Category Archives: Opal

Remembering Bob and Opal at Blyss

This month, March, is the tenth anniversary of my husband, Bob’s, death.  I find myself recalling him a great deal, what we were doing when we learned he was sick, and how little time we had left together, of  how he was robbed.  He had another great love in his life, greater than his for me, that being his two sons.  They were just entering adult life when he died.  He did not see them grow into young men, get married, and have children of their own.  I think he would have truly enjoyed that.  I believe he would have found the thrilling bliss in that that I found with the borzoi, although he did love his borzoi, too.  For me, I learned I never really knew what love was, never having had it growing up as a child.

My childhood was an ordeal of survival behind enemy lines, with parents ruling the house like they were Gestapo agents, imprisoning their children, ruling them with what can only be described as a rule book that grew thicker with every passing day.

Their favorite adages were: Spare the rod, spoil the child; and, You should only kiss your children when they are asleep.  They did not notice that their three children were growing up despising them and being totally self destructive.  They were too busy being angry all the time, with one another, and their offspring.    Somehow, sadly, we survived.

I understand Bob had a happy childhood, with laid back and easy going parents.  He, and all his siblings, always appeared to have smiles on their faces.  My siblings and I were profoundly emotionally disturbed, and did not wear smiles well.  We looked rather ghoulish with smiles on our faces, so we practiced looking in mirrors trying to look intelligent or serious instead.  It seems particularly sad that  I, who am so damaged, am left alive while Bob had to die ten years ago.  I feel so sorry for him that he had to miss so much happy, quality, family time.    I know how precious it is, but I had to learn about it from borzoi.

Borzoi taught me about love, human love.  I thought I loved Bob when I married him, but I had been made too damaged by my mother to be able to love anyone again.  It was fun and easy to love the borzoi.  When I look back at my old photographs with them, I don’t recognize myself.  I look so healthy, and am always beaming in a huge smile I cannot diminish.  In January, 2005, we  bought Opal.  I became manic with joy.  Eighteen months later she died, and I crashed into a devastating depression and have never been the same again.  I cannot forget what I lost when she died, my greatest loss, my heart itself, my joy that only she brought me.   I have read accounts like this by  other people sometimes on FB, not often, because usually people have multiple borzoi and the others help the owner get over the loss.  However, sometimes, a kennel will have one of those very extraordinary borzoi that transcends who and what it is, and when the owner writes about it, I recognize and understand what has happened to them.

Somehow, I am learning to love and smile, because I have grown from that place.  In the process, I have learned that Opal made a difference in my life, by enabling me, after almost 15 years, me to experience love and joy again.  I do not mourn her, I celebrate her, every day.  I was the luckiest person in the world to have had her.  I believe we will be reunited upon my death.  Opal is my definition of heaven.  Someday, when she comes up to me and looks up, and then hit me with her paw, like she used to, then, she will never be far away again.

I would like to think it is getting better at Blyss with Kensey

Today, I awoke slowly.  Over the weekend, it was time to turn the clocks ahead so we are in “Daylight Savings Time”, that gives us more sunlight in the afternoon and evening.  That gives me time to give my dog a second or third walk in the late afternoon or after dinner.  It is usually the warmer time of year, so I am out more, working in my garden or talking to the passers by, or my neighbors.  My home, and home town, are particularly conducive to this.  All I have to do is get up and live and I find myself enjoying the idyllic surroundings with which I am blessed.

I have been more blessed in past times because I had lived with several borzoi, as many as five or six at a time.  That is a memory bourgeoning with bliss running over, especially when our litter was born. Then my last husband, Bob, was alive.   Bob, who was taken from me almost violently, was ravaged by pancreatic cancer at the age of 56, ten years ago this week in 2021.  I came across some photos this weekend during happy times, in particular, the time of our wedding in 2000.  We looked so happy.  I declared myself  a “Millenium Bride”! looked so amazingly beautiful and young.  I do not look that way anymore.  The last twenty years have been cruel.  I have had cancer twice, and lived through the ravages of two nervous breakdowns.  Sadly, I recovered and did well on my own after Bob was gone, and missed him terribly, knowing we would have been happy together again, but it was too late.  Following his passing, I have just endured ten years of bitter loneliness as I have dated one loser, liar, basket case cripple after another, looking for love.  I am a woman who craves human love, never having had it as a child.

