A Year "Two" Remember

BY CHERYL MATTEO-KERNEY
CherMa'Ki Siamese

PHOTOS BY CHANAN

Published July 2008

Photos copyrighted by the individual photographers
Article copyright © PandEcats.com. All Rights Reserved.
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without the express written permission of PandEcats.com


Editor's Note: This is the story of two cats, littermates, campaigning simultaneously for national wins - one in Championship, one in Premiership. While these two cats happen to be Siamese, their experiences and those of their owners are something that can provide valuable insight for anyone with any breed who decides to embark upon a national campaign.

This story began on August 1, 2006 when the blue light shined a little brighter in the eyes of two stars from a litter of five. Their mother, Tinkerbell, knew it too.

Ariel, a blue point Siamese male and Princess, a seal point Siamese female, proved to have the special recipe needed to shine in the show ring. They are however worlds apart in many other ways.

Ariel

Ariel is Mr. Personality. He is easy going, calm and funny. He adores food - any food - but especially enjoys chicken and roast beef. And every once in awhile he enjoys tasting the remnants in his human Mom's glass of chardonnay.

Ariel's primary sport of choice is fetching pipe cleaner toys carefully crafted by his human dad, Darren.

His other sport is bird watching. He sits for hours on the back of our couch that faces a window with a large bird feeder waiting for the right Moment to lunge at his unsuspecting feathered friends.

At home, Ariel is lovingly called Crash or Crashy by his humans. But he is officially named after Archangel Ariel meaning Lion of God and representing the Angel of Healing…and he is every bit our Angel. Oh, almost forgot to share that his other favorite past time is lying on his human Mom anytime she sits down anywhere.

Princess

Princess lives up to her name. She is regal and knowing. She does not allow this earthly existence to touch her rarefied nature. She watches her brother Ariel with great embarrassment as he clumsily throws his entire body into the pipe cleaner sport. Princess does play toys, but on her own terms.

She will delicately and with little effort play “solo pheasant feather” on the couch. Although she moves with elegance, she strikes with precision… bringing great relief to her human parents that the feather is not attached to a live bird, particularly the ones that share her home, Monty, an African Grey that calls her name daily, and three cockatiels, Charlie Brown, Patty Cake, and Romeo plus two love birds, Mellow Yellow and Limey. Perhaps needless to say, our home is never quiet.

And one last note, Princess' humans often call her “P” Cessy. This silly lovable name was given to her by her human Mom.

The Show Prep

You may have read the book “Travels with Charlie”, the story of Charlie the dog. Well, travels with Princess and Ariel could be a book too. In fact, we will never forget this year of campaigning these two star siblings. Each show weekend began with the great grooming ritual the night before each show. Many people think that Siamese require minimal grooming. Compared to Persians this is true.

However, our stars enjoyed extensive grooming and came to greatly enjoy their predictable grooming sessions. Sessions are rewarded with dehydrated chicken treats, playing the birdie game after each ear is done, and a soothing massage at the end by their human Mom, Cheryl. (She moonlights as a Massage Therapist when not engaged as a full-time grant writer and administrator) Then it is early to bed after a light dinner for the star duo to insure their “beauty” sleep.

And now the frenetic pace of the weekend show marathon begins. Many weekends, the team (Princes, Ariel and their human family), wake up before dawn to drive in the middle of the night to make it to a one day show. Gently awakened, the reluctant traveling stars eat breakfast, get a last touch of grooming, settle into their travel cage and are then are driven faster than the speed of light to make it to the next show on time. And we did drive to every show. Although we contemplated flying, trucking our two stars in and out of airports seemed too labor intensive and even more expensive than driving. Plus our stars told us that they much preferred the comfort of their spacious travel cage in our Four Runner with regularly scheduled chicken breaks.

The Princess Bed

Once at the shows, the stars consistently shined brightly. They came to love the ritual associated with the shows. They enjoyed the large pink Princess bed, shaped like a big tiara that we bought at the National Capital Show. It was spacious and fitting for their soon to be fame. The “Princess Bed” became well known. When we accidentally left it behind at a show, it was quickly identified as their bed and promptly sent back to them for the next show.

