Updated: Jan 3, 2022
a number of ways 2021 has been the most challenging year of my life - finances, hardships, and just overall bad luck. It's been the first year I've really feared not being able to pay our bills. At times my anxiety was so bad I couldn't breathe. Oddly, it's also the most money I've ever made in a year. I was our only earner for about half the year, and somehow we managed to survive on that. Whitman was on unemployment, which failed to pay out for over four months, so my income was really the only one we had. In November we had major car troubles, major washer problems. And then of course Ami's emergency c-section. Every time I thought we had things stable and I would start entering events again another hit would come. But we managed, with help which I am eternally grateful, and with me taking on a whole lot of hours. And finally, things are going back to some type of semblance of normal.
People read my posts for the insight on dogs, and I'll get there. But the human side of things provides and interesting backdrop to the successes my dogs have had this year. And I do think it's important to remember the human details that aren't often shown to the world. Often I would enter my dogs weeks or months in advance for events to then have yet another financial blow hit and I would feel guilty for having spent the entry fees when we would later need them. But then I would go to an event, see my friends, see my dogs happy and it would ease something in my heart.
Anubi started the year fresh off finishing his Gazehound Racing Championship. He was the second Azawakh to do this and I set my sights for him on becoming the first Azawakh to finish his Supreme Gazehound Racing Championship. He finished his SGRC in the beginning of October (which was also Amidi's last race weekend of the year before having her litter). He was featured in the program of LGRA nationals - he was #1 LGRA, UKC, and ASFA Azawakh in 2020. This year he out did himself - #1 LGRA and AKC Lure Coursing Azawakh, #2 ASFA and UKC LC Azawakh, and the first ever #1 NOTRA Azawakh. He continued to amaze me all year. He finished his ASFA Field Championship in addition to his SGRC. We attended UKC Premier Nationals for the first time and he tooK BOB every day, made the top 10 semi-finals, and earned a Total Dog Group 2. He became the first Azawakh to earn his Beginner Agility title through UKC, with some beautiful runs too boot. And was the first Azawakh to earn his Junior Oval Racer in NOTRA (Amidi and Amalu say this was so unfair because they had to miss meets because of heat cycles).
Those NOTRA points and JOR legs are something particularly near to my heart because I fought hard for those. Azawakh weren't even provisionally recognized by the National Oval Track Racing Association, but with some help from my Silken Windhound club friends who petitioned on my and the breed's behalf, we got the breed provisionally recognized and my dogs had a blast learning a new game this year.
Amalu in particular has been on fire every time we have taken her oval racing. My only goal for her this year was to get her running cleanly with competition in running sports. We've been moderately successful in that goal. In the very beginning of the year it finally seemed to click for her. She ran her first ASFA trial beautifully and took Best of Breed over both Anubi and Amidi. Her next trial was also stunning and though she didn't place as well, her runs were gorgeous. But the next day she interfered. Hoping it was a fluke I ran her again only with Anubi and she was excused again (ran one clean run, but the other she wanted to play with Anubi). I finally pulled her from coursing when she interfered badly enough I thought she'd been dismissed rather than excused. At the same time, something started clicking in straight racing and in October, she cleanly and purposefully passed Ami in LGRA. Amalu managed to finished her GRC this year as well, which hadn't even been a pipe dream of mine. Two years old and finished in racing and conformation isn't shabby at all. A couple weeks beforehand she beat Ami in every single program of NOTRA. I had sent her with Whitman that day because I was handling a dog elsewhere and I'd worried myself silly and all the reports I got was that she ran beautifully. Despite her stumbling blocks, it really has been a year of growth for Amalu. I've seen her mature as a runner and mature as a dog. I debuted her in agility and while we have a lot to do still, I look forward to trialing her more. The few times she showed this year she showed beautifully and usually placed in a very competitive group. She ends the year as #1 Single Azawakh (AKC and ASFA), #3 NOTRA Azawakh, #3 LGRA Azawakh, and #4 ASFA Azawakh, which, considering all our set backs, is really impressive.
