by DeLinda Pearson
Koi Pond

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Our first campaign with our first show cat - and it ends in a National Win!

How? A lot of luck, a LOT of help, and a wonderful kitty.

Our story starts as life-long cat lovers, my husband, Matthew, and I - Persian lovers in particular.

Over the years, our family has been home to a retired show cat or two, breed rescues, and the occasional DSH stray that found its way to our door and into our hearts.

We’d attended the local CFA cat show for at least 10 years knowing that SOMEDAY, when time and money permitted, we wanted to show.

When that time finally came, our journey started with research first.

I read everything on the CFA website. I memorized the Persian standard. I perused old yearbooks. I ordered the CFA Almanac. I found the website, became a member and read everything there. I printed out all the grooming articles, made my own reference textbook and started practicing on my kitties at home.

My 8 and 12 year old Persians at home did not find this new development in their routine at all to their liking :-). Weekly show baths and sculpting attempts were NOT part of their retirement plan - but they were very patient and sweet about it for the most part, and they’d NEVER looked better!

My hubby and I attended all the CFA shows within three hours of home and watched ring after ring, learning the mechanics, and looking at all those beautiful cats!

And finally, after a year long search, we found our “right” first show cat. (This was the incredibly LUCKY part.)

When we saw his picture, it was love at first sight! He was a 7-month old flashy black and white van with the sweetest expression on earth and the most incredible intense copper eye color. He was bred by Maurice Ruble, Budmar Persians, and we were so fortunate to meet a generous, honest breeder with such integrity and compassion for his cats. We know that not all newbies are nearly so lucky.

Everything Maurice told us about the kitten who was to become GP, NW Budmar’s Art Deco of Koi Pond was true.

“Deco” was the only kitten in his litter. His mother required a C-section to deliver him. He was a BIG boy - 10 lb at 7 months. Maurice said, “He has a head as big, round, and smooth as a dinner plate, and his forelegs are a thick as my forearms.” Of his personality he said, “He’s never met a stranger, and he knows no fear.”

I told Maurice I was worried about learning to show groom a cat of his color. Maurice said, “Oh, that’s easy - you just treat him like a white.” That didn’t make me feel any better! We told Maurice we weren’t ready to breed nor to have an intact male in the house; we were looking for a lifelong companion to show in Premiership. Maurice said that was fine; he wanted his cats to have good homes and lots of love first and foremost.

So Deco came home with us to become a member of our family.

The kitten who had never left the house of his birth spent that first night romping in a hotel room and sleeping on the pillow, completely unfazed. That kitten who had never been in a carrier or car before, rode back to Nashville, TN from Tulsa, OK the next morning without a hitch. And that’s the way Deco has taken everything in life that comes his way: in perfect stride.

Our first year together, 2003-2004, I worked on learning what products to use to constitute the “perfect show bath.” They were, by the way, exactly the ones Maurice recommended when we took him home.

When Deco was 11 months old, we attended our first show together. I chose because it was close (< 3 hours away,) a one-day show, and we drove up in the wee hours of the morning because I didn’t want to brave a night in a hotel.

For a first show I think it went fairly well - all except not realizing the show was in the eastern time zone and we left home in the central time zone. We must have put our first set of cage curtains up in record time! At least we did make all 6 rings for Winners Ribbons. The Persian folks we were benched near were very helpful and supportive. They gave me tips on sculpting around Deco’s eyes and encouraged us. They were wonderful ambassadors for CFA.

Our second show was at home in Nashville - two days, but still no hotel - and Deco was Best or 2B LH Pr in 5 out 6 rings! (OK, so there were only maybe 8 premiers there total - it was still grand points.)

He was actually 9th Best Cat in one ring- our first rosette! - but the most exciting part was a mock final, held by judge Rick Hoskinson (at that time still in training) who made him his “Mock Best Cat.” I cried like we had just won the International. And, oh yes, we were hooked.

The very next weekend, I braved the hotel room. Why did I dread the hotel room so? I was intimidated by the thought of that “hotel bath.” But I’ll confess here, that after two seasons of showing and 42 shows total, Deco never once received a hotel bath. He was always bathed on Friday before the show, and with a little help, managed to stay clean the whole weekend. He is as Maurice had promised “a low maintenance white.” which translates into requiring a show bath once a week with interspersed conditioning baths and hot oil treatments combined with diligent eye care, twice a day combing, always wearing a bib, water bottle and hand feeding and sweeping him up after every trip to the litter box to blot dry and powder.

Deco granded that next weekend easily going Best or 2B AB Premier in every ring. He also made 2 finals - a 2nd Best in LH Specialty and a BEST CAT (AB)!!! Wow! What next? We had “planned” on spending a year showing him trying to grand. Hmmm…

We showed him twice more - at his first show as a new Grand he made all the finals, and in his second show (in APRIL!) he was BEST CAT in 4 rings. Friends and competitors were telling us (nicely) to “run him next year.”

We had no idea what that would entail at the time, but it was certainly one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. What a wonderful experience! Exhausting, yes, but exhilarating.

I started planning (if you can’t tell by now, I LIKE to plan). Back I went to to and I re-read all the articles on campaigning. I made Deco a campaign book; I planned out our whole show season in advance. The shows I chose were mostly based on location and previous years counts; and I did not intend to ever buy a plane ticket. I was planning a regional campaign. Deco apparently had other goals in mind.

First mistake - you CANNOT plot out a campaign completely in advance like that.

Tip #1- Be Flexible

Be flexible in your campaign - very flexible in fact. Looking back now we ended up going to less than half the shows I had “planned on.”

