Home to Beautiful Borzois in the Watchung Mountains in Mountainside, New Jersey

The Life of Opal

On December 26, 2004, Bob and I visited the home of Roni and Jennifer Zucker in Moscow, PA. While there, we visited their kennel, Raynbo Borzoi, and had the occasion to see the much anticipated first litter of the most spectacular borzoi bitch I had ever seen, "Dazzle", National MBISS DC Majenkir Raynbo's Dazzle SC. Her puppies, eight little girls, made up a pile in a warm room in the kennel. Jennifer quietly led us to the room where they were kept, walked inside and proceeded to lie among them. As she did, they all jumped on her, enthusiastically greeting her, all the while licking her hands and face.

One puppy, however, left the pile and walked toward the door where we were standing. As she walked, she shivered all over. I pointed her out right away to Jennifer and said, "Look, Jennifer, that puppy is shivering!". Jennifer leapt to her feet, grabbed the stray pup and said, "Do you want to hold the puppy?". She put the little one in my arms. The next thing I felt was her tiny head nuzzling me under my chin. My eyes filled with tears and my heart felt as if it would burst with love. The puppy was Opal.

A few weeks later, Roni and Jennifer brought Opal to live with us at Blyss Kennels. Everything was perfect. We were so happy. Opal represented everything we believed a borzoi should be as pertaining to type. Opal was a very elegant puppy, with curvy flowing lines, a finely chiseled head that she held high on a long swan-like neck, with an ultra-feminine air about her. It was almost as if she could have been a puppy of our champion show bitch, Mikhailya (Ch Majenkir My Ksar Mikhailovna). However, being a puppy of "Dazzle", it was not so very far removed because both bitches were bred by Karen Staudt-Cartabona of Majenkir Borzoi. Opal was very much a Majenkir bitch, too.

baby Opal

Once she settled in at Blyss, which was almost immediately, Opal revealed her greatest qualities, even at that young age: a spirit of boundless love and happiness that masked an iron will and keen intelligence.  She smoothed many a rough edge in the kennel.  Her way was to go from dog to dog, licking each one's face:  the most grumpy, the most regal, the most aloof, none could resist her.   She loved to entice the dogs to chase her - What? Borzois running in the house?  And that they did, only stopping when she threw herself on the love seat, her favorite spot, and wiggled on her back, all four legs wildly thrashing in the air, as the others fiercely "attacked" her with their open jaws.  The saddest dog was made happy, the loneliest dog made a friend, and the alpha-bitch lightened up.   Opal adopted the old Black Lab as her surrogate mother and made her feel like she had a puppy again.  She gave every dog in the kennel a place and a job to do.  They were all winners.  I don't think any of us realized it at the time, but Opal was running the kennel.

It was apparent from the beginning that Opal was different. She had a strong personality and was strong willed. In particular, she was very human oriented. She was not in any way aloof as borzoi can sometimes be, instead, she actively sought human contact, interaction and affection. She walked me out the door to work every morning, and was there to greet me every evening when I returned, the only borzoi to do so. However, she also challenged us with her high energy level and in her need to chew, especially wood. We found her to be like a Lab puppy in more ways than one. She was not afraid to be very vocal about a situation that did not please her. It was not what we expected a borzoi puppy to be but she was so beautiful, charming and lovable that we simply accommodated her with joy.

As Opal grew, she only became prettier. She was very smart and quickly learned right from wrong and in no time had impeccable house manners. Her appearance became refined and exquisite, and her demeanor more reserved, almost shy. She began attending handling classes at St. Hubert's Dog Training School in Madison, NJ at four months of age. This was in anticipation of a cluster of important borzoi club specialties, The Borzoi Club of Greater New York, and the Borzoi Club of Delaware Valley, coming up in May, when she and her littermates, endearingly referred to as "The Dazzlettes", would be six months old. However, these classes were not something she did easily. Although she did it to please us, showing would never be her strongest accomplishment. Opal was happiest when she could be at home.

Two months later, on May 8, 2005, Opal and "The Dazzlettes" made their debut in the dog show ring at the Borzoi Club of Greater New York Specialty, at the Shepherds Pond site in Ringwood State Park, Ringwood, NJ. She seemed to have fun being there with Jennifer, Roni and her litter mates. Opal went around the ring like a little star. The next day, Opal won her first class at the Buck County Kennel Club Dog Show in Erwinna, PA. Opal's future looked very promising. We remembered being very pleased with her. Our hearts overflowed with love for Opal.

Opal - Bucks County class win

After that series of shows, Opal was not shown much during her first year since she appeared to be slow to mature. Most of her litter mates were slow to mature as well, and we were told not to be concerned. However, after her first birthday, I began to be concerned regarding her overall condition and growth. I did not think she looked either well or healthy. Opal did not appear to be thriving. Throughout the winter, she lost weight. Suddenly in May, she seemed to contract a virus and stopped eating altogether.

As would be expected after a period of losing weight and not eating, Opal became lethargic.  This persisted for a few weeks and suddenly she seemed worse. Clearly, Opal was dying right before our very eyes. Veterinary intervention from her veterinarian, Scott Witham, D.V.M., of the Westfield Veterinary Group, was arranged. A full battery of tests was ordered. Dr. Witham suspected Lyme Disease, another tick-borne ailment, or worms to be the culprit. He never doubted that the illness would be treatable. No one expected the devastating diagnosis that the test results would indicate. Dr. Witham was not only stunned at the results, he was then faced with the heart-wrenching task of informing us that this was no simple parasite or infection. Opal had end stage renal failure and her prognosis was very poor.

The memory of that moment took on a vivid clarity in my mind. It was the last weekend in May 2006.  I now understood that Opal was going to die. All the happiness she had brought into our lives would come to an end with her death. I wondered how could I go on, and how would I feel if I lost her, loving her as much as I did? I saw the end to everything dear to my heart and I suffered for it. I suffered for her, for all she would lose: everything.

Bob turned to the Internet for research on this condition. Nothing short of miraculous, he found information regarding diets for dogs with kidney disease that helped them live for far longer than they were expected to have lived. With the right food and vitamins, we were able to turn her condition around. On Roni Zucker’s recommendation, we started force feeding her Hill's A/D food. She was able to eat this successfully. It made her interested in food again and built up her strength. Then, Bob gradually introduced the new diet and vitamins.

We saw every day that Opal lived as a gift from God. Dr. Witham had advised us to put her down when he made the diagnosis because both her test results and her prognosis were so poor. Unable to let her go that day, we followed Roni’s advice regarding the Hill's A/D food, and Bob created the diet for her that saved her life. Opal started eating again, regained her strength and rallied. One week later, Opal may have been an invalid, but she was alive. Opal’s life was Blyss Kennel’s little miracle.

The Life of Opal ~ Opal's Prayer

May she be well, may she be happy,

May she always be with us by our side

May Opal’s beauty and spirit never die.

June 1, 2006