We did not send a dog to the Eukanuba this year. We were invited with two dogs, but this year the show wasn’t an invitational. It was open to all comers, from puppies to specials. When the judging panel came up we hoped for judges who would be good for us, but that was not to be. Eva has seen and been seen coast to coat in the three years she has been showing and we were beyond taking an 1100 mile journey to watch the locals and some well-known handlers vie for what was probably decided when the panel came out. Another year to work the AKC’s agenda.
In 2007, we took Eva and were the only American dog in the Kerry Blue entry. It was the year of the foreign dog. It was the first year of the Eukanuba World Challenge. It was also the first year the AKC was selling back-end foreign registrations so it was fitting that they’d like to wine and dine their clients. In 2008, it was the year of the leftover judge. Judges who had never been asked to preside at this prestigious event were brought out in droves. The entries were down. The complaints centered around the AKC not making it feel “special” to be there and the fact that what was originally deemed a “breeder showcase” wasn’t. The only bright spot was the chance to see the beautiful Pointer bitch, Ch. Cookieland Seasyde Hollyberry, win the big prize.
So now here was 2009. Not an invitational, but something maybe better. This was the 125th anniversary year of the AKC and this was a big birthday party to themselves. The AKC encouraged, all right arm twisted, as many parent clubs as possible into holding their national speciality or travelling national at this show. To their credit, at least in terriers, many of the judges had a genuine connection to the breeds they judged. The organization’s leadership was really trying. This was reflected in the results, where a disproportionate number of the winners were also bred by exhibitor dogs. Another agenda in the making? Possibly. But every once in a while, something unexpected happens that restores your faith in an imperfect system.
It takes more than guts to travel so far, knowing your chances are slim at best. It takes determination and true terrier tenacity to keep showing when you are ignored for three days and have to watch the high-profile exhibitors, and handlers, take home the prizes. But sometimes judges do surprising things and sometimes hard work, and hope, pay off. So it was for breeder, Nancy Han, owner, Nanette Loya and fledgling handler, Crystel B. Davis. Coming from Colorado to Long Beach, their first time showing a dog at this show, Nanette and Crystel worked together, as they had most of the year, and brought home the Kerry Blue Terrier BOS prize and a little cash. There were no points involved, although many people think their should be, but a lifetime of bragging rights and knowing they did an outstanding job beating bigger people at their own game, in somebody else’s house.
The dog they brought, Ch. Kallehan’s Hot N Spicy of Jorkaite, is expertly groomed by Nanette. Her beautifully colored coat shines in the ring. Crystel is a new professional handler who is eager and quick to learn. She showed several dogs that weekend and undoubtedly made her clients happy as she won with everything she showed. Nancy Han is the bitch’s breeder. And while her own lovely bitch was overlooked, she had to be bursting with pride that she had done what most breeders never do; send a really promising dog to someone else and have it all work out. Over this last year she has seen Nanette and Crystel make this dog a star.
And so it was on Sunday. When the judge, Bill Bergum, pointed at Crystel for the ribbon, and a place in the history of this great show, he made at least three people believe dreams actually can come true. Under the noses of the big names and bigger faces, these people went about their business, molding a winning dog. Never giving up and never letting down. On this Sunday, in this special place, they showed the throngs ringside, you don’t need a huge war chest, or a million dollar motor home to be recognized. Sometimes you just do your best and it’s good enough. We know exactly how they feel. We stood in their shoes in 2006.
Congratulations, Nancy, Nanette, and Crystel! You earned every bit of it.