Thursday, December 20, 2012

Comes With The Territory or Ode to Holley

I went to the airport Tuesday to pick up the #1 Staffordshire Bull Terrier for 2011 and 2012.   She is also my beloved pet, Daphne.   Daphne has been extraordinary in so many ways.  She has been living a dream for the last 18 months.   But let me back track to the beginning.  I am a pet person.  I have been in the sport of pure bred dogs since the early 70s but I am still a pet person. I have had some wonderful dogs and I have loved them as companions.  I actually believed that great show dogs didn’t happen to people like me.   Boy was I wrong.  On August 2 2007 such a dog came into my home.  

 What does it take for a solid self proclaimed pet dog person to send her beloved dog off with a handler??  First you need a great dog.  Second you need an objective. Third you need the financing.  Fourth and most importantly you need just the right handler. 

I knew Daphne was a great dog because she had had a great career with yours truly on the end of the lead.  I also knew that I had raised Daphne well and she was mostly unflappable, a bit spoiled but relatively bomb proof.   I called her my Urban Assault Ferrari in a dog suit.    I had some ideas of the objectives I wanted to achieve.   I could not imagine sending my pet off with a stranger unless I had some fairly lofty goals.   It really had to be very worthwhile.   I had no idea what this would cost but I figured "a lot".     I have since learned that one's budget is directly related to one's goals.  I have been fortunate and my business is doing well so at this time of my life I was able to splurge on a big adventure.  

Enter the Handler!  I knew from almost the first time I met Holley in Maryland, April 2009 that she was the one IF I wanted a handler.   I saw Holley again in Long Beach in June 2009.  She and Piper won the National Specialty.  Daphne was the first Award of Merit.   The next day at the 35 year Jubilee Specialty Daphne won the breed.   Holley and I joked around a bit about trading wins that weekend and a bit of camaraderie began to develop between us.  I remember Holley telling me how much she loved Piper and that Piper slept in the bed and other things that piqued the interest of this Pet Person.   I remember asking Holley if when she was done with Piper would she consider handling Daphne and she said yes.  

Long after Holley had sent Piper home April of 2011 rolled around and we were back in Maryland.  Daphne had spent the first 3 months kicking ass and taking names in California and was the current #1 Stafford with me on the end of the lead.  We approached Holley and asked if she would handle our dog?   She said "you mean Daphne?"  We said "Yes".   She emphatically said "YES! and we made plans to discuss plans over dinner that night.    We discussed my goals, my commitment, and the budget.   We agreed on a long term goal with a short term trial to see if it made sense.  The next night the show was over and it was time to hand over Daphne.  I brought my crate, toys, blankets, food and Daphne to Holley with tears in my eyes.   I was torn wondering if I was doing the right thing.   I felt like I had tricked Daphne.  

I literally cried every day for months.   I could not think about Daphne, my pet, at all.   It took about 3-4 weeks for Holley to finish with Riley and get Daphne on the schedule and those weeks were sheer torture.  I felt much better when I got the news that she had earned a Group 2 placement at her first show (which thrilled Holley and me, of course).  Over the next 18 months Team Daphne met or exceeded my expectations.   Holley and I spent a lot of our time torturing photographers for photos immediately after the camera clicked, nagging the publications for the most premier spots at the last minute, and pestering poor Derek every single week to meet a deadline.   It is my understanding that Derek had a nick name for us and it was something like Thelma and Louise.  Holley and I definitely had the pedal to the metal almost the entire campaign.   It was exciting, thrilling, stressful and amazing all at the same time.  

Communication is not one of Holley's strengths so in the beginning I spent hours hunting out where Stafford bitch specials might be entered.   Later I got better at catching her schedule plans and making a mental note for later.   I kept perfect notes of the shows, the judges and the awards.   I counted dogs beaten by breed and all breed before the results were public.  I kept score on the competition.   I remember sitting with my phone in hand every weekend waiting for the results.   It was a way to bide my time until we were ready to get off this roller coaster.   I still missed my best friend and cried when I thought about her.   So, I immersed myself into rescue.   This was good and very fulfilling and kept my mind occupied.  I was already involved with a local rescue group so I had some contacts and started to ask for puppies to foster and see where else I could help.   So between SBTCA Rescue and A New Hope Animal Foundation I had my hands and mind full.  

