As exhibitors of show cats, we each have enjoyed some of the special joys of a "first" - the "first" Grand, the "first" Best, the "first" campaign.
This is the story of GC RW TNT Purrfect Katrina Vantassel. It's the story of her breeder/owners, the mother/daughter team of Diana and Tonya Heinzen of Avondale, AZ. And it's a story of "firsts", one low, one high.
It's the story of their first regional campaign, unsuccessful due to a last minute "glitch", and how they immediately bounced back with their second campaign - with delightful results...
It was April of 1999. Diana and Tonya were nearing the end of their first regional kitten campaign with a stunning brown Tabby and White Persian girl, TNT Purrfect Fantasia. Although this was their first campaign, Diana and Tonya had done their research and knew how many points they needed, had learned how to evaluate shows and judging slates, and how to count points. They knew their "Fanny" was on track for a kitten win in CFA's Southwest Region.
Everything was going according to plan.
Then, with just a couple weekends left to the end of the season, they hit a detour in the campaign trail... Fantasia's tail was caught in a judging cage door and broken!
They pulled her from further competition without completing her kitten career.
At season's end, they were 20 points shy of 20th Best Kitten - less than a single final short of having enough points!
Disappointed, disheartened and a little depressed, Diana and Tonya decided to take a break from showing.
However, an adorable dilute calico kitten named Katie had a different plan in mind. Katie seemed to know that they needed some cheering up and her big copper brown eyes seemed to say,
"Come on, Let's go to the shows!"
This is Katie's story…
After the letdown of Fantasia's campaign, Diana and Tonya had no immediate plans to show again, even though they both were quietly excited about a little dilute calico kitten who had been born in January of 1999.
At the end of May there was a show in Tucson, AZ. It was close to home so Diana and Tonya entered their little charmer, although she was barely 4 months and a minute of age. The plan was to have some fun and maybe get an idea of how the judges felt about her. Well everyone loved her, and she made 7 out of the 8 finals with an All Breed Best Kitten from Stan Barnaby!
Delighted, thrilled, crying with happiness… and laughing at their "short" sabbatical from campaigning, Diana, Tonya and Katie hit the show trail once more. It was early in the new season, but they were going to try for that "first" regional win once more!
It was a team effort. Because Tonya had the more flexible work schedule, she was in charge of presentation and would accompany Katie to most of the shows. Diana held down the home fort on the weekends, kept the campaign book, calculated points and together they mapped out a campaign strategy. The vital link was their cell phone, and their computer link to good friend Lee Harper of Mockingbird, who always found a way to brighten their outlook when the going seemed to get too tough.
Katie loved the shows, and judges and exhibitors alike were mesmerized by her huge eyes, tiny ears, wonderful boning and superb presentation. Diana and Tonya felt Katie would need at least 1200 points to be assured of a kitten win in region 5. Counts were low, so strategy was important.
Katie was shown mainly in CA and AZ, but she made one trip to a show in Illinois. With only one weekend before she aged out, the perfect show with the perfect judging slate was chosen - the "Big Cats Helping Little Cats" show in Santa Monica, CA.
Almost every judge there had not only seen Katie but had used her in their top 5. The show would make or break Katie's regional win.
So off they went to Santa Monica, half hopeful, half terrified. Tonya tried to relax, but was understandably more nervous at this show than any time ever. Katie, as usual, was calm as ever, and with her body language seemed to say, "Aw Mom, it's in the bag!"
Well, the kitty gods took pity on Tonya and decided to end the suspense. On Saturday, Katie earned enough points to bring her total over 1200.
With tears of excitement and joy, Tonya made the final call home to Diana to share the news. Diana calculated the points and confirmed the totals!
On Sunday, Katie ended her kitten career by being awarded her 12th Best Kitten rosette, this time by Douglas Myers! This last show was also the highest scoring show of her career!
Of course, now came the 8 month wait until season's end to see if their prediction of 1200 points would indeed be enough to earn Katie the coveted RW in front of her name.
In the meantime, Katie granded at 8 months of age then retired to snooze her afternoons away, sharing the place of honor with Fantasia at the foot of Tonya's bed.
The last few weeks in April sure passed slowly. Then came that day in May when the e-points arrived... and Katie was CFA's Southwest Region's 18th Best Kitten for the 1999-2000 show season.
What a difference a year makes - from the disappointment of May 1999 to the exhilaration of May 2000! What a way to start the new Century!
But isn't that part of what makes our hobby so challenging, so satisfying? From the tender moments when we help bring a new kitten life into this world, to the purrs and warm nose snuggles, to the first future show hopes, through the ups and downs, and to the wonderful thrill of accomplishing a a "first".
Diana, Tonya and Katie would like to thank all of the judges and many exhibitors who were so supportive of Katie... and special thanks to Lee Harper of Mockingbird Persians and Exotics, for her generosity and patience in teaching so much about campaigning, for helping to fine tune Katie's presentation, and for her constant encouragement even when the campaign trail was particularly rocky.
GC, RW TNT Purrfect Katie Vantassel
Dilute Calico Persian Female born Jan 25, 1999 Sire: Chancery's The Bubbly Stuff
Dam: GC TNT Purrfect Cinderella, DM
Dilute Calico Persian Female born Jan 25, 1999
Sire: Chancery's The Bubbly Stuff
CFA Southwest Region's 18th Best K itten 1999-2000
Diana & Tonya Heinzen
TNT Purrfect Persians
Avondale, Arizona, USA
All Photos in this article are by Richard Katris, CHANAN