GHD, HRW Gromi
t
by JULIE BENZER & LEE HARPER
Published July 2017

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In the Spring of 2000, a feral cat gave birth to a litter of kittens under a bush in the back yard of a home in Mesa, Arizona.  One of the rescued kittens grew up to become the first Household Pet in CFA to earn the prestigious title of Grand Household Pet of Distinction.  This history-making seal lynx point spay is named GHD, HRW Gromit.  Gromit is co-owned and shown by sisters Margaret and Julie Benzer.

This is their story . . .


GHD, HRW Gromit
CFA's First Grand Household Pet of Distinction
Photo by Chanan

The tale began in early 2000.  At that time, a trio of young feral cats showed up in my parents’ backyard in Mesa, Arizona.  The young male soon disappeared but the two young females stayed.  When Spring rolled around it was apparent both girls were pregnant.  The pointed-and-white girl, nicknamed T.J., gave birth to her litter on April 12, 2000. 


Gromit, The Dog


Nine days after T.J. had given birth, I discovered she was hiding her kittens under the boysenberry bushes in a hollow in our side yard. 

Arizona, has a state water system called flood irrigation.  At a scheduled time, a valve opens in the yard and hundreds of gallons of water a minute flood the property.

With irrigation due to turn on in just hours, it seemed certain the kittens would drown, so my sister, Margaret, donned a thick jacket for protection and gamely dove into the boysenberry patch to rescue the babies.  Not only did Margaret have to contend with the thorns on the bushes, she also had a very angry mother cat attacking her in an attempt to "save" her kittens. 

 

When it was all over, we had rescued the entire litter of three boys and one girl. 

All the boys looked just like their father while the big, feisty girl in the litter looked just like her mother, but without her white legs.  Her eyes weren’t yet open, but she was gamely hissing at everyone who handled her during those first few days. 

After several weeks of round-the-clock bottle feedings, the little girl earned her name when she decided to help herself to hot tea and cheese, a favorite treat of the claymation dog in the British TV series titled Wallace and Gromit.  Given her food preference, combined with her cream coloring and brown points, she just HAD to be named Gromit.  

With one kitten named, the rest of the litter also got their monikers from the same animated series.


(Left) Gromit snuggling with her littermates. (Right) Baby Gromit with her eyes just opened.

The Lady Has An Attitude

Although Gromit is my sister's cat, we were both eager to start showing her in the CFA Household Pet class as soon as she hit four months of age. We did have some misgivings though.  Gromit was a squirming bundle of energy who just did not want to be held or caged for more than just a few seconds.  We initially passed on several show opportunities and finally decided her debut should be at our local show when she turned six months old. 

While she did earn her first "Best" Cat and finished second Best in Show, it was still not a very promising start.  She spent a lot of time trying to pull the judging cages off the tables and tried to bolt off the judging table in almost every ring.  She was NOT a happy camper and was loudly complaining about the whole experience.

The Change

But we persevered.  For the next two and a half years, we showed our wild child. She did eventually learn to calm down in the judging cages — but she just couldn’t be trusted not to bolt off the judge’s table. 

Then in May of 2003, a minor miracle occurred.  At a show in Tucson, AZ, Gromit stepped confidently onto the judge’s table and posed like a true professional.  Gone was the rambunctious demon diva — and in her place was a calm, cool, sophisticated show girl.  Gromit seemed to have finally figured out that cat shows were beauty contests and it was far easier for the judges to admire her if they weren’t having to wrestle with her first.


Our wild child grew into a charming show off . . .
Photo by Chanan

Over the years, Gromit grew to love showing more and more.  She became a regular fixture in the HHP rings of our region's shows.  I showed her fairly regularly each season until December or January of the year — then gave her a three to four month rest during which I would show her at a few select shows to keep her happy.

While HHP awards were not officially recognized by CFA during these years, the Southwest Region was one of the first CFA regions to score household pets for unofficial regional awards.  Our region's household pets rings were popular and the competition was enthusiastic.  Over the next decade, Gromit was a multiple regional winner including being Best Household Pet a record 8 times!