Today, I am no longer able to keep borzoi, I am just too frail from  having lost so much weight during my illnesses.   I am still active, however, in my clubs, I participate in Meet the Breeds when it is in NY City, and I am an active member of the Borzoi Club of America. However, I have ventured into the world of Silken Windhounds and I am currently living with the irresistible “Kensie”, from the Wind ‘n Satin Kennel of Mary Childs in Ohio.  A more precious creature with a princess attitude cannot be found.  She is loved and adored by all who meet her.  She knew instantly I was her person and what her job was.  She is a jewel of a dog, so much like a borzoi in every way, just half the size.  I will admit, she does not have the “drama” of a borzoi, but in every way, she is  just perfect.  I was profoundly depressed when she came.  My maintenance medications were all increased, and with her presence in the home, and the structure caring for another living creature creates in your life, I began to feel better quickly.  The same thing that would have made me happy as a child makes me happy as an elderly woman today.

Finding wisdom on Facebook for Blyss

I am frequently amazed by the truly great pieces of writing that end up in my Facebook feed.  It is as if the writer were sitting there in the room with me and looking deep into my very heart and knows exactly how I feel and expresses it with perfect clarity.  So it is with the writing of  Stephanie Bennett-Henry, especially one particular post, that I will share on my own blog, here that she posted on August 2,2015:

“I want the weirdos, the clumsy, fumbling, awkward ones  who call themselves a big mess.  That’s where it’s at.  Give me the one whose eyes are colored with shades of madness.  Throw me in a room with the loners, the ones who never found their place.  Sit me down at the table with the dreamers, the ones who feel with their eyes and see with their hearts.  Surround me with the extraordinary souls who inhale passion through their fingertips and exhale creativity from masterpieces in their bones.  I want to dance with the ones who will break their own hearts because they only know how to love too hard or not at all.  Build a path with the pieces of the broken ones.  I will follow the trail and carry each piece back to its owner, showing them the stained glass pieces of their beautiful, broken magnificence.”

Stephanie Bennett-Henry. Copyrighted.

So yes, there is dignity and loss in defeat.  There must be, be some positive dimension for humans since it is so ubiquitous and it does not kill us, it just keeps coming.  Is this a realistic interpretation of the human condition, flailing around, coming up short, losing everything, “dying” even, when you are still very much alive?  I am a master at surviving deaths.  I have had several reincarnations: surviving my childhood, surviving my first and second marriages, and coping with the tragedies that befell my kennel.  First, a puppy died unexpectedly.  I had forgotten puppies died, as I was so focused on breeding them and on their subsequent arrivals!   After, the puppies from my only litter were sent far away by my co-breeder, the one I got to keep was very sickly his first two years of life and was not emotionally sound.  This was challenging and I was focused on these events more than it was warranted until the punishing hand of God delivered its final blow: taking my darling husband, prematurely young, from cancer.  The only mercy to the story was it was swift.

My dreams of an adult life, happily married with a child and a houseful of dogs, Llewellyn English Setters come to mind since I did not know what borzoi were then,  a show kennel and horses in a pasture,  and never at a loss for love, was a bitter delusion that I never stopped pursuing long after it was feasible.  I pursue it still, and I am a very old woman.

And there lays my psychosis.  It is what places me in the room with the eyes colored with shades of madness, thrown in a room with loners who never found their place, who feel with their eyes  see with their hearts.  And yes, I have wanted to “dance” with the ones I knew would break my heart because they, too were flawed and could not love, so like my parents before them.  My life is lived on a path of broken stones and every step is painful.  But I see no magnificent stained glass portrait of myself to hang in the window to catch the sun and celebrate my life.  I am in a very dark place. The pieces of my life lie on the ground like broken stones, and an urn will hold my ashes in a mausoleum when I die.

