Showing Your Stud Boy to Grand
A Novices's Experience on the Show Circuitby Jackie Bell, Birbell Birmans
When my new male kitten, Drum, was to arrive at Newark Airport the summer of '92, my daughter Becky and I were so excited that we raced up and down the terminal aisles waiting in eager anticipation for his plane to come in from South Dakota! Except for a couple of photos, I had bought him virtually sight unseen but knew from two years worth of researching his lines that he was the direction I wanted my breeding program to go. I knew that Val Rhodes had the expertise and unselfishness to share her best, so I had full faith in her as the person to help me with my starter boy. Finally after the plane came in and what seemed a million suitcases went 'round the carousel' the baggageman came in with the Counter To Counter carrier and finally we had our Drummy boy! In the car we opened the carrier and out he stepped, purring up a storm. Our hearts were totally smitten when we looked down into those sweet beautiful eyes. In rush hour traffic, I drove home as carefully as if a foreign prince had arrived.
After a direct visit to the vet, a series of tests and a period of quarantine demonstrated he was in perfect health, life as a kitten at Birbell began. Drum's lines were never really giant Birmans and I knew he would be be a late bloomer, so it never bothered me that he was small in size as a kitten. This is where we new breeders must have faith in those with genuine expertise with their lines. Val had seen early in Drum that his type was what I sought after, so I was not troubled about his early months. My research gave me the data that not much would happen until he was at least 10 months of age. I did take him out to a show once as a kitten and ignored the comments of others about his size.
Drum went through all kinds of changes as a pre-adult male. At 10 months he started growing bigger structurally and his whole body broadened. Everything just widened! I kept photos of these changes to show the public when explaining that Birmans really don't mature until 3 years of age. Sexually, however, Drum was always very macho and even tried to breed when still a kitten. Remarkably he never sprayed and to this day, still doesn't need to mark. (Guess he knows he owns everything anyway) When he was 8 months old, I championed him and then waited for several more months of growth because he was now in competition with the "big" male show boys.
The reasons whey I wanted to grand Drum were: it would make good business sense to have the basis of your breeding program be a Grand Champion, the breeder deserves for her best to be taken out and get the recognition, Drum's sire, Lampchop was close to becoming a Distinquished Merit and I wanted to be a part of the 15 Grands required for that honor. I also felt he was good enough to warrant a GC distinction. Of course, all this looks very good on paper and daydreams. As cat breeders we know all to well that what we want and what is reality is not always the same! Those feline hormones take over and all the grandiose plans in the world are just not possible. There are many fine stud boys siring wonderful kittens that are not Grands because of circumstances such as not so perfect markings, timing, etc. I waited until Drum got some size on him, kept him away from anthing that looked about to go into heat and then a 2 month window opened where I was to do this task or forever hold my peace.
How does one figure out where a young, still immature Birman male will do well? Valuable reference tools are past and present CFA Almanacs. Remember to keep in mind that Championship places in finals are not listed in the Almanac Show Reports. See what judges have liked your cat's relatives, especially if your boy has similar characteristics that appeal to those judges. Birman breed newsletters are also great to find out what judges are fond of Birmans in general and again, look for similarities in "Weekend Wins" with your boy's type that are his strong points. Sometimes certain lines of Birmans do better in some regions than in other regions. One of the things I learned about showing was, don't be intimidated if you enter a show and a campaigning Grand of your breed shows up. There are always those Championship spots in finals. Also ask advice from a trusted, experienced Birman person who had the benefit of seeing judge's preference of different Birman types. Perhaps they may have an idea of who will like your boy at whatever stage he's going through. By now you can probably tell that I am a logical person involved in a not-so-logical "hobby". Anyway, after looking through 2 years worth of Almanacs, a tentative plan of action was made and I don't think D-Day in WW II had this much strategy!
Remember the big east coast blizzsard in March of '93? I can still hear my conscience nagging to at least "look" at the Weather Channel. No. Ignoring the impending possibility of getting into trouble, Becky and I just HAD to drive the 8 hours to Ontario the day before the storm. Thinking "Who else would be nuts to do this?" My heart sank when I saw his competition, GC Chatange's Olery listed in the catalog, in from Seattle. It was at that show that I learned that Birman champions really do have their own peer group and can make a final. It was a wonderful blizzard weekend at St. Chatherine's with Becky and I suffering the hardships of a luxury hotel with an all to accessible VISA card. Drum's hormones however, were becoming increasingly present, ready to strike at any given whimsy. Drum always seemed to be attracted to the flashy types and one late night in the hotel room, Becky excitely reported, "Look Mom, he's trying to mate with your gold lame' purse!" On Monday, with 55 points towards the 200 we needed, the US/Canadian borders were now reopened and all roads in NY efficiently plowed. We came home to a major disaster in NJ. The NY Highway Dept. had ran out of road salt! That show was only a beginning.
On to Rochester, with Drum's hormones taking control. Drum now decides he like redheaded women. I'm grateful that Sheila Reyes-Mizzi is a judge with quick reflexes and expertly handled that behavior by gently blowing in his face. After Rochester cam Long Island. Then Raleigh, NC. Obviously this was not a one show grand! With his body maturing late, it was a race against the hormones so I hung in there.
With a lot of cooperative clerks clerks and understanding judges, we needed 30 points to finish. I entered Staten Island and I could tell it was not going to be a good weekend. Although I had played with him with the kitty teaser until I was exhausted, he was not a mellow boy that weekend. The show hall was a small, close, high school gym and the atmosphere was tense for there were 6 other Birmans champions hungry for points. In Marilyn Cruz's ring, a strange phenomenon happened. Drum was last in the lineup to be judged (put in an end cage) so he watched each cat brought up to podium and he began to get hissy. During the judging, a stream of sunlight burst through an overhead window (like a spotlight) right into his cage and he was so blasted away by the brightness, he couldn't have seen his own paws much less the other cats. Totally bewildered, he behaved beautifully which allowed Marilyn to see his worth. He made her final and granded with an extra 50 points to spare. Could that be called a "Grand by Divine Intervention? How come we always did well at a show when there was some bizarre fluke of nature going on? In any case, a sigh of relief (as well as tears) came over me and for those of you who know me, that's when I began to frost my hair to cover the grey!
Why did I spend the money and drive like a trucker to do this? What would motivate me to form a sincere friendship with my auto mechanic? Besides the reasons previously mentioned, I knew I couldn't rely on just the local shows because of fierce competition and it was the end of the show season which made getting into finals all the more difficult. Also there would have been long weeks inbetween local shows and momentum may have been lost. Since I only had a relatively short amount of time to do this task in, I had to plan to go out almost every weekend. I truly believe that when you show a cat to Grand, you must face that task with a seriousness that takes you out of the "hobby" mentality. You must groom 'til your hands ache and drive 'til your muffler falls off. It's not always easy and the spectre of a stud boy's hormones is nerve wracking. But once you have done it, it's really a great experience to have as a memory of accomplishment. Your boy can now stay home and live the good life. As for you, well, sit back, relax, take a deep breath for....the kittens will soon be a'coming!
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Last Modified: Sunday, February 28, 1999 3:16:22 PM