In between rings, Gromit catches some well-earned ZZZZZZZZZ's while she rests her head on her catnip toy.

Gromit's First "Official" CFA Title

Then, beginning with the 2015-2016 show season, CFA announced they would be scoring HHPs and offering official titles!

I hoped Gromit could become the first HHP to grand in CFA, so off we went to the Seacoast Cat Club show in New Hampshire.  She fell a few points shy of being a one-show Grand at the show.  Another HHP, Blaise, a gorgeous tortoiseshell spay owned by Sue Robbins, was at the same show, and she also was a just a few points short of granding.   It would be race to see which one of our girls would grand first at the next show.

The following weekend at the Wayne Anthony show in Ann Arbor, MI, Blaise became the first HHP to grand in CFA. You can read her story: GH Blaise: The Throwaway Kitten That Becomes A Star. The same weekend, but a few hours later and on the other side of the country, Gromit granded in Issaquah, WA.

Though disappointed we had missed being the first HHP to earn the new title by just hours, I was still proud of our Gromit.   By the end of the season, she was once again Best HHP in the Southwest Region 2015-2016, adding a second title to her name — Household Pet Regional Winner.   Gromit was now officially known as GH, HRW Gromit.

While not her first regional win, this was the first time that her regional win was officially recognized by CFA!


GH, HRW Gromit
Photo by Helmi Flick

The Grand Household Pet of Distinction

There was now just one more title that Gromit could try to add to her name.  In addition to the Grand and the Regional Win titles for HHPs, CFA also offered the Household Pet Grand of Distinction (GHD).  This title was for any HHP that had earned a at least 30 finals and a minimum of 250 points in each of three show seasons (not necessarily in consecutive years). 

Because CFA did not begin officially scoring HHPs until the 2015-2016 show season, this was the first year that could be counted as a qualifying season.  This meant that the earliest that any HHP could have the three qualifying years necessary to earn the GHD title would be the 2017-2018 show season.

We had full confidence that Gromit could earn the GHD title . . . but since she had just missed out being the first HHP to Grand in CFA, we couldn't help wondering if she could be the first to earn the title of GHD.  The race was on!

Gromit was now a senior citizen in her mid-teens, but she was in wonderful condition, excellent health and she still loved showing.  Our only hesitation was that she seemed to take longer to bounce back after flying to a show now.  With this in mind, my sister and I decided grounding Gromit was in her best interest.  We would only show Gromit locally to earn her GHD award . . . so we began by going to the few shows that were within easy driving distance.

In late December 2016, a friend pleaded with me to "please bring Gromit" to the show in Nashville, Tennessee.  She wanted to relive our glory days of traveling together to shows in the Southwest Region.  After a lot of thought, I gave in — and off we flew to the east coast.  We had a lots of fun at the show, and to my surprise, Gromit not only had a grand time but flying didn’t seem to bother her at all.  Perhaps we could do a little more flying after all . . .

Then, in mid-February 2017, two of Gromit’s oldest and toughest HHP competitors in Region 5 passed away within days of each other.  Delynn and Angel Paws had both been Best HHP in the Southwest Region in years past.


Delynn (left) owned by Kim Taylore was BEST HHP in R5 in 2010-2011.
Angel Paws (right) owned by Isabel and Pat Pomphrey was BEST HHP in R5 in 2007-2008. 

It gave me pause.  Angel Paws was only two months older than Gromit.  Was this a wake-up call?   Perhaps we needed to reassess the plan to take our time earning Gromit’s GHD title.  She was approaching her 17th birthday. Time was now a concern . . .

The 2017-18 Show Season

I had already planned out Gromit's show schedule for the upcoming 2017-2018 show season.   While looking to maximize rings, I thought that the point minimum could be met by showing just in Regions 2 and 5.  If things worked out as planned, her 30th and final ring would happen the end of May at the Superstition Cat Fanciers’ show in Phoenix, close to my home and friends. 

It was a good plan, until I realized that, unfortunately, one of the shows wasn't offering any classes for HHPs this year.  It meant Gromit would complete her GHD requirements somewhere other than at a "home" show. 

