I have been quarantined in my home since the end of February. And although I have gotten caught up on many chores and my “To Do” list is short again, I am deeply saddened for all that we are going through as a human family. Even church is not open for Sunday services, you have to watch it on Zoom or Facebook, and I have not seen my son and his family, including my grand-daughter, since Christmas Eve. This all feels like a very long time ago. There have been no dog club meetings since the end of February, and all the dog shows I was to have attended have been either postponed or canceled. I keep up with close friends and family by phone, email and FB, but that is not the preferred way. I rarely if ever go to a store, and I am fortunate that my town has a team of volunteers put together by the town to shop for the senior citizens, and I am very lucky and grateful for that. Then, my new dog, Kensie, a Silken Windhound, arrived at the end of January. My predicament would have been much worse without her. Now that spring is here, there is the lawn and garden to keep me busy. But I want all my friends whom I would normally see at the dog club meetings and the shows, to know they are missed. I feel badly that no one has met Kensie yet outside of the neighborhood because I have not left town. I thought I would share some of my Blyss Kennels photos, even though my 10 days of sharing is over. I realized I have so many beautiful photographs, especially of my one litter. Perhaps no one but me really cares, but they were just such happy times here. Because they were so ephemeral, I am grateful for the many photos I have, and the beautiful portraits done by Maxine Bochnia of DigiArt. I am so glad I took the time to remember to take them. They are also at my website, Blysskennels.us. I am open to phone calls to reminisce about the shows 20 years ago when so many people, borzoi breeders, were there whom I truly loved but are gone now, when many people traveled far in their big RVs to come to borzoi specialties or large clusters, when the borzoi entries were large at the specialties and there seemed to be more owner-handled borzoi than there are today.
Can those Halcion days be really over? Can so many special dog women I know have really died of breast or ovarian cancer recently and one more entered hospice this week, expected to die any day ….. And my most loved mentor and friend of all gone, after suffering for a year in a nursing home in PA. Cumulatively, it really is all too much. Hold your borzoi, Silkens, and other dogs, horses or donkeys you may own tight at all times. When they are gone, they are gone forever, never to return.
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. Therefore, 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 other guests. 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 whom I call “Magnus” instead of “Max”, his undignified Japanese call name. Such a 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”. When My husband, whom she adored, was taken suddenly from us, Mikhailya was inconsolable. 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 one of the biggest regrets of my life.
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 was 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.
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.
It is a spring morning at Blyss, a damp, cool and cloudy day. Slowly, I am getting the work in the flower beds done. Jelly is much on my mind. At eight years of age, she was recently diagnosed with chylothorax, a serious and even fatal respiratory disease. Surgery is not an option. We are treating it medically. She is handling it well. Every day is a gift. It has been good weather to walk Jelly and visit the neighbors. It is also good weather for her to go out with her friend of two years, since I broke my shoulder, N-39, who took to stopping by and bringing Jelly to the Watchung Reservation with her and her Dalmation. Even our friend LT, whom Jelly adores, drops in to lend a hand and visit her. Jelly really does not know she is sick and is still able to run with bursts of speed. She chases rabbit, squirrel, and even deer. She is an amazing borzoi. I am providing updates to all of her friends on Facebook, where she is very popular.
I have a part time job now at a local area department store. However, I am beginning to believe this is not the best solution for me at this time. I had to miss all of the specialty shows during the first week of May. Then, the week off I had planned to go to the National I decided not to go because of Jelly’s illness. I feel as if I have heaps of disappointments piling up on me. And I feel my sense of isolation weighs heavily on me. And I am somewhat limited about what I can do about that because of caring for Jelly and not wanting to leave her alone for long periods of time. I am very much a home-body, which to a large degree is a comfort to me, I admit. But it is isolating.
Facebook is an enormous help, keeping me in touch with all of my friends in the borzoi community. I have had much good news recently. Jelly’s breeder, N-24, bred the bitch she bred three years ago. She has eight healthy puppies. The sire, from N-5, is a grandson of Magnus. So, Magnus and Mikhailya are in their pedigrees. Lucy, a Mikhailya grand-daughter, returned to Japan and is living with N-38 of Belisarius Kennels. She is currently in whelp and her puppies are due soon. People all over the world are anticipating their birth. It is so uplifting to see so much joy from these special dogs.