A voice in cyberspace resonates at Blyss

Once again in a most unexpected way it is  words from a stranger on Facebook that someone shared to my feed that has caused me to take pause and reevaluate my psychological  outlook and my interpretation of the most painful events of my life that have transpired starting in childhood, culminating with the death of my last borzoi in 2019.  It was a long run on tragedies and I have been beaten down by them, almost to nothing,  Yet am very physically strong and resilient  beyond anything one should expect to be able to do.   Yet here I am still standing if not shattered and shaken to my core.   How sad it is to have had to live through these tribulations, most of which were unnecessary.  I was not alone in my misery, it was due to profound parental dysfunctionality resulting in our suffocation, and all of my siblings endured the pain with me, none coming out any better for the experience.  It threw us into odd directions as adults, along tangents that  could never intersect, leaving us lonely and alone forever.  In my untouchable wretchedness, God, and my husband, Bob, gave me my borzoi.  The year was 2003.  By January 2005,   the jewel of the kennel,  my most  beloved Opal (Raybo Opalesque of Byss) arrived.  I never saw, nor have ever seen, such an exquisite creature,   Nor had I ever loved anything more than I did her, canine or human.   She was the daughter I never had.  My great love was reciprocated in kind and then some.  But perfect bliss was not to be for I am me, and by 19 months she had passed away from an obscure, rare congenital  disease.  Breeding is not a straight line.  The event took place fourteen and a half years ago but it is like fourteen minutes.  I ruminate, I cry, I grieve, I write, I speak of her and of my never failing love and the loss I suffered by losing her.  I know it is wrong but I could not help how I felt.  Fourteen  years of grief wrestled me down and I am drowning.  I have almost died of grief related issues by becoming anorexic and having cancer twice in seven years.  Opal wasted and so have I.  I have longed to be where she is.  Life is not livable for me without her.  I needed her spirit to keep me going but it is gone, and has been gone a long time now.

However, today presented me with something that perhaps made me see it another way, and perhaps made me realize  I was wrong.  Opal is the best thing I ever had, and the best thing that ever happened to me.  It was put this way by a writer,   Elizabeth Ammons, from Lessonslearnedinlife.com.    She writes as follows, and it appeared in my Facebook feed on December 2, 2020:

“You can shed tears because they are gone, or you can smile because they lived.

You can close your eyes and pray they will come back, or you can open your eyes and see all that they left for you.

Your heart can be empty because you can’t see them, or you can be full of the love you shared.

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday, or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.

You can remember only that they are gone, or you can cherish their memory and let it live on.

You can cry and close your mind and feel empty, or you can do what they would want.

Smile…. Open your heart…. Love…. And go on.”

These are words I need to read, study and hear.  My grief of 14 years diminishes Opal.  I should celebrate her.  Her memoir,  and that of all my borzoi, should bring me joy, not make me wish for my death.  Yes, she is gone, as are they, but in time we will be together again as if no time had separated us.  I must have more faith in destiny.  My ugly childhood is over.  My borzoi loved me unconditionally and gave me back my happiness, or perhaps gave me a measure of happiness I never had.  I hope my story touches others who grieve and cannot be comforted, or others who know the hell of a childhood devoid of love.

 

 

Life today at Blyss Kennels. After a hiatus.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Passing Days at Blyss without Jelly

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.

 

My Own Blyss Kennels

I suppose after the whirlwind of Lucy, beginning in  February 2016 when she won Reserve Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club in February 2016 followed up with winning the Best in Specialty Show at the Borzoi Club of America National Specialty Show in Kansas City a few months later, the time has come to turn the focus of the spotlight of Blyss Blog Encore back on me and the Blyss borzoi that remain with me, Tresor and Jelly.    It has been a diversion, for sure, but not one that could go unreported.  It has been a dazzling whirlwind that no one ever dreamed could be possible.  It was beyond the limits of dog show imagination!  Yet, to return to quotidian matters, life simply goes on, as it has done before. I wish I had some news, or an accomplishment of my own….  I wish I could announce that I was buying a new borzoi puppy…..  that will not be happening.  My time is spent working on dog club jobs, going to dog shows, church, making new friends in civic minded clubs and keeping loneliness at bay.  I cannot imagine life without Tresor and Jelly, so hopefully we shall all be together for a very long time.   Yet, I have to brace myself for the day when they are no longer here.  After all, I still grieve for Opal, dead eleven years in July.

In addition to the small circle of regular girlfriends that I have lost touch with recently, my dog friends have been remote this summer.   It was confirmed when one woman, over the phone, repeated something Jelly’s breeder allegedly felt towards me that would have been better left unsaid.  That experience has been difficult to endure.  I think the established breeders share very strong bonds with one another, and in their eyes, I have not proven myself very much for anything.  I am sure I have offended everybody at some point though be it unintentionally.

I have decided to be very grateful for my borzois, Jelly and Tresor, more than I can ever put into words.  They truly bring me joy and peace.  I will focus on what is good in my life, and what makes me truly happy.

