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 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.
I returned to the workplace full time on Tuesday, September 4, 2018, after working part time for one year, moving to a different retail store. I was surprised to have the position offered to me. Sadly, I needed the money as well as more things to fill my time. I was tired of having open ended unstructured days trying to navigate life as a widow very much held down by the responsibilities of keeping borzois and the upkeep of a home in an area of the country with a high cost of living.
For good news, it appears Jelly’s condition of chylothorax has disappeared. I thought it was always fatal. There was no mistake in the diagnosis. Her chest was tapped twice, with a considerable amount of fluid extracted. Although it is perplexing , it is joyful to know she is well.
I have to stay focused on the blessings life has tossed my way, the ability to pay my bills, and the health of Jelly. Her breeder and I are even discussing the possibility of showing her as a Veteran at the upcoming Borzoi Club of America National Specialty Show in May. She finished her championship as a puppy, and this would crown her life.
Life goes along in these twisted, bizarre ways. The return of Jelly’s health may portend to return her to the show ring where she began. This would be her personal victory over death. Many people would be happy for her, and I think for her breeder and me, too. It would be a very happy ending to the story of Blyss Kennels, a story that began with the dramatic death of a precious puppy bitch, followed by that of my husband, leaving me alone and confused not knowing where to turn. I would hope I brought it to the right place; a place with happy beautiful dogs and my life where it belongs.
After having written about Lucy and her many accomplishments over the last two years, the Grand-daughter of our Blyss Kennels bitch, Mikhailya, from the one litter she had, you are no stranger to her phenomenal list of accolades. However, if you have not followed the story or are new to the Blog, allow me to reproduce the post that Valerie Nunez-Atkinson, her handler of two years, wrote about her on the eve of putting her back on the plane to Japan. Upon arrival, she will return to Belisarius Kennels to Mai Ozeki Hirai, her original owner and breeder. Her great sire, “Max”, Mikhailya’s puppy, sadly passed last August and will not be there to greet her at her homecoming. Valerie’s Facebook post follows, documenting Lucy’s show career and accomplishments:
May 8 at 9:52pm
See you soon…..on her way home to Japan
The time has finally came, forced to say our goodbyes, The Lovely Lucy is on her way home.
We’ve dreaded this day as we have done in the past and no doubt will in the future. It’s the hard part of opening our hearts to those that come to us, those that we welcome and take in as family.
Lucy, with us for over 2 years exceeded all expectations…2015 Top Dog All Breeds in Japan with her great handler Shota, AKC’s All Time Top Winning Borzoi, the #1Hound in 2017, National Specialty BISS, 3x BOB winner at the Westminster KC, 2x Hound Group Winner at Westminster KC and lastly RBIS at the 2016 Westminster KC….and she has also already produced a National Specialty Winning Son (WD & BOW)….All of that aside, she was just our dog that we loved and adored. She smashed every record and set more but for us she is the dog that stole our hearts with her sweet soft nature, silly snorts, scootie butt zoomies, her glamorous self and her heart that gave us her all every single time she stepped into the ring. And, that says it all considering she IS a Sighthound bitch, lol;)) When she came to us we didn’t know if she could withstand or have the want to show for what is expected here in the States….we were ready to accept that reality if it wasn’t in her heart. But, after her breathtaking USA debut at Westminster KC and her heart stopping RBIS from Famed Breeder Judge; Richard Meen we decided to see what she could do….. she readily and happily stepped up to the plate and the winning began….her National Specialty came from another Breeder Judge; Ron Spritzer (Carol Spritzer) with her Son, standing behind her, another Honor. Her AKC All Time BIS record was awarded by none other then Icon Mr. Frank Sabella, truly special in that he was a unexpected judge change that day and so thrilled to have USA owners Risky M. Molnar (Michele and Jamie Danburg on hand to celebrate the day with us.
Lucy gave Antonio his FIRST USA BIS with CJ going RBIS, another memorable day. She and Antonio went on to be awarded another 9, 10 in total for the Team of Antonio and Lucy. Her BIS total 28 in USA and 13 in Japan, career of 41 All Breed BIS’s. Much of Lucy’s success is a credit to Antonio , it was all on him to keep her in tip top shape mentally and physically. Her muscle was hard, her coat glorious (when in coat after all she is a bitch and was never ever on Cheque drops) she naturally came into and out of coat as any coated female would. When out of coat and breaking the all time record under Frank Sabella….his comment was “all the better to see all her beautiful curves, both a perfect Topline and Underline” from the Man that knows it was indeed a huge compliment to her outstanding quality and type. So, Antonio thank you, thank you for all you have done for Lucy in her time with us. She adores you like all the others do a true testament to your soul. For that I’m forever grateful.