The "Other" Show

Princess and Ariel endeared themselves to the judges by just being themselves…they each are gifted with exceptionally calm temperaments. They showed enthusiasm and confidence in the show ring and eagerly anticipated coming back to their cage for a taste of baby food and hugs. Back at the benching area, they napped and entertained the spectators with their joviality and baby food spoon licking antics. Spectators never seemed to tire of watching the star duo compete over who was going to get the biggest lick off the spoon. And this also allowed spectators to see their long, lithe and well muscled bodies as they balanced on their back legs reaching for the spoon. Spectators frequently inquired, “Do you feed them”, thinking that the look of the show Siamese is too thin. And we quickly jump on the opportunity to engage in a discussion on how we breed for this look and that they usually eat better than we do, being fed Royal Canin, a premier quality cat food. We are proud to say that our show cats were fed Royal Canin throughout the show season. This helped to keep them in top condition all year.

A Dual Campaign

Campaigning two cats of the same breed at the same time does not come without enormous challenges. Initially, we were inundated with both positive and negative attention regarding our plan to campaign both Princess and Ariel simultaneously. We decided to show Ariel in Premiership since we had his father, GC, RW CherMa'Ki's Michelangelo, CFA'S 2 nd Best of Breed in 04-05, his uncle, GC CherMa'Ki's Adonis and his grandfather, CH Bluskeyes Raphael, all handsome blue points. Many judges asked us, “Why on earth did you neuter him”. We explained that we had several blue ancestors and had never shown in premiership. And we thought it would be fun to take them out together.

There was a great deal of “scuttlebutt” about the wisdom of showing two cats in two different classes for a national win. Well, we felt quite fortunate to have this conundrum. So we did it…we grabbed the bull by its horns, so to speak, and took both our stars out together. And we are proud to say that consistently Princess and Ariel showed their little hearts out…

Princess is a breathtakingly beautiful Seal Point Siamese. Like her brother, Ariel she has the “look” that the majority of judges like in show Siamese. Given that we showed in two classes, picking shows good for both cats was at times quite challenging.

It was heartwarming to know that many judges were pulling for Princess for the Breed Win (BW) and commented when show season ended that she was their “pick”. This made us feel so proud and affirmed our faith in her.

Princess came into the show circuit with a bang. She stayed in or close to the top 25 in championship throughout the show season. She won many honors throughout the season; Winner of the Laina Aitken Memorial Award, awarded to the highest scoring Siamese at the Diamond State Cat Club show in July; the highest scoring Siamese at the Siamese Alliance Show in May; highest scoring Siamese at the highly competitive Garden State Show in July.

Ariel granded in one show and Princess granded in two shows - one of which was a one day-6 ring show.

Balancing Showing and "Life"

We went to as many shows as our family life would allow. We are a two parent, full-time working family. Our 14 year old son, Noah (fitting name don't you think for our ark), valiantly endured being at shows, or when not at shows-being away from his Mom. Our whole family life was adjusted accordingly to make the shows. Darren, a Tugboat Captain, already away a lot on the high seas, supported our stars by coming to shows whenever his job allowed.

And there were times when he went beyond just "supporting" me...

I was scheduled to work with 400 youths that weekend, so could not take the cats to an important show.

After returning by tugboat from Florida, Darren anchored in Norfolk, Virginia got in his truck, drove an hour north to our home to Gloucester, VA , packed up Ariel, Princess, the Princess Bed and the rest of the show "stuff" , then drove six hours to North Carolina for a one day show. All this was orchestrated on four hours of sleep. That is what you call tipping the balance between showing and life - Darren to the rescue!

Family First

Due to a family member's serious illness, we did not show in August. Although we knew this would set us back in the standings, our family needed us and we knew we made the right decision, difficult as it was.

This decision particularly affected Princess the most. There was a constellation of events that culminated in making it difficult for her to regain the ground that she lost in that time out---a perfect storm so to speak.

Broken Bones

Darren, sprained his ankle at the Ramapo Show in Kimberton , Pa. in December.

I broke my ankle at the Norwegian Forest Cat Show in New Jersey the day before my birthday in February. The last few months of the season are a critical time in any national campaign. But the show went on. We limped our way through with a lot of help from our friends. After I broke my ankle, many people offered to take our stars to shows for us….thank you. But we are a team and we had to stick together. And together we made it to the finish line... despite the physical setbacks, despite some campaigners' fierce politicking, despite exhaustion, overcoming some disappointments and always, always remaining so proud of our "kids".

