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The Red Coats Are Coming!

Close-up head photo of a Vizsla

The Red Coats Are Coming!

For the first time in 20 years, the Vizsla Club of America headed to New England for its 2024 National Specialty and Companion Events. As I think is the way with many Specialties these days, host clubs and locations are getting harder to come by, and so with just over a year before the show date, we pulled together a committee of people from all over the country—the only requirement was a “let’s make it work” attitude!

Every once in a while, necessity truly is the mother of invention. Because of the relatively short time we had to work on the National, we dramatically shifted how we fundraised and had to think differently about everything—from some of the social events we usually hold to what our catalogs looked like. Also, because we cobbled together a committee rather than working off of an existing club, we were able to “persuade” the very best people with years of experience to join in. It truly was an amazing group of extremely committed members of our fancy that made the whole week possible.

There were over 1,000 entries across all the events, making for a fabulous and highly competitive week. One of the hallmarks of our breed that we are most proud of is the Vizsla’s versatility—the first AKC Quintuple Champion was a Vizsla named Chartay—and this week was brilliant proof of that strong legacy. In honor of our legacy of versatility, we have two different competitions over the week that celebrate the very best of us: The Iron Dog competition (which tracks points over the week for dogs that compete in all or most of the events), and The All-Star Review (which is an evening competition that is devoted to inspiring the preservation of the true working Vizsla. All entrants must have a Show Championship combined with either a Field Championship, Amateur Field Championship, Master Hunter, or NAVHDA Utility Prize I.

Vizsla 2024 National Specialty

Having never been the Event Chair for the National, there are a couple of things I wish I had known ahead of time. The most useful would have been a more creative “bingo card,” because there just wasn’t anything to prepare me for some of that week.

Sunday, everyone was arriving in New England except for one exceptionally important member of our plans. Our National Show Secretary, Show Chair, Obedience Chair, Rally Chair, and Ring Steward was unable to travel. Admittedly, a couple of those roles weren’t hers originally, but life had happened and she had graciously accepted a couple of extra assignments. So, it turned out that our eggs were, by and large, in one basket. One Basket. A basket that was 3,000 miles away. You know what that was? NOT ON MY BINGO CARD! But in amazing fashion, with help from our AKC Field Rep, through luck and a little arm twisting, by Sunday evening we had all of those roles filled. Which is how we barely noticed that the half of the catalogs with all of the Agility, Scent Work, advertising, and general information hadn’t shown up yet…

The competition began on Monday with a Vizsla-only Agility Trial held at American K9 Country in Amherst, New Hampshire—the premier destination for Agility competitions in the Northeast. And it did not disappoint! The flooring was amazing, the staff was excellent to work with, and they provided all of the services that we could possibly have needed, including a great judge, Nick Carleton. High in Trial was the three-year-old bitch, CH Menny’s Swift Winged Monster CD BN RA MH FDC MX MXJ MJB MFB T2B3 FCAT SWN CGCA CGCU TKA VC, owned by Jessica Vetter.

Meanwhile, back at the host site, Boxboro Regency Hotel in Boxborough, Massachusetts, a small group of us were setting up for Obedience, Rally, and Conformation. Four thousand rolls of duct tape and eighty-eight king-sized sharpies later, a crating room (which ended up being three times the size we needed) took shape. Pioneer Valley Kennel Club graciously rented to us all of their ring gating and Obedience and Rally equipment. The ring gating, it turned out, took three hours, five people, and two virtual consultations to figure out. It probably would have been easier had we tried to put it together after the cocktail hour, but we prevailed! It was at this point that we noticed the shortcomings of any bingo card we might have previously dreamt up.

Vizsla 2024 National Specialty

Speaking of cocktails, we tried something new to our club this year—we had our Annual Awards with our Welcome Party rather than with a sit-down banquet. It seemed to be a well-received change (the theory being that people could go after the hors d’oeuvres to have a lovely meal of their choice rather than an increasingly expensive, less than inspiring banquet meal) and it seemed to give everything a more relaxed vibe. Other changes included offering an off-site dinner at the historic Concord Colonial Inn, so people had the opportunity for a cultural activity, as well as having a Friday evening social.

On Tuesday were the Obedience and Rally Trials. It seemed like it all went off well. The judges were both excellent with our breed (which can, occasionally, have a little too much joie to be extremely well behaved), and were very kind to our exhibitors. For our Rally Trial, the Highest Triple Score was RACH Nosam’s Aspen Fall Forest CDX PCD BN GN RM3 RAE3 RC DCAT CGCA CGCU TKN ATT, and our Highest Combined Score was RACH Menny’s Monster Of Fish Lake UD VER RM2 RAE2 JH AX AXJ XF BCAT CGC TKA. For our Obedience Trial, the Highest Scoring Dog in Regular Classes was CH Thornbird’s Fabulous Roxy Lady UD RN MX MXJ XF, and our Highest Combined Score was RACH Menny’s Monster Of Fish Lake UD VER RM2 RAE2 JH AX AXJ XF BCAT CGC TKA. And since I find it challenging to walk and chew gum, it was something spectacular to watch these dogs work.

Wednesday was our Scent Work Trial and Puppy & Veteran Sweepstakes. We had set up for Scent Work on Monday, and it was fairly amusing trying to keep sections of the hotel that we were all living in roped off and not heavily scented. I did overhear someone yelling, “Oh Gawd! Keep your stink out of there!!!” And it was all worth it. I don’t think I’ve heard as much giggling anywhere as there was in the lines waiting for Scent Work. There is something just deeply fun about a sport that isn’t overtly competitive.

The Sweepstakes were judged by Ms. Erin Crowley. If the name seems familiar, she is the daughter of the late Sporting breed handler, Ms. Patty Crowley. And even though Erin didn’t have hot water that morning, she persevered and did a bang-up job, with Southwick Shikari Aran You Oni Love Twice winning Best in Sweeps, GCHG Pagliacci Kizmar Wicked Suspense At Zenith winning Best Veteran Dog in Sweeps, and GCH Szizlin’s They Call Me Citori winning Best Veteran Bitch in Sweepstakes.

 

Now, by Wednesday the cracks were starting to show a little in our living situation, and the grounds were starting to be a little messy with people not picking up after their dogs. It might have been partly because we lost our Grounds Chair a few months ago and hadn’t quite replaced him! Solution? Have excellent friends, Candice, Shawn, and Grant Gibson, who came to the rescue. They pointed out that the grounds were covered by CCTV, and that a very bored member of our new grounds crew was more than willing to go through the hours of video to find out the identity of the offending parties. Like a super-weird episode of CSI. We have, in fact, never had cleaner grounds, and the hotel even asked to have us back!

Thursday brought the discovery of our very own kindness fairy who anonymously sprinkled joy and unicorns around the place. It was deeply satisfying as well as being adorable, which was helpful to me, emotionally, when we lost our Non-Regular Class judge to illness. (In fairness, though, losing a judge to illness is always on the bingo card.) Within minutes, however, the intrepid Mrs. Judy Harrington had agreed to come the next day and stepped graciously into the breach.

The regular classes were judged by Mr. Dana Cline who “insisted” on having, of all things, a plain glazed donut from Dunkin’ every morning and a cranberry juice. In truth, he just looked so excited by the idea of this donut that we could hardly deny him, and we did have a great hospitality team willing to go the extra mile. (Which is something that was later tested on a reptile.)

We were pleased this year for our health clinic to be able to help out the OFA Blood Bank. We enlisted Vet Techs Kathleen Morrison and Tanya Duvall to draw blood, and we are so proud of our community’s efforts. We surpassed our goal of 125 invaluable blood donations for future research on our breed.

Friday evening was one of our new events, the Pup Cup Social. There were made-to-order cups of biscuits and whipped cream with Saint Rocco’s sprinkles for the dogs, Maple Cotton Candy for the people, and four different heirloom varieties of apples for all involved. Now, buying whipped cream for an event you’ve never done before is hard, and for some reason, there wasn’t anything worse we could think of than running out of whipped cream. Which is why we bought CASES of whipped cream. And then had cases left over, which nearly all ended up going home later with one couple who seemed to have quite the naughty glint in their eyes.

Vizsla 2024 National Specialty

Conversely, our Hospitality Chair, Ann Moses, strikes you as a proper New England woman. Super-kind, soft-spoken, and seemingly without a flair for the dramatics. Which made this particular incident all the more surprising…

A handler came over during judging and said, “Now I don’t want anyone to panic, but…” Who starts a sentence like that?!? There was a quiet panic that ensued, obviously. “But there’s a snake over there.” Words that I don’t think would ever be on a dog show bingo card for any reason. After inspection, it was determined that there was, in fact, a snake at the edge of the room. And not a tiny snake either. A mid-sized snake. More snake than should be at a dog show, anyway, and much more snake than anyone was comfortable with. Except then here came Ann, swooping in like an eagle. She said, “Oh, I love snakes.” She picked it up and carried it outside (with it writhing in her grip) like it was this season’s fashion accessory. I suppose it is true, still waters run surprisingly deep.

Another person we are fortunate to have amongst our Vizsla community is a world-famous violinist, Ida Kafavian. She spent the week playing increasingly intense and complicated versions of the Star-Spangled Banner for us each morning, and by the time we got to Best of Breed day, we were all in tears at the sheer beauty of her raw talent.

For the last day of judging, we made sure that Mr. Cline had several dozen donuts, you know, just in case. First up were the Pee Wees, and honestly, there’s never been anything as adorable. Juniors followed, and the depth of quality of the handling skills with these young people is remarkable. In the end, Best Junior went to Ryan Markey.

Vizsla 2024 National Specialty

The quality in the Best of Breed ring at the National, while over my lifetime it has ebbed and flowed, always reminds me how far this breed has come. And this year was no different, with Dana Cline’s Best of Breed going to the young bitch, GCHB CH Renaissance N Brittania’s Changing The Game JH.

It isn’t until the bitter end and the points have been calculated that we ever know the winner of the Iron Dog Competition, and this year’s Gold went to Jessica Vetter’s CH Menny’s Swift Winged Monster CD BN RA MH FDC MX MXJ MJB MFB T2B3 FCAT SWN CGCA CGCU TKA VC.

We closed out the week by hoisting up our Best of Breed winner, toasting her with champagne, and munching on some well-earned Boston Cream Pie. And so, another Vizsla National is in the books. I want to thank our Sponsors (including the ever-generous SHOWSIGHT Magazine), Connecticut Valley Vizsla Club and Vizsla Club of New England, and everyone who traveled to be with us for the week. And I especially want to thank the most surprising and hilarious committee in recent history. May your bingo cards be ever full.