Home with Tresor & Jelly

An intertwining of how three kennels created a star named Lucy!

As readers of Blyss Blog know, when my late husband and I co-owned Mikhailya with Karen Staudt-Cartabona of Majenkir Borzoi,(N5), she was co-bred to Karen’s stud dog at the time, CD BISS, MBISS, Regal By Design, “Regal”, who had proven himself to be both a great show dog and stud dog.  The litter was born on December 8, 2008.  It marks one of the happiest moments of my life.  Mikailya presented us with three male puppies, all beautiful; but one particularly outstanding that I named “Magnus”!  I told Karen in an email later that day, “He is the kind of dog  you like to take into the ring!  He is destined for greatness.”

Mikhahilya with her pups!
Specialty Sweeps, Sept. 2009.Karen Staudt-Cartabona & Lorene Connolly
Magnus shown with Karen Staudt-Cartabona and Lorene Connolly

Later, after some time, Karen had the opportunity to sell this Boy to Belisarius Kennels in Japan where borzoi are highly valued.  Mai Ozeki purchased him in place of her father, who had recently died.  It was love at first sight for each of them.  Magnus made her very happy.  He won many honors, including Best in Shows.  Then, his get went on to win, too.  One bitch, named Lucy, was co-owned by a family in the USA.  They put her out with a handler, and Lucy went on to win enormous success as Blyss Blog Encore has reported generously.  Yes, Lucy won Reserved Best in Show at Westminster Kennel Cub in 2016, and three months later, Lucy won the Borzoi Club of America National Specialty Show in Kansas City, KS.  She was then taken out with the handler, Valerie Nunes-Atkinson for another year.  She won the breed again at Westminster in 2017, but not the Group.  She skipped the Borzoi National Specialty in 2017, leaving that venue to her son, Vinto who, sadly, did not place.  He is a special now but still very young.   He showed himself beautifully well though, and he will be a winner like his mother after taking some time to grow up.  Our mentor, Karen Staudt-Cartabona won this show again this year with another  bitch she co-owns, this time with Karen and Dr. Howard Spey from the Veterans Classs.

Vinto

Lucy was being shown out west, but shortly after the National Specialty Show, she was moved toward the south where, of all things, she was being shown with Valerie.  There, she won her 20, then 21, then 22nd Best in Shows!  These wins were all in a day’s work for Lucy and Valerie, but they made Borzoi breed history.  For, by winning BIS 21, she tied a world record of BISs held by a borzoi that was 83 years old, held by Vigow of Romanov, owned by Louis Murr.  She then won her 22nd Best in Show this week surpassing his record.  Everyone in the breed who is on Facebook is thrilled!  She is worthy of all accolades and praises.

Lucy is a beautiful borzoi bitch in every way; I can swear I see Mikhailya in her face!  Lucy has brought me, in my tiniest of kennels, a notable accomplishment.  I saw and had faith in Mikhailya’s wonderful qualities and wanted her to be bred so they could live on in the borzoi gene pool, and now they can! Having lost my beloved Opal in which I had so much faith and optimism, it was important to me to give Mikhailya that chance.

A Big BIS for Lucy!

The Spring Borzoi Shows; Dog Shows, Show Dogs and Borzoi; Blyss Borzoi Reminisces

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:

Mikhailya Portrait
Maxine Bochnia

 

Lucy: Head Study

“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.

Dogs in Review Cover Photo
Number 1 Photo

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.

Portrait of Jelly
Maxine Bochnia

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!

tresor’s Portrait

Losing Blyss Opal Ten Years Ago and Beginning Blyss Blog.

Opal

This is the iconic portrait of Opal by Maxine Bochnia taken at six months old in 2005, famous on the internet and proudly displayed at trade shows wherever she works.

Note:  Although I am writing about a very sad subject in this entry of Blyss Blog Encore, it does not reflect the way I feel in the present.  Upon reminiscing about Opal on the tenth anniversary of Her death, my words in quotation are reproductions of documents that described my feelings at that time.  

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I must look back ten years now to remember the premature death of the borzoi puppy bitch I loved so much, Opal.   I wrote Opal’s obituary shortly after Her death and posted it on BorzoiNews-L.   Opal is not for public consumption therefore I am not posting this anniversary on Facebook or Twitter, but only mentioning the anniversary in my Blog.  For  the writing of that obituary and its publication on the BorzoiNews-List,  and the first entry in my Blog one year later describing my feelings about my grief, catapulted me into creating Blyss Blog and its continuation, Blyss  Blog Encore.  It was very clear that my grief was still raw one year later and would fester for many years.  There may be some readers who remember Opal’s obituary that I posted that day in the listserv.  It follows:

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“‘And a lady always knows when to leave.”