So, with the start of the new season, we flew first to Atlanta, GA and then Seattle, WA.  After our local show on Memorial Day weekend, Gromit was just six rings and 13.95 points short of our goal. 

So on the first weekend of June, we flew to Baltimore for the Colonial Annapolis Cat Fanciers show in Parkville, MD.  We had not seen most of these judges before, but I knew if she made even a few finals, Gromit would still be ahead of her closest competitor.  If all went well, she could still be the first kitty to earn the GHD title. 

The first day of the show she made two of four finals.  This meant she needed to make all four finals on the second day to reach 30, or she would need to show in Houston the following weekend.  The next day the suspense began to build . . . she made the first final . . . and the second!  Then she made the third!  

One more ring to go! 

I held my breath waiting for the announcement of the numbers for the last final . . .

CFA's First GHD!

When number 177 was called for the fourth and final ring of the weekend, I sent a one word text to my sister waiting back home in Mesa.

“YES!”  

Judge Kenny Currle had just awarded Gromit her 30th final of the season — the last one she needed to earn her Grand Household Pet of Distinction title. 


CFA judge Kenny Currle, newly titled GHD, HRW Gromit, and Gromit's proud co-owner, Julie Benzer

Our feisty, wild child kitten had grown up to make history by becoming the first Household Pet in CFA to earn the title of Grand Household Pet of Distinction . . . and she did it at the age of 17 years, one month, and 23 days!

Home

I joked that I didn’t need a plane to fly back to Phoenix that night.  When we arrived home, Gromit headed straight to the litter box, the food dish, and the water fountain, in that order.  Just another night after a show as far as she was concerned . . .

From the humblest of beginnings, our beloved Gromit had earned a place in the history book of the world's largest cat registry.   In addition to being CFA's first GHD, Gromit has been a regional winner in Region 5 every year since the 2001-2002 show season, earning 14 unofficial RWs and 2 official RWs, including an unprecedented total of 10 times as BEST HHP in the Region.

Who could have predicted such a future for the hissing kitten born underneath a boysenberry bush those many years ago?  


GHD, HRW Gromit
CFA's First Grand Household Pet of Distinction

Pictured at 17 years of age
Photo by Chanan

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More photos from the show career of

GHD, HRW Gromit
Seal Lynx Point Spay
Born: April 12, 2000
Owners: Margaret & Julie Benzer

CFA Southwest Region 2001-2002: 3rd Best Household Pet
CFA Southwest Region 2002-2003: 2nd Best Household Pet
CFA Southwest Region 2003-2004: BEST Household Pet
CFA Southwest Region 2004-2005: BEST Household Pet
CFA Southwest Region 2005-2006: BEST Household Pet
CFA Southwest Region 2006-2007:BEST Household Pet
CFA Southwest Region 2007-2008: 3rd Best Household Pet
CFA Southwest Region 2008-2009: BEST Household Pet
CFA Southwest Region 2009-2010: BEST Household Pet
CFA Southwest Region 2010-2011: 2nd Best Household Pet
CFA Southwest Region 2011-2012: BEST Household Pet
CFA Southwest Region 2012-2013: 2nd Best Household Pet
CFA Southwest Region 2013-2014: BEST Household Pet
CFA Southwest Region 2014-2015: BEST Household Pet
CFA Southwest Region 2015-2016: BEST Household Pet
CFA Southwest Region 2016-2017: 2nd Best Household Pet


Photo by Helmi Flick


Photo by L. Johnson


Showing is hard work!


Gromit gives judge Carolyn Osier a kiss . . .


Gromit playing with judge Kim Everett


Gromit's favorite toy was a simple piece of GRASS!


Gromit with judge Laura McIntyre


Gromit is the Guest of Honor at her Grand Household Pet of Distinction party feast!


Photo by Chanan


GH Blaise
CFA's first kitty to earn the title of Grand Household Pet,
Blaise is owned and shown by SUE ROBBINS, Opurra Tonkinese
.
Read our article about this lovely girl at GH Blaise: The Throwaway Kitten That Becomes A Star
Photo by L. Johnson

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