You see, the very first weekend of the show season, we met up with “the competition.” Deco was one of THREE bicolor Persians in Region 7 who went on over the year to become National Winners (one of FOUR beautiful bicolor Persians in the country to become NWs this year) and there were several other gorgeous bicolors out there getting high regional wins to boot. With that level of competition, you have to be flexible from week to week.

Luckily, Premiership exhibitors are indeed the wonderful folks they are rumored to be - very supportive of each other - rooting all the cats on, even their “competition.” Our toughest competitors also became our best friends, and everyone was always willing to share where they were entered and where they were going. There wasn’t a lot of deception or collusion or any of those other horror stories that occasionally circulate. In fact, we received exclusively support, encouragement, and good advice; i.e. A LOT of HELP.

And I learned to be flexible. We did double enter occasionally and, by the end of the year, even triple enter, and sometimes we didn’t know where we were going until Friday afternoon. I learned to be okay with that. Of course, it never fazed Deco. He’s okay with anything. And my husband always just asked what direction to point the car when we got in.

And we did learn to fly. Boy, did I dread that! Deco was fine, of course. But it is true you have to follow the count (as long as it is coupled with judges who like your cat!).

After 3 weekends in a row driving 10 hours (one-way) and arriving between 3 and 5 am Saturday morning, we realized that we did not have the physical stamina to keep this up all year. Deco, too, seemed fresher after a 1 – 2 hour flight rather than a marathon haul in the car. Deco was shown 37 times during the 2004-2005 season; he flew to 14 shows. He was shown in every region except the Southwest at least once... and all the Nashville airport security folks got to know him by name and pet him.

Tip #2 - Start Early

We hit the campaign trail the very first weekend of the season, and showed 4 out of 5 weekends in May. When the first E-points came out, there was Deco’s name - among the top 10 cats in the nation - what a thrill! Three months later when Deco’s name was still in the E-points top 10, we began to take a national campaign seriously and adjust our plans accordingly. (Although I’ll admit I was the pessimist, still predicting we couldn’t do it, right up until he hit 4000 points by the beginning of December. Then I knew history and statistics were on our side - although it didn’t really sink in until the very end of April that this was A DREAM COME TRUE!)

Tip #3 - Have FUN!

Recognize the value of every experience.

Looking back now, Deco was probably shown more than he HAD to be to achieve his title. We completely replaced 6 shows (3 of which were in May.) But remembering those 6 shows, we had so much fun at each of them! We met fantastic new people who have become great friends, we found wonderful local restaurants, we were benched next to people with other breeds and we learned not just to appreciate other breeds but to REALLY ADMIRE them, or we saw a judge for the first time that fell in love with Deco. There is just no other thrill like a judge meeting your cat for the first time and then using him in a final, especially Best Cat!

Of course, here again we were lucky. Deco loves to show- he never soured. We did try not to show him more than 3 weekends in a row without a rest, but in all honesty, it was probably the humans that needed the rest more than the cat!

Deco likes to ride in the car- he finds trucks of most descriptions but especially 18-wheelers going by fascinating. He loves hotel rooms; they are his own private playground. And he simply basks in attention - he loves judges and the audience - he loves spectators and exhibitors and other cats. Deco is “busy,” especially for a Persian, and would often play in his judging cage- catching his number, or his ribbon, or something no one else could see. And he played on the judge’s stand- he is especially fond of anything sparkly and noisy. Feathers rarely did anything for him- after all, he NEVER plans on hunting for his dinner! He loves the scratching post and would mortify his owners by extending to full length and often on tiptoe to get in a good stretch (while we were cringing thinking COBBY! COBBY!) And oh his perplexed look when there wasn’t a scratching post on the judging table!

Upon retrieving Deco from the judging ring, he would promptly and uniformly begin washing his mommy’s face as though she were either VERY dirty or he had never expected to see her again. Deco was quite famous for giving kisses- not infrequently smooching judges, or exhibitors, anyone who would oblige by bringing their nose close enough. At his very last show, he romped and played and showed off and kissed people as though it was his first and not his forty-second show - in fact, when he took to his antics in his very last ring for Rachel Anger, he made her cry (as well as his mommy.)

So there it is: the third essential ingredient for a successful campaign, a WONDERFUL KITTY.

Looking Back

The highlights of this experience are too numerous to count. The low points few and far between. It was expensive, but worth it. It was exhausting. I can remember several Saturday mornings hearing Deco scratch and getting up to blot his bottom after 1 or 2 hours of sleep... and thinking I just CAN’T do this anymore! But hearing him purr and nuzzle while he’s being groomed... so glad for his mommy to care for him... and then seeing him raise those incredible big copper eyes up to the ceiling lights when he was held up later in the day “Best Cat” made it all worth it. Oh yes, and my husband saying “You can and you will” time and time again made it possible!

In fact, that’s the very best part of campaigning a cat: the relationships you make. The relationship, the incredible bond you form with your cat – you know him SO WELL and he trusts you COMPLETELY. My relationship with my husband- we hadn’t found time to have weekends off from work together in YEARS! And this past year we’ve had wonderful conversations for hours and hours as the miles rolled past. We’ve had so many new and exciting things to talk about! And finally, I value the relationships with new friends we’ve made from all over the country - friends who share an intense love for beautiful cats, friends who we will keep in touch with for the rest of our lives in or out of the show hall.

But we sure hope to be IN the show halls again soon!

GP, NW Budmar's Art Deco of Koi Pond
CFA's Fourth Best Cat in Premiership 2004-2005
Southern Region's Third Best Cat in Premiership 2004- 2005
Southern Region's Third Best Bicolor Persian in Premiership 2 years straight: 2004 and 2005


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