I was eagerly anticipating the weekend of shows at the Earl Warren Show Grounds in Santa Barbara for several reasons. For one thing, after her Best of Opposite Sex award at the South Bay Kennel Club Show, earlier in the month, I felt that Laila was hitting her stride and was ready for the top competition…..and in these shows, that’s exactly what she would get. I finally had learned how to navigate the AKC website and decided to check how many Grand Championship points she had amassed. Much to my surprise, she was the sixth ranked French Bulldog in the state of California! But it got even better—she was the second ranked bitch in the state and was ranked twenty-ninth nationally among all Frenchies. But as I said, she would be tested, as the nation’s top ranked bitch and California’s top ranked bitch would both be in the competition.
Secondly, Linda and I were invited to the annual party for French Bulldog exhibitors to be held on the beautiful Saint Francis Ranch. I had heard so much about the unique features of the property as well as the graciousness of our hostess for the evening and we were looking forward to the party. But most exciting of all was the anticipation I felt, that I, personally, was going to show my two wonderful Veterans, Fessie and Gadi, grandparents to Laila and parents to Modi, in the French Bulldog Club of America Specialty Show.
And that’s how Linda and I found ourselves driving up to the Fess Parker Resort in Santa Barbara with our family of four French Bulldogs piled high on their bedding in the back seat of our SUV. Upon arriving at the hotel, I was happy to see that our accommodations included a large rooftop terrace for the dogs and us to relax. I must admit to having some butterflies about the showing of Fessie and Gadi even though the showing of the Veterans is more like an exhibition than a competition. In our practice sessions at home, Gadi was easy. He trotted around on leash like a natural show dog and held his stack while on the judging table. Fessie was a different story, however. Standing still wasn’t a problem for her, but trotting around on a leash at my behest was not her priority. After a few steps, it was dayanu, enough, and she would plant her feet and look at me as if saying, “So what are you going to do now?”
The first show, under the auspices of the Simi Valley Kennel Club, was held on Friday morning. After a short walk I dropped Laila off with Renata and Modi with Jenny and drove back to the hotel to pick up Linda. Fessie and Gadi stayed in the room to watch Fox News. It was my luck to sit down ringside next to my friend, Allen, who literally had a problem on his hands……his twelve month old bitch was scared and refused to walk on leash. With visions of Fessie in my head, that was all I needed to increase my anxiety. The judge that day had evidently lost his glasses as Modi finished second in her open class and Laila went unawarded.
During the show we received directions to the ranch. My wife Linda, always the epitome of proper etiquette and good taste, inquired of our hostesses as to whether they would like us to bring some wine to the soiree. I reassured Linda that it wouldn’t be a problem to gas up and procure the wine on our way to the party. However, the best laid plans can often go awry and within a few minutes of leaving our hotel, we found ourselves on a desolate road ascending the mountains that separate Santa Barbara from the inland Santa Ynez Valley. All the while, I was cognizant that my gas tank was emptying and that in this wine growing mecca, there wasn’t a store that sold wine to be found! How embarrassing it would be to show up empty handed after specifically bringing up the subject with our hostesses. Luckily, I realized from the directions that the ranch was located about two miles from the entrance to Lake Cachuma Recreation Area. Years ago, when my kids were young, we took several RV trips to the Lake. As we approached the entrance to the ranch, I decided to take a gamble and proceed to the Recreation Area. Fortunately for me, the area was as I remembered it — complete with a gas station as well as a General Store that sold local wines!
Within a few minutes we were back at the entrance to the ranch and proceeded up the mile and a half long driveway. On the way to the ranch house, we passed a herd of zebra, a herd of water buffalo as well as a these incredible African Longhorn cattle sporting horns that were at least five feet long. Upon reaching the main house, we were greeted by our hostess, Alex, who escorted all of the bulldoggers on a tour of her gardens. The gardens were intriguing, featuring many varieties of cactus and succulents with interesting sculptures interspersed throughout. Alex was very knowledgeable but she was even more than that. In spite of having ample help on the ranch, she was hands on,selecting and planting her own specimens. This was in line with her involvement with dog showing. Alex has had the top winning French Bulldogs for the last several years and unlike many of the owners who campaign their dogs by having them travel all over the country with paid handlers, Alex and her sidekick Debby actually go to all the shows.
Before we went into the house for dinner, I asked to be shown a unique snake fence that had been erected to keep the dogs safe from the rattlesnakes that frequented the surrounding acreage. The fence featured an outward projecting phalange at the top which essentially turned the snake backwards and upside down when it tried to slither up and over the fence, thus causing it to fall back to the ground.