Ash never gets enough love and he is really a fabulous, easy dog (especially these days now that we're largely past the reactivity). This was, by far, an exceptional running year for him. With over 70 Salukis competing, he made the Top 20 in ASFA. He turned 7 in June and he had a number of defeats over very talented running dogs a third his age. My goal for him had been to finish his Field Championship with ASFA, but with the brutal heatwave we had over summer, a couple of the ASFA trials got cancelled. He ends 2021 only 4 points (of 100) from his FCh. Perhaps even more surprising is he seems to have grown a competitive side and has been competitive in LGRA this year. He finished in the Top 10 (over 20+ Salukis competing) and managed to take some programs off dogs ranked substantially higher than him. Like Amalu, we had a setback where he was excused from a Best in Field run for fixating on an Ibizan (that he had oddly run with before) but he has run cleanly since then. I truly cannot begin to tell you how remarkable his year has been and it's incredible to look at where Ash is now versus where he started.
And then Amidi. In many many ways she has had both the worst luck and the biggest successes this year. She badly jammed a toe running with my dogs in April, which took her a full month to recover from. It could have happened to literally any of my dogs, she just happened to be the unlucky one. Then, not even a month later, she discovered poison oak growing in the woods behind our place. I didn't recognize what was happening at the time and caught it way too late. Her reaction to the oil was extreme and took months for all the damage to heal and for her immune system to recover. Despite all of that, she still finished the year as the #1 ASFA Azawakh (which is absolutely remarkable considering she only coursed half the year between injuries and pregnancy/raising a puppy). She also finished #2 LGRA and AKC Lure Coursing Azawakh and earned some JOR legs, though no points. Everything about Ami impressed me this year. She is resilient and loving and I think I'm finally seeing her adult temperament. She was my first Azawakh to finish her FCh. She finished her GRC by finally having the confidence to leave Amalu in the dust. And in August, she finished her UKC conformation Championship, something we'd been chasing for over a year. She is the first Azawakh in history to finish in UKC, LGRA, and ASFA.
We bred Ami to Anu in September, which I've already talked a lot about, but it was a truly harrowing experience. My long hours of research and my gut feelings are what got Ami and Birdie through alright. But let me assure you, standing in the grass outside an emergency clinic, sobbing, and silently begging for your girl to pull through alive, having given up hope on any chance of the puppies living, has got to be among the worst feelings in the world. But Birdie is here and thriving. She's taking every adventure in stride (pun not originally intended, but it fits). She's everything I hope to produce in a dog and Ami, who is generally not a fan of puppies, has been a phenomenal mother.
And now we get to the unplanned additions. I didn't intend to add three dogs this year. Not at all. I'd planned to keep a puppy from my first litter, but adding two adults and a Taigan puppy? Not so much.
Tabiri Asouf was my most logical and planned addition. I knew he was available and when I was having trouble finding a stud to breed to for Ami's second litter, it all just fell into place. And I adore this dog. So much. I didn't raise him to adulthood, but my bond with him is just as strong. The amount of trust that he has in me is incredible. It's been an up and down ride at times, but the thing I absolutely cannot get past is his complete stability no matter what I throw at him. He doesn't lash out, he's not hysterical, he assesses situations cool. He is absolutely everything I want temperament wise in an Azawakh. It has been a delight to see him blossom in the sports we've tried. The last LGRA race meets we took him too he has been digging and really pushing Amalu to run her hardest. I'm looking forward to letting him try NOTRA again next year and maybe give him another shot at coursing. And, as a bonus, he actually ends the year ranked as the #2 Single Azawakh (AKC) and #5 LGRA Azawakh, which was something I wasn't at all expecting.
