Klondike Kapers: The FBFC 2003 National Specialty
None of us were sure which Frenchie fanciers would make the trek up to Canada’s northern latitudes for our 2003 national specialty, held for the first time in Edmonton, Alberta – but we never expected Elvis. Yet there we were, gathered for our specialty banquet, listening to Elvis sing “Nothing But A Hound Dog.” The vibrato was pure Presley, as were the swiveling hips, but oddly enough the King himself looked remarkably like a 13-year-old girl with about 20 braided pigtails bouncing on his (her?) head. For whatever reason, Elvis had chosen to reincarnate himself as young Willow Smith, attending the French bulldog specialty from British Columbia with her mother Barb McClarty.
Willow’s impromptu Elvis impersonation was just one of many special moments at the Fourth Annual French Bulldog Fanciers of Canada National Specialty, May 30, 31 and June 1. (“She’s such a shy thing,” her proud mom joked. “It’s a flaw.”) I hadn’t expected such spontaneous talent, but really, why should I have been surprised? When 37 happily snorting French bulldogs and their assortment of humans come together to celebrate all things Frenchie, anything can happen and does!
The most amazing thing about our Canadian specialty — for me, a green-as-grass first-time show chair, (assisted by my equally newbie co-chair Barb Jamieson, a.k.a. Committee of One) — is that the event actually happened. We had seven short months to pull it all together, after our club’s decision to move our specialty from the fall to the spring, and many a time Barb and I wondered what we had naively volunteered for and whether we could do it. So the sheer exhilaration of seeing everything finally come together was a high that I’m just coming down from now, as I write this nearly a month after the event.
Why was it so special? Well, that’s why they call them specialties – there’s a special magic that happens when people who share the same passion spend time together. If you’ve ever attended a specialty, you’ll know the feeling. But beyond that, why did everyone seem to have an extra special time? We had a fun Klondike Days theme, (a tribute to Edmonton’s gold rush history), an appropriately outrageous Bullytin costume party and great camaraderie inside the ring and out. Still, it was something more, a certain je ne sais quoi, as the French say.
The only explanation I can offer is to quote a sentence we heard repeatedly from Arlie Alford: “But this is Canada and they do things different up here!” By the end, it had become our specialty’s theme song. And vive la difference! In Canada, specialties are still small enough for everyone to feel part of both the fun and formalities, yet big enough to showcase a fine selection of Frenchies. We’re very serious about our Frenchies, but not about ourselves. We remember that at the end of the day, you always go home with the best dog – your own – and that competition can still be fun. It’s a relaxed, friendly atmosphere, where we can share Frenchie experiences and knowledge, and we hope to keep it that way as our specialties grow larger.
What you really want to know, though, is who won, right? Full results are listed and our congratulations to all winners. But in true “this-is-Canada-and-they-do-things-different” spirit, I’ve made my own personal choices for some very non-official classes, selected from my special memories of the 2003 FBFC National Specialty. In keeping with our Klondike theme, these moments were pure gold.
Most Touching Moment, a.k.a. “Doing it for Poppa Award” What grabbed my heart and didn’t let go was an moment almost no one saw — Pat O’Keefe and her nearly seven-year-old pied “Flash” (Ch. Monitaps Almost A Ten CD) in the obedience ring. After discovering that Margaret Cunningham had sponsored the Highest Scoring Frenchie in Obedience Award, dedicating it to the memory of Pat’s recently deceased husband Patrick Fuller, Pat decided to enter some of her Frenchies in the all-breed trials, even though she hadn’t had time to tune them up to her usual competition standards.
Pat’s morning was discouraging; both of her entries failed to qualify. Then late in the afternoon, after all the excitement of the specialty breed judging was over, Pat and Flash rose to the challenge, competing in Novice C (a new CKC class for dogs who have already received their Companion Dog title). I overheard Pat having a quiet talk with Flash before they went in: “Listen, Flash. Please — do it for Poppa.” And so Flash did, with a final score of 187, including a running recall so fast that he went straight into the finish position without waiting for a command.
A score of 187 is something for every Frenchie to be proud of, but what’s truly remarkable is that Pat later told me it had been more than two years since she had put Flash through his obedience paces.
The Midas Touch Award for a True Golden Boy Expectations were high for Potter (Ch. Monet’s Brass Knuckles), a chunky cream hunk who had already received multi Group and Best Puppy In Show (BPIS) placements prior to the specialty. This would be Potter’s last weekend competing as a puppy. Would he end his first year on a real high and take it all?
Beautifully shown by owner/handler Bev Anderson, Potter didn’t disappoint. He took BISS under Judge Michael Hill, against some awesome specials, then went on to win BPIS at the all-breed show the same day, ending his puppy competition with an impressive total of eight BPIS. If Potter didn’t have such a totally sweet personality, it might be possible to resent him for doing so much winning. But one look into his big, brown eyes, and all resistance melts. Potter, you charmer, you done us proud.