As I entered the house I felt a prickly sensation in my side. After pulling my shirt up in the corner of the living room, Linda suggested sojourning to a bathroom where she could investigate my problem more discreetly. Either I had brushed up against a cactus or a cactus had taken a swipe at me, for what she found were scores of the little stickers in my side. While most were removed over the next ten minutes by taking adhesive tape and doing a Brazilian wax job on my side, it took several more days until the last of them were removed.
I knew most of the people as we had been seeing each other at the shows over the last year and a half. However, I had the pleasure of meeting the owner of the nationally top ranked French Bulldog bitch, Patty Hearst Shaw, who was here from the east coast to root her “Diva” on. She must have been a good rooter, for “Diva” had won Best of Breed in the Friday morning show.
On Saturday, there were two shows scheduled. The morning show was an all-breed show under the auspices of the Santa Barbara Kennel Club and the afternoon show was the French Bulldog Specialty Show under the auspices of the French Bulldog Club of America. Fessie and Gadi were to be shown in the specialty show in the afternoon and they spent the morning with Linda back at the hotel while I took Modi and Laila to compete in the morning show. This time I sat with my friend Linda and unbelievably, she had the same issue that Allen had experienced the day before — her entry, a nine month old bitch, was too scared to walk around the ring and had to be withdrawn! At this point I was out of my mind, certain that Fessie and I would be humiliated and disqualified when I attempted to show her. Coincidently, the judge had also misplaced her glasses and we had the same results as in Friday’s show.
Finally, the show that I was waiting for was about to start. I had gone to the hotel and picked up Fessie and Gadi and Linda, and there we were at ringside watching the preliminary classes. Modi won her open bitch class and eventually was named Reserve Winners Bitch (or conversely the title of Best of Losers as my friend Dr. Hamil laughingly says). It was now Gadi’s time to enter the ring — for his first time ever! He didn’t miss a step as he jogged around like a champ. Placed on the judging table, he stacked up and let the judge examine him without moving a muscle. “How old is this dog?” asked Judge Meen. “This dog certainly looks great!” was his response after learning Gadi was seven-and-a-half. I couldn’t resist telling him that he would be meeting Gadi’s wife, ten-and-a-half year old Fessie in a few minutes and that he had already awarded daughter Modi with Reserve Winners. And, oh yes, his granddaughter, the Grand Champion, Laila will be in the Best of Breed competition. We did another lap around the ring to the applause of the crowd.
And then it was Fessie time! And what a time it was. She rumbled into the ring and continued her determined gait. No pausing today, no stopping today and no sitting today. The applause increased as she was stacked and continued on her last lap. Even though she was unopposed her blue ribbon and title of Best Veteran Bitch was certainly well deserved. How proud I was.
In the Best of Breed round, Laila was given an Award of Merit. What the hell was that, I wondered? As defined by the AKC that award is “one of the highest awards that is given at a specialty or championship show. It signifies that the dog was in the running for Best of Breed, and, in the judge’s opinion, a top quality specimen worthy of wins at a National level.” Sounds impressive but no Grand Championship points are awarded. Still, we all went back to the hotel happy and relieved. And we had momentum going.
Linda and the Veterans took Sunday off while Modi and Laila and I went back to the show grounds. Coincidently, I had decided to wear my Panama hat and when I got to the arena several other exhibitors were wearing totally outrageous hats. “It’s Hat Day,” Arlie, Debby and Alex exclaimed, which made me feel right at home. Modi again was given the Reserve Winner title but Laila hit the jackpot winning Best of Opposite Sex- that is the best female in the entry of seventy-five contestants. Judge Lajeski, who showed such exquisite taste, was actually a last minute substitute. The scheduled judge had to withdraw due to a family medical emergency. Coincidently a year and a half earlier, in Laila’s second show, and in Judge Lajeski’s first time judging French Bulldogs, he had awarded Laila the Reserve Winners Bitch title. He was pleased when I informed him of his consistency. Even Laila’s handler, Renata, was so excited that she decided to be in the award photo that followed.
Well, the family affair could hardly have been more successful. But it was about to get even better. I learned that the entire weekend’s shows had been photographed and that the photos would be available for purchase. So many terrific shots of Fessie and company while they were in the ring. So what did I do? Of course I ordered a custom album, just like the wedding and bar/bat mitzvah albums that help us relive the memories of happy times.
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NEWS FLASH, 2014: LAILA TOV TAKES WESTMINSTER! Winning Grand Champion, and now appearing online in the NBC segment featuring 3 of America’s Top Dogs from the prestigious event!
For more pictures of the darling Frenchie Doggie family, click the Frenchie Dog Pix and Laila & Parents buttons! Stayed tuned for more doggie show adventures with Laila Tov! And to read the story of her first great success, click here!
MORE BIG NEWS! LAILA TOV GIVES BIRTH TO THREE GORGEOUS PUPS!
The kids at 25 days are on view on our Facebook page. Keep checking to see the kids as they grow up!