Azhidar (aka Chompy, Chompidar, Chomps, or Chompers) was both a surprise and not. I'd been on the list for him for over a year. I loved his parents when I visited Alison to pick up Tabiri and I adored them. However when Azhidar's mother took longer to go into heat than I expected, my timeline with my own litter plans got tighter and tighter. I eventually backed out of the list, until after seeing the puppies, I just couldn't say no. I won't lie. He's been a challenge for me. He was a busy and bratty (lots of back talking and blowing me off) puppy and it took awhile for us the speak each other's language (and for him to understand that yes, really honestly, he couldn't outwait me). But he's also brilliant and loves to both work and play hard. He's earnest and tries hard and boy does he have drive. Not to mention, he's been a brilliant daycare dog. I am super grateful for my flyball teammate taking him on for the first month of Birdie's life, because I simply didn't have enough time to give him everything he deserved. Since he came back, I have been so impressed with how gentle he has been with Birdie.
Lastly, Gem. I am still very much in disbelief that Gem is mine now. She was and is Norma's special girl. I am honored that she chose to trust me. And am so excited to get her out and trying all sorts of things in the coming year. Despite the fact that she came home the very day of Ami's emergency c-section she's melded into my pack like she's always been here. She loves the other dogs, she loves Whitman. And she's been easy because she already has all her foundations. She is fun to work and when I've practiced her at LGRA it was exciting on her second run to see the lightbulb go off and she discovered that yes, she could chase the "bunny" and not be in trouble. Her full sister is one of the most talented runners I've ever seen, so I am so excited to she is capable of when she starts gaining confidence.
This whole year I have been grateful for the incredible community of sighthound people I am surrounded by. I have gained mentors and friends and more knowledge than I could possibly conceive of two years ago. I got to experience Open Field Coursing again, even though there my dogs didn't get to run because we didn't flush much. And I got to experience my first UKC Premier Nationals. The dogs handled flying well and showed beautifully. Anu and Ami thought that coursing on the same day as showing was the best thing ever. I got to meet great people and in general had an incredible experience. One of my favorite realities of the year was we finally resumed full flyball practice and my dogs took to it like we'd never taken time off.
One of my own personal favorite memories was trialing Oliver the Service Newfie in Newfoundland Club of America Water Trials. We spent all summer prepping and it was amazing that he passed his first trial. He is so incredibly talented and there is absolutely nothing like seeing a dog do what they were bred to do. I'm looking forward to trialing him in Drafting and going for his Senior Water Dog next year.
So, despite all the challenges, the year was worth it. Especially if you ask my dogs.
Looking forward into the new year, I've set goals as I always do.
Ash- finish FCh, work toward GRC
Anubi- debut in flyball, NADAC Novice Regular and Jumpers, work towards UKC GrCh, work towards ORC
Tabiri- cert in NOTRA, run a full lure coursing course, BCAT, debut in conformation ring
Gem- finish in AKC and UKC conformation, cert in NOTRA, work towards running LC, BCAT, trick titles, CGC, VHMA, have her first litter
Amidi- debut in flyball, agility trials, JOR, have her second litter
Amalu- novice titles in agility, run cleanly in coursing, JOR
Azhidar- cert in AOK9, foundations in agility and flyball, disc
Biride- foundations in everything, puppy runs, debut in conformation ring
I'm also hoping to do more traveling this coming year. With Whitman back at work all time and my ability to do consults from where ever I am, I'm hoping I can make this happen. I'm hoping that when Golden Gate Kennel Club's show (San Fransisco) gets rescheduled, I'll be able to make it. I'll be attending the Windy City Cluster followed by UKC Premier in June in the Midwest. I would love to make it to the Chatanooga show in TN in September. And I would dearly love to make it to the ASFA II, LGRA/NOTRA nationals, and maybe AKC's NLCC. Oh, plus my flyball team will be going to CanAm. Not sure I'll be able to make all of that happen, but fingers crossed.
And fingers crossed for a better year for me and for everyone.