To Michele and Jamie , we were so honored to have you join our team. Without your help, encouragement and never ending support Lucy would not of had this amazing career. We all love you both.
To Shota Hirai, Mai Hirai, Kyoko Ozeki, ?? ? Minoru thank you for choosing us. There have been many others in the decade of showing for you and no doubt many more to come but there will only be ONE LUCY. We love you all;)
To all that cheered us on through the years, we thank you. The fellow breeders that supported us we are forever grateful. And to all that was on Team Lucy, thank you??.
We have cried tears of joy many times with her, today the tears of sadness from our hearts, as she heads home to Japan.
The accolades are many indeed but today our hearts are breaking as we must say ….see you next time Lucy, forever Team #welovelucy.
I will admit it is difficult for me to read this. An era of historic borzoi conformation annals comes to an end with Lucy’s return to Japan. My one comment about Mikhailya’s breeding has been consistent: It proved to be very important to the borzoi breed history, and it made so many people so happy. Then why am I weeping? As I often write on Facebook, “Tears……”
Yesterday, my club, Borzoi Club of Central New Jersey, held a Supported Entry at the New Brunswick Kennel Club show at the New Jersey Convention Center in Edison, NJ. We got 22 borzoi to enter, and it included Sweepstakes classes. Many long time showing friends from the club and the nearby clubs were there, showing their new puppies. Jelly’s breeder was supposed to be there but changed her mind at the last minute and stayed home. I was disappointed to lose the chance to see her but she has invited me to come up again another day.
There were those surprise conversations one finds they are having with others at a dog show that really stand out. A woman and I, a woman whom I respect and whom I have seen so many times, actually took the time to have a brief conversation that proved to be very profound. She knew all about Tresor and his recent death. She told me she thought he was one of most spectacular borzoi she had ever seen. That was a huge complement coming from her. She works for Karen (Mikhailya’s breeder, & my litter’s co-breeder). It’s interesting how dog people in the category of peers or friends say things like that to me, but from the breeders, there is a wall of silence. Even about Magnus and Lucy. Like it never even happened. I guess that is how they feel about me a lot of the time: Oh, her, like she never even happened.
When Tresor took his last breath, the last puff of happiness left my life and it is not coming back any time soon. My Tre, My Boy, My Heart, My Love. How could you go and leave me here without you?
I had to let Tre go suddenly yesterday during a visit to a veterinarian’s office. It was nine years & three days after he was born there. It was the happiest day of my life when his great dam, “Michailya”, gave us our only Blyss Kennels litter. He was the best thing I had to show for my life, a life characterized by extremely hard work and littered with scores of heartache & tragedies. There was never a finer spirit of a borzoi than my Tresor. I know he wanted to stay longer with me but I could not let him suffer to do it. Farewell, CD Blyss O’Majenkir Heavenly Tresure “Tresor”! Run Free with all the other great borzoi spirits in heaven until we meet again. I know I will find you there!Photo by Maixine Bochnia, Fandogs.
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!
Today, September 7, 2017, I enjoyed seeing my borzoi breed friends & mentor at the Central NJ Hound Assn Show in Bridgewater NJ. Much fun getting caught up, & esp enjoyed the borzois of all ages. So many new puppies! And other puppies are becoming so grown up!
On Saturday, Sept 9, same show grounds, North Branch Park, is the Borzoi Club of Central NJ Specialty show! Planning to enjoy a great Specialty! More members & borzoi than ever.
Best of Breed was awarded to a Boy nearly still a pup, and one that I had the joy of watching grow up, since he is a nephew of my Jelly and I was previous welcome to visit (but no more…..), the stunning young Majenkir line dog, Bibikov You Know My Name, “Hunter”, owned by N24, sired by one of N5’s stunning stud dogs. I went over to congratulate N24, but when I did, Hunter jumped out of his skin, standing up on two legs and reared, placing his front paws on my shoulders with great enthusiasm – and I let him. I hugged and kissed him, and told him what a good boy he was and how much I loved him. He was so happy to see me. What can I say….. Animals are so true, so pure…… they either like you or they don’t, they don’t have artifice about it. I was so happy for him that I stayed to watch him in the Group, but unfortunately, he did not make the cut. But it was a joy to sit ringside and see him in what will be his first of many Group classes. Hunter has a great show career ahead of him. He defeated many specials in the Best of Breed ring that day, and I was overjoyed for him.