But it is more than just breeding and showing. There is also a lot of news on Facebook about the efforts among the breeders and rescue organizations that have been formed, such as National Borzoi Rescue Foundation and National Borzoi Rescue Foundation – International, and the efforts of the Borzoi Club of America with their Beverley Taylor Trust enabling borzois who are in a bad way or place to be saved. It pleases me so much to know that my own borzoi are not the only ones to be cared for and loved, including those that will never walk into a show ring. I also want to say I applaud other breeds whose members have established comparable organizations to help their own.
In closing, today I want to thank the Maker of the Universe for the gifts of my borzoi, especially Tresor and Jelly. Although it pains me that I lost Tresor in December, and Jelly is ill, they still came into my life to give me love I could not find elsewhere. I can only hope I did not let them down. I cannot imagine life without a borzoi of my own to love, yet I must somehow face that prospect and go on. I thank my friends for all they give me when they open their hearts and share their borzoi with me.
I have been greatly troubled by the winter weather since the death of Tresor in early December. It is early May now. Winter lingered on long, keeping snow flakes well in sight, and worries of icy roads and driveways on everyone’s mind. Where was spring, we all wonder. My barometer is the color of the mountain. The day the color of the mountain changes from black to green, it is sure to be spring. That happened about a week ago. And with it, the blossoms of the flowering fruit trees soon followed. All seemed right with the world.
Jelly developed what looked like a fatty tumor on her chest. The mostly off and on again boyfriend, “LT”, insisted I take her to the vet as if it were a matter of life or death. So I made an appointment and took the long trip to Washington, NJ. I shall be brief….. her heart beat sound was “muffled”….. it was determined at Garden State Veterinary Specialists in Tinton Falls that she has chylothorax. They removed one liter of white, fatty liquid from her chest. Now she is on a pill, a flavonoid called Rutin, three times a day, and eats a no fat prescription kibble. She seems totally cured. I have an appointment with the veterinarian in Washington on Monday, four days from today, for a follow up visit. I am hoping for a clear heart sound. In the meantime, Jelly’s behavior is totally normal. She does not act ill and never did. Dogs with this disease are usually very ill and must have surgery or they will die. We are so lucky Jelly seems to be doing so well.
In life, so much can change in the matter of one heart beat. I am very much aware of that and live in a state of suspended terror every day for the welfare of my borzoi.
My theory of how this happened is that it was a physical manifestation of her stress about losing Tresor. I am very lucky she has not died already.
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?
It is bad enough an 8 1/2 year littermate of Tresor’s, Magnus, died in August. Recently, one of Jelly’s littermates, “Giselle”, died, breaking her owners heart. Because I do the Sunshine role for Borzoi Club of Central New Jersey, I sent her owner, a member, a sympathy card. Although it was several weeks ago, she called me sometime in the last day or two. I just received the voicemail message. Although she is devastated, she expressed her condolences to me for my loss of Tresor. Following is my response. I hope it helps her.
I hope you are doing well. I wanted to acknowledge that I received your voicemail. Thank you for reaching out to me. Like yourself, my heart is broken. Tresor was from the only litter I will ever get to breed. He was a rare, unique dog for me, one I will love forever and always grieve for. Sadly, their time with us is brief so when they go they take our broken hearts with them. Let’s try to find joy in the borzoi they have left behind.
A few weeks ago, I sent a note to a very prominent man in the breed, the former Governor of Region I, Borzoi Club of America, and told him I had lost Tresor. He is now the new President of the Borzoi Club of America. He took the time out to write back to me. The correspondence follows.
Dear R—, I just thought, as a friend, I wanted to let you know I had to let my boy, Tresor, go the other day. He presented with an abdominal hematoma and at nine years of age the vet felt he would not do well with surgical intervention & would not be buying very much time if he survived an operation.
Of course I feel horrible since we only got to breed one litter & he was our only dog from it. Sometimes I wonder how we do what we do when the pain of losing them is so great. But we do it for love….at least I do. Bob & I loved him so much and we never doubted his love for us in return. Tresor was a great dog to own & love.
I’m sorry to hear your sad news. Yes, it is a wonder we do what we do. That’s why we shower them with love while we have them.
Try and enjoy the holidays and cherish the memories.
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.