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Kennel Nicktime Cairn Terrier - USA trip
The trip to USA

"Oops I Did It Again" would be a very appropriate beginning of the story of my trip to America. And what DID I, actually, do again?

Well, I did say YES to come to USA with my dog Zalazar Yahoo without having the faintest idea of what could be expected of surprises, and had I known what my dog and I would have to go through, I might have reconsidered my commitment. 

In fact, we need to go back to 2001, when my dog wins BIS 3 JUNIOR. The success was also a very special one, since I was sick throughout 2001, and therefore had sent my dog into last year's exhibition with his breeder, Mette Sørum of Kennel Zalazar. At home. I waited impatiently to hear news from the show, and it turned out that Mette had plenty of dogs to show at the exhibition, and therefore had allied with Soren Thomsen of Kennel Nordcairn, who showed my dog to BIS 3 JUNIOR. I hasten to, once again, say a big thank you to Mette and Soren for their help. I am sure that I said thanks already in 2001, but a good deed can not be done too often.

When you are ill, and unable to do many of the things you want to do, it’s just so cool to hear how well it had gone at the show, and the family still speaks of this day as the day, when I danced wild indian dances in "a wild Indian dance in the flush of victory".

Of course, I sent emails all around the world to tell the news, and then I received a special mail from a lady in the U.S., who said she would think my dog to be just yummy, yummy, yummy ....( hmmm sounds like a Matas-advertising jingle). Over the past 6 years, this lady has consistently encouraged me to come to the United States to exhibit my dog, but but but …… the U.S. is thus not just around the corner, so for several years, we just kept talking about it.

Meanwhile, my dog was now 7 years old, and I thought that, if I was going to go, it had to be now and in previous years, I had indeed, with reasonable success shown my dog in other countries, and had acquired some titles, so the possibility of adding the title of American Champion was enticing, but probably not realistic, as I would have to compete against many professional handlers. The agreement was made, the ