius Kennels and handler of Magnus in Japan. He shared some very unhappy news regarding Magnus, and included photographs. Interestingly, Wendy Finlayson was in all of the photographs. He maintained that in August 2017, Magnus died suddenly, a day after Wendy left Belisarius Kennels after a visit of several days. That I had known, and always thought was “strange”, like, why did my borzoi die because Wendy left? But, Kaiza maintained that Magnus was not well kept in his retirement, he was kept in a kennel that was too hot and damp for him, and he suffered for it. My feelings regarding his death in connection to Wendy is that he heard English spoken. She doted on him, and showered him with attention and affection. She gave him a bath and blow dried him. This was shown in many photos I saw. Surely he looked happy. Then, she left, leaving him behind. My beloved Magnus believed he was going home, and when he realized he was left behind, he died the very next day. Wendy did take two of her own dogs out of the kennel that day when she left, but she left Magnus behind. If only she had taken my Magnus, too.
I had been told when he died that he was a house dog since his retirement, an unfortunate mistruth. How sad….. How sad he was not sent home when Belisarius was finished with him so he could die in New Jersey, where he would be loved. He deserved to be sent home. He made great amounts of money for both Majenkir and Belisarius kennels, and earned them a great many titles.
When I learned about this, I contacted the Manager of Borzoi Breed Archives, Karin Schellner, and told her about the Magnus’s story. I told her how much it would mean to me to get his reverse pedigree. I told her about how he died a slow, sad death, alone, unwell, and in exile in Japan. Karin ran the report for me, with the data she had at the time, going out four generations, all the data she had at that time, gratis. I was overjoyed to receive it, and sent her organization a donation of $100.00. She said the Borzoi Breed Archive was going to make this report available to everyone very soon. The report showed Magnus had 123 progeny all over the world, going out four generations. I am so proud of this great borzoi. Such bitter loss as this can never be measured for the depth and breadth of the pain of it. Let it be a cautionary tale. Guard them well. They give us so much when they trot around the ring and look so pretty doing it. It is not what they would ever do naturally. They do it for us, because we ask it of them, and because they love us. We owe them at the very least the very best of our care when we are through with them.
If anyone wants a copy of Magnus’s Reverse Pedigree, please contact me, Lorene Connolly, at Lorenecon@gmail.com, and I will be happy to share it with you, along with some of his beautiful photographs. He was one of the most handsome borzoi ever to be bred. But his dam was one of the most beautiful borzoi that ever lived…
for photos and information about CH Majenkir My Ksar Mikhailovna “Mikhailya”, the dam of “Magnus”.
Every day to live with Mikhailya was a gift. Mikhailya was a once in a lifetime dog. My husband, whom she adored the most, died prematurely and was taken suddenly from us. I tried to make a good life for her, but in my heart, although I did my best, I know I failed her. I have to live with that knowledge every day. It is the biggest regret of my life.
For the last two years, I needed to work because, sadly, I needed the money. However, working did not help my finances much, especially the last year when I worked in a very fancy department store with beautiful clothes and jewelry. I am a girl with a spending disorder, and it kicked in while I was there. I had to quit that job and I decided to address my cash shortages by closely examining my spending patterns and I found many “mistakes”. Still, I have financial obligations that are considerable and challenging. Not having a borzoi at this time will help keep me on the path to becoming more financially sound. But I have made the decision to attend the Borzoi National Specially this year because I can drive to get to it, and that is a good thing.
I thought about moving to southern Delaware but after a long consideration, realized I could not do it. I could not leave my home, and did not want to be far from NY City where my son and his family live. I have a baby grand-daughter now whom I adore. I am trying to be happy in the here and now, content that what I have is good, just as it is, that I have accomplished a lot, and have every right to be happy. But the real reason is I could not leave my home in Mountainside, or the beautiful Watchung Reservation that borders it where our lives, Bob’s and mine, with our borzoi was lived.
Before deciding not to move, I set about cleaning out boxes and files in the garage and attic. There, I found many items of interest, including my borzoi books, magazines, BCOA Yearbooks with photographs of Blyss Kennels borzoi, and many figurines. I have decorated my house with the figurines and pictures, many of which are beautifully framed. Going through my files, I found all of the correspondence with Karen Staudt-Cartabona of Majenkir Borzoi, the owner of the stud dog for Mikhailya’s litter, that I had done over the years, especially those written during the summer of 2008, prior to breeding Mikhailya. They were long emails, pouring my heart out to her, about how I felt about Mikhailya, and why I wanted her to be bred. Then, I found the email telling her about the birth of the puppies, and how splendid a puppy Magnus was, about his “greatness” even as a newborn! After that, I found a file about “Raynbo”, the kennel of Roni and Jennifer Zucker, from whom we got Paris and then Opal. There were photos of visits to their home: club events, a Match show, picnics, private invitations. I was overwhelmed. Tears flowed…… So much is gone now or different: Roni is dying in a nursing home; Jennifer has to work outside of her home and kennel; Bob is dead; I am old and frail; all of the borzoi of those days are all dead. Nothing is as it was. Although reviewing these materials left me feeling overwhelmed, I was so grateful to have saved and found it all again.
I am very excited about leaving for the Borzoi National Specilty Show tomorrow. However the preceding two weeks have been truly special, as well. On May 2nd., Wendy Finlayson, of Mayvale Borzoi, New Zealand, was looking for a host home near the East Coast Spring Borzoi Specialty Weekend in early May, and I w.as recommended to her by Joy Windle. I graciously accepted the opportunity to host her. Therefore, on Thursday, May 2nd I picked her up at Newark Airport and we were on our way. On Friday, May 3rd, there were back-to-back specialties with the Borzoi Club of Greater NY and the Borzoi Club of Delaware Valley. Daniel Foran, who was being hosted by Frances Wright, was judging the Borzoi Club of Greater NY, and it was very exciting to watch his class.
On Wednesday, we were invited to the home and kennel of Karen Staudt-Cartabona. Fran along with Daniel were there, too, along with Karen and Howard Spey. It could not have been a lovelier day. There we saw many puppies and adult borzoi of various ages. Among them was a bitch named “Mericlone. This is a “Mikhailya” Grand-Daughter and a “Magnus”/”Max” daughter, making her a half-sister of Belisarius “Lucy”. As I stood besides her, caressing her, she stood quietly besides me. As shd did, she tapped me several times with her paw, as if she understood my significance to her life, and was trying to tell me something. She was exquisite. Later, we got to see more puppies and dogs, and it was a wonderful day. Wendy critiqued Mericlone’s litters; Mericlone recently had three, along with some of the other dogs. Wendy was very impressed with the high quality of the dogs Karen had at this time.
The last time I had been to Karen’s home was when I gave Karen the puppies that were hers from the Blyss litter, “Magnus” and a third pup, 9 years ago. It was a bright, sunny day in March, 2009. It was hard for me to give up my puppies. I knew it would be my only one, and I would have given the world to keep them, but this would not be possible. I knew “Magnus” would go on to greatness with Karen. Regarding the third puppy, his owner sadly died shortly after getting him and it was hoped that one of his adult children would take him in. Therefore, I lost touch with him. I hope and pray that he did well, too. It’s funny how life is. Three men associated with this litter died at that time the litter was born. Mr. Ozeki, the father of Mai Ozeki Hirai, the owner of the third puppy, and my husband. But today, it feels like a lifetime ago. I had to sell our beautiful, spacious home and kennels at the top of the first ridge of the Watchung Mountain range in Mountainside, NJ, and downsize considerably on a small property at its base. Life is difficult, unpredictable and capricious. One must always be ready for what lies ahead, for the most unexpected. At least I was able to keep all my borzoi, then when they died, I was able to get Jelly from Fran, who wanted me to have her in 2010 when she was a puppy, shortly before my husband became ill.
I will say life is unbearable here without Jelly. I am acutely aware that this is all so deja vue. I am taken back almost thirteen years to the death of Opal. This is definitely familiar territory, and not terrain one would want to visit again any time soon.
But if I am devastated, Jelly’s darling dog walker is destroyed. She stopped by today weeping, asking why I put her down when I did, and why I did not wait, saying she would have taken over the payment of the continued veterinary bills. This would not have been feasible, given this woman’s financial situation. Still, I know she would have done it…… there is no limit to the kindness of some people, and she is that kind of person. And Jelly was the kind of dog that would bring it out in someone. A man who accompanied her on her walks with Jelly with his dog was equally devastated and burst into uncontrollable sobs when he heard the news. I decided to go to The Scouting Field in the Watchung Reservations to be with them today, and joined them on a hike to the Deserted Village. I had not done this in several years, probably not since I broke my shoulder walking Tresor three years ago. Jelly loved this daily outing with them, and they told me of her many exploits out on the trail and all the fun she had. I felt she was there with us, and not only Jelly but all the Blyss borzoi, especially Opal, whose image kept flashing before my eyes during this long and rather arduous venture for me. For the longer I had Jelly, the more she melded into Opal, and the more I felt that Opal had returned, and that she had never left me. I had had her with me all these years. Recently, with this new found knowledge, I felt blissfully happy, happier than I had been in years. Then, she was gone. So now, I am grieving again for Opal, too. I feel that every time I reached out and touched Jelly, I was touching something God-like, something beyond reality, and it transformed me into something beyond what I was, something greater, better, beyond anything I could ever be myself. Because of them, Jelly and Opal, especially, but all the Blyss borzoi, I was a better person. Their innate goodness made me good. I bought this beautiful cottage eight years ago for my four borzoi. Now they are all gone. Now, I am alone, and I will be alone forever. It is as if they died, and I died with them. My beautiful house has become a hollow tomb. And I am still here I it, and I don’t know why.
It is with the heaviest of hearts that I share the sad news of Jelly’s passing today. She fought a brave fight for one year with chylothorax, submitting to procedures multiple times. Always brave and stoic, she was a great actress for putting on a healthy face, as if to say, “See, Mommy, I’m just fine!”. But I saw her as she struggled to cross a small field to reach me, and turned away so not to embarass her for taking so long. I also saw her trying to stalk and hunt little animals but not be able to make the charge and pounce, and could only imagine what she must have thought….. I had always turned away by then so she would not know I knew she failed. We had perfect communication, without words, and I knew she was far worse than she seemed. The vet let me be with her when she passed. He had a beautiful red velvet blanket to give her to lie on. He took one last picture of us together on it. When she passed, she looked as if she were just resting there, looking very beautiful, with no sign of illness anywhere. She died with her splendid beauty intact. Jelly’s official portrait taken by Maxine Bochnia is shown below. I think it captures her unique beauty and grace to perfection. Somehow, feeling friendless and robbed, I must find a way to go on without her. Heaven has a brighter star for having Jelly in it. Dear God, please let me find it to guide me home.
As one may imagine, the silence of my words although gravely remiss has been due to serious factors. The primary reason is the acceptance of a full time rewarding position of employment in September. I would never have believed that returning to the workforce would make such an enormous difference in my sense of well being, but it has. I am a Sales Associate at a very respected and prestigious department store with its flagship store on the Upper East Side of NY City. Every day I work there is a thrill. Wherever my eye rest I see beautiful clothes the likes of which I never see anywhere else. I have even had the pleasure and ability to significantly upgrade my own wardrobe thanks to the generous employee appreciation incentive discounts they offer. I work with lovely people, both co-workers and customers. I won’t say it is always easy and it is not exhausting at times for me, but overall I love it and would not return to being at home with tons of time on my hands mostly being spent alone as a widow. I cannot make a romantic connection of any kind with anyone. I must admit I am grateful for the ongoing attention and interest LT takes in my life and well being, even if he has moved on and is happy. He says he is amazed that I am working so hard and is very happy to see me restored to my former state of health and strength, a way that I was before he knew me, a way I had only described. He had his doubts, but now, seeing it with his own eyes, he says he is very happy for my achievement over being weak, depressed and ill. It is a change so significant it shocks even myself.
On another amazing note, it is not only myself who has made an amazing recovery to a state of former health and strength, but so, too, has Jelly. This is the most amazing of phenomenon. In May, she was diagnosed with chylothorax, a fatal canine disease. I waited for her to pass all summer, but it was not to be. She simply remained stable and then gradually grew
stronger. My beloved Girl did not die after all and is still here with me. It only proves what I believe in life, that we are all in God’s hands after all. It does not really matter what a veterinarian says at the end of the day. Destiny will run its course, and the life of a creature with it. So, here, in the dark, cold month of December, I will not complain because it is very cold outside and I am exhausted for working all day, because I came home to find Jelly waiting for me, happy to see me, and to eat our dinner together, and wanting for nothing else. Getting Jelly in 2015 caused me a great deal of expense and complications to my life but I would not ch ange a thing about them, becauase having her here has been worth everything because she makes me so happy.
The only dark spot on my horizon is the near one year anniversary of Tresor’s death. Jelly even played a positive role in his life, being here when he was returned to me, making his last years happier ones than they would have been had she not been here. Borzoi need other borzoi. Jelly is totally independent but Tresor was not. Her presence bought him great comfort. Only good has come from bringing Jelly into my life. She is a good and sweet little borzoi in every way. She brings infinite blessings to me every day she lives.
I know, many years ago, going on thirteen, I lost a much loved puppy bitch named Opal which brought me much grief. I never thought I would feel another dog could be as close to me as she was or could ever hold her special qualities. Today, many years later, and having lived with Jelly for some time, I have to say that Jelly has in many ways given those special and dear qualities that I lost when Opal died back to me. It is really difficult to articulate this, because Opal truly was so special and dear, but Jelly does so much to make me happy and is so good. I owe her the credit of the complement that she is so like Opal, more than I could ever have imagined any other borzoi or dog could be.