During the year I learned a lot about campaigning, handlers, judges and strategies.  I learned handlers have the same problems that we owner handlers complain about.   Which judge to show under, what handlers and dogs will be at a show and other intriguing tidbits were all regular topics we stressed over.   Throughout the campaign Yanni and I, either alone or together flew to see Daphne.   She ALWAYS remembered us just by our voice, but she was now clearly Holley's dog.   This actually made it a bit easier for me.  Sometimes I wonder if I had used a California handler and could drop off and pick up each weekend, would it have been better?  Perhaps it would have been better for me emotionally but not for the campaign as a whole.  

There were many highs and lows in regards to Daphne throughout the campaign.  She actually stayed longer than we originally intended which was emotionally very hard on both Holley and I.  There were many things that I did not count on.  In my mind this was a business, but I had picked Holley because I felt she would love my dog (silly, I know).  So for me to expect it to be all business for the person who now considered Daphne her pet was totally and completely selfish on my part.   Holley and I became partners in a way I did not expect, we both loved the same dog, I had to share.  I know a dog is a dog and not a person so why the fuss??   I had to remind myself that this adventure would have never happened if Holley was your average business handler with multiple specials and no honor or devotion to any of them.   I do not know of a single time that Holley did not take Daphne in the ring herself.  She made her schedules around Daphne.   She missed other clients ring times because of Daphne.  She was totally dedicated to Daphne.   I owe as much to Holley for making Daphne a superstar, if not more than I owe to Daphne for being a great dog.   There are a lot of great dogs being campaigned and the goal is to get and keep your dog at the top.  This takes diligence, hard work, perseverance, and strategy.  Holley was more than up to the task and loved my pet the entire time.   Holley also surprised and amazed me by going way above expectations by obtaining a CGC, Rally Novice, and Beginning Novice Obedience titles on Daphne as well as having her tested by the American Temperament Test Society.  The evaluator called her a "Mighty Dog in a small package".   Personally I think he got it right!

I know that mostly show dogs are not someone’s pet.   Many are, but the ones that go off with a handler for months and months are mostly not pets.  It is purely business.  So it makes sense that if your dog is a pet do not send it off with a handler to live life as one of many on the road mostly crated.  My experience was difficult at first, but with what I knew before and what I have learned since I would do it again, with Holley.  

Now let's fast forward to Tuesday December 18th 2012 5:45am.  I got a text, two words, "that sucked".   You know what? I know it did.   If it was anything like when I handed the leash to Holley in April 2011, it definitely "sucked" dropping Daphne off at cargo Tuesday morning.   I was sad, not only was I taking Holley's pet away, our exciting relationship was coming to an end.    Yanni and I picked up Daphne in Sacramento at 1pm that day and yes she remembered us from our voices.   And, Yes I cried again.  We drove home and she remembered all the speed bumps going down the road to the house.   She remembered the entrance to the property and the driveway going up.   She remembered Bodie and acted like a silly school girl trying to play with him as he postured around her trying to remember.    Don’t ask me how I know she remembered I just know she did.   When she went into the bedroom she fell apart.   If a dog ever cried for happiness, Daphne did then.   It was a like all the memories came flooding back.   The next day she went to work and was beside herself.  She greeted all of the employees as if they were her long lost friends.   She ran around full speed with toys and bones until I thought she was going to explode.  Today she is a little quieter; in fact she is snoring right now.   I know that Daphne is not the average show dog.   Daphne is my pet.  

So, what started with tears ended with tears.   Holley and Daphne and I all came full circle.  I know Daphne will never forget Holley.   Daphne and Holley had an unbelievable partnership.  I look forward to more chapters with Holley in the future.  The highs were high and the lows were low but all in all it was one of the greatest adventures I have ever had in my entire life!!  Now I am going to cry.

Copyright 2013 Ciera Reflections. All Rights Reserved.

1 comment:

  1. Don't cry because it ended, smile because it happened. What a ride ... I'm happy you were able to bring yourself to share Daphne with those of us in the Midwest for a little while. I will sure miss her!