As many of our friends know, our youngest borzoi, “Opal” at Blyss, has been ill for some time. It has been heart wrenching to see her fail to thrive, waste away, and know something was wrong but not know what. To know was worse. She fought hard to live. Sadly, she lost.

Opal will always be remembered for her beauty, sweetness and grace, and that her time with us was much too brief. I believe she had a career as a show dog in her future, although perhaps not equaled to that of her great dam. That stopped being important to us, if only she could be well. Opal was happiest when she could be at home, making everyone feel special with her unique style of affection, tapping you with her paw to get your attention, or leaning into you to be scratched behind the ears, or licking your hands and face. Still, I would be a liar if I denied regretting the loss of so many “what could have beens” for her. Truly, she was robbed. With her passing, we lose much, too: Opal’s infectious joy, the heart of our home.

Opal’s untimely departure makes me recall a wonderful line from one of my favorite movies, Fried Green Tomatoes. Ruth, a much loved main character and a beautiful young woman, dies prematurely. Her friend, Sipsy, comforts their friends with the following words:

‘It’s all right, honey. Let her go. Let her go.  Miss Ruth was a lady.  And a lady always knows when to leave.’

Thank you, Roni and Jennifer Zucker, for sending Opal to Blyss. We shall always be so grateful.

“Opal,” Raynbo Opalesque at Blyss

October 21, 2004 – July 7, 2006

“May we meet again, Dearest Little One.”

Lorene Connolly & Robert Dwyer, Blyss Kennels, Mountainside NJ

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Lorene & Opal, 1 year old.

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One year later, no less consoled, I began the Blyss Blog with these words on July 6, 2007:

“One year has passed since I had to let Opal go. She was my best dog but She soon sickened and died…Today, I don’t understand why or how I am still here….I lost much by losing Opal. Opal meant the world to me… I tried to go to Her many times, many ways, but I failed. I still wish I could die… Nothing I feel makes any difference so there is no point in having  feelings. Wishes will not bring Her back, and my wishes stand for less. I have honored and memorialized Opal with my entire being and honors and memorials can’t bring Her back. I have cried myself sick and my tears don’t bring Her back. I have sickened myself into depression and depression can’t bring Her back. I have starved myself and starvation can’t bring Her back.  And I have grieved until I am out of grief and grief can’t bring Her back. She is gone.”

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Today, nine years after writing those opening words, although I no longer suffer the loss of Opal, I have not forgotten Her.  Instead, I am humbled by the memory that the pain of Her death caused me.  It transcended the emotional, and touched me in all aspects of my life to the point that I became physically and emotionally ill.  I never thought I could be so sick, sick to the point that my life was in danger.  There were other factors involved, true, but nothing has ever caused me so much pain before or since, as holding Her lifeless body in my arms.

It is still as sad today as it was then:  I lost ten years of blissful happiness with Opal when I needed Her so much.  By losing Her life, She lost Her chance to be my dog, when I was Her special human.  Moreover, by losing Her, I knew I would be lonely forever for that special kind of special love for me that only She had.  For that special love, the kind of love that Opal gave to me, was the kind of love that eluded me in all other areas of my life, not only in my three marriages  but going back to the earliest years of my childhood, a time of nightmares, devoid of safety and peace that only nurtured an endless, desperate quest for love as an adult.

When Opal died, Her light died with Her.  I was cast into a suffocating darkness from which I could not escape.  But life is cruel, and it goes on anyway…. Today, ten years later I am here trying to show Her the respect She is due all the while becoming a different person, a recovered person from an emotional blackout that consumed me for many years that followed.  I can recall Her memory now without the horrible pain in my chest that always brought on uncontrollable tears.  Perhaps today, I understand fully that She never really left me, that She was here all the while, always right here by my side.   Today I have the faith and the courage to look down and see Her as She looks up at me.

Paris with baby Opal
Paris with baby Opal

For Opal, I wrote prayers and I wrote poems.  In particular, there is “Opal’s Prayer” and “Hounds of the Steppes”.  They help me to remember she is always alive in my heart.