The Solid Gold Winners Competition is always keenest for the top breed prizes, but cheers are always loudest for the veterans. Whoever said Frenchies don’t age well forgot to tell the vets who were proud to remind the youngsters of their glory days gone by. An ecstatic Dorothy Field trembled with joy as Max, her almost 11-year-old pied (Ch. Monitaps Maximillion Toutouque CD) took Best Vet in the specialty sweeps, while Diane Dickins’s 10-year-old Daisy (Ch. Almagest Daisy Mae’s Moving In) stuck a pretty pose in her chartreuse feather boa, after taking Best of Opposite Sex. But the ultimate performer was Pat O’Keefe’s Franky (Ch. Monitaps Francoise) who strutted round the breed ring almost at a trot, kicking up his heels in sheer happiness at being back in the spotlight. His brindle had faded, but his movement remains undimmed.
Gold Star for Best Special Effects Did you know there were Frenchies up in the Klondike during the Gold Rush? Neither did I, until I saw the old-timey photo enlargements created by Barb Jamieson to decorate our banquet room. There was my “Mitsy” — standing beside a miner panning for gold! And another Frenchie sitting in front of the miners’ supply hardware store, and another wearing a dance hall costume! Exhibitors were delighted to discover their Frenchies pop up in actual Klondike historical shots, thanks to a bit of computer wizardry. You’d swear those Frenchies really were there!
Golden Thimble for Best Seamstress: The costume was so detailed, you’d swear it was a vintage museum piece. But no, it had been created from nothing but an idea by Darlene Sawyer, whose pretty brindle “????” (Seeonee’s Diesel Zamboni) was resplendent in purple satin as a Klondike dance-hall girl. Ruffles, gathers, lots of lace, a bustle, and a garter – Klondike Kate herself couldn’t have asked for more!
The “Gold-Golly – Who Me?” Award It’s always a delight to see someone win who’s not expecting to, and my prize for the most awe-struck exhibitor goes to Barb McClarty and “Cosette” (Seeonee’s Wish I May Of Course), her first Frenchie. Barb’s surprise is understandable; her petite brindle girl with the “racing stripe” face is a feminine polar opposite to Potter, the big male doing all the big winning. But to give the judges credit, Cosette is also completely to the standard – a well-balanced girl with a beautiful face — and they were able to recognize her quality as well. In the three all-breed shows, Cosette took Winners, Reserve Winners and finally Best of Opposite Sex, finishing the weekend as a new champion. (She also won The Bullytin’s Canada Cup.)
Speaking of judges, special mention must be made of our sweepstake judge Betty Liittschwager, who showed the courage of her convictions with her choice of Sandra Robinson’s brindle boy “Chip” (Jackpot Baccarat) as Best in Sweepstakes.
The Good As Gold Awards Another special joy of specialties is getting to see dogs up close who you’re usually forced to admire from afar since they don’t regularly compete in your region. I hadn’t seen Jean Pierce’s “Minga” (Ch. LeBull’s Provacateur) and Mickey Culligan’s “Sin-Gin” (Ch. Robobull’s Simply Sin-Gin) since the 2002 Canadian National Specialty, and they both looked better than ever. (Minga took Best of Winners and Sin Gin received an Award of Merit). And the last time I saw Karen Cram’s “Rudy” ( Karendon’s Rudolph Valentino), he was an adorable puppy with an incredibly high-pitched bark. Seven months later, Rudy has developed into an impressive male who won the Best Bred By Exhibitor class. Another highlight was getting to meet “Shade” in the flesh (Shirley Stephenson’s and Jane Gill’s Fulla Bull Shade), after watching him grow up on the Internet via Shirley’s photos posted to the Frenchie e-mail lists.
Finally, I must award The Hearts of Gold Award to all exhibitors, especially the bunch from British Columbia, who pitched in to help whenever extra hands were needed. Special thanks also to everyone who supported the French Bulldog Fanciers of Canada with trophy fund and auction donations, including some awesome original Frenchie creations (whimsical paper-mache Frenchies from Marie Brown; clay creations from Diane Dickins and Frenchie portraits by Linda Maingot.) And last, but certainly not least, The Best Gold-Digger Award to Renee King, our highly persuasive Trophy Fund Chair.
Discussions are currently underway for the 2004 FBFC National Specialty. We’re not sure if it will be held in Canada’s East or West, or whether we’ll stay with the spring/early summer timing or move back to the fall. Whatever the outcome, one thing is certain – it will be a cool option or complement to others.
Written by Lisa Ricciotti
Reprinted with permission from The French Bullytin magazine.