Competition

Competition in the Siamese Breed in the 2007-2008 show was fierce and politically charged. Being new to the national campaign arena, we were taken aback by just how intense this process actually is when you are competing for a Breed Win in a popular breed - and for one of the highly coveted top 25 national spots.

Interestingly, several folks actually asked us, “do you really think that they are going to allow 3 Siamese in the top 25 in Championship?”

I replied, “What do you mean by allow”?

They proceeded to inform me that these decisions are made on a higher level than the shows and that I shouldn't count on staying "in" given that there were already two Siamese ahead of me in the top 25.

I filed this away to ponder later. And how discouraging this is for newer breeders to think that they make all the grand efforts to make the shows and then to hear that judging decisions are happening outside the show ring. Although there may be some truth to this. Judges are human too. They chat amongst themselves. They read the scoreboards etc.

I still believe in my heart that good cats, shown to their best, by sincere breeders can and will do well. We ourselves are examples of this. Now would we have done better if we had several political/power liaisons? Possibly, but the way it stands for us now is that we know we must have good cats. We strive to stay out of the “politics” -and we want to keep it that way. Winning at all costs, without an outstanding cat, is not what showing is about for us.

We now know that although having exceptional cats is important, it is not always enough when faced with the wide range of political and strategic maneuvers campaigners frequently employ to win at all costs. But you have to keep the faith and show through it!

A National Winner, A Close Miss... and So Much More

In a year of intense competition in the Siamese breed in all classes, Princess ended the season as the third Best of Breed Siamese and 26th Best Cat in Championship, missing out on a national win by 250 points - short one good show. She competed and won against both of the top two Siamese in championship multiple times. Judges and other Siamese breeders commented on the rarity of breeding a cat like Princess. We know in our hearts that given the right set of circumstances, she could have taken the Breed Win. Her points were higher than many Siamese Breed Winners in the past, including the previous year. But given the enormous competition and political dynamics that are inevitable realities in the show hall, we are extremely proud of her Third Best of Breed Award and her 26th place nationally.

Despite missing some key shows, Ariel finished the season as the Best Siamese in Premiership and earned the coveted title of National Winner - 25th Best Cat in Premiership. He won by 2.5 nail biting points - a true testament that EVERY POINT COUNTS!!!

Wisdom Earned

My repeated mantra this year was, “there are cat shows, and then there is life”! This helped me to keep this wonderful and all consuming hobby in clear perspective…at least most of the time.

We learned that as is true in all things in life, the best person or best cat does not always win…but can…There are many factors that contribute to a big win….usually a good cat, but not always, keeping your cat in top condition, supportive and consistent judges, stamina, overcoming negativity, staying positive and hopeful, believing in your cat, in yourself and most importantly, rising above the inevitable politics of the show ring.

Although our current lives are not conducive to taking our stars to Europe , and although we are new to running for a national win, we learned a valuable lesson---

You know the saying - You can't keep a good man down? Well, you can't keep a good cat down either…

When you have an exceptional cat, if you are willing to stay in there and go with the ebb and flow and lose with grace and win with humility …you can show your cat proudly, have fun, make lifetime friends and earn the respect and recognition of the Cat Fancy and know in your heart, that as a breeder, you have taken part in creating one of the most beautiful animals walking this earth… in this case, a Siamese Cat... or two...

We had a great run… had a lot fun…broke a bone…and then back home…to reminisce about the long car drives in the middle of the night, the forever friendships that will always stay tight, the hugs, the tears, the laughs, the fears, the cats, the cats, the cats, and their willingness to show their elegance, their beauty, their regal stature, their inner laughter weekend after weekend for their beloved two legged companions and chauffeurs. I thank them for their willingness to humor me and allow us to revel in their glory…thank you Princess and Ariel…for being my true companions, my love and my ideal of the perfect Siamese.

GP, NW CherMa'Ki's Ariel

CFA's Best Siamese in Premiership
25th Best Cat in Premiership
Best Siamese in Premiership
Southern Region's 5th Best Cat in Premiership

&

GC, RW CherMa'Ki's Princess

CFA's 3rd Best Siamese in Championship
26th Best Cat in Championship
Third Highest Scoring Siamese in Championship
Southern Region's 6th Best Cat in Championship

CherMa'Ki Siamese
Since 2002  
“Creating a Masterpiece… One Kitten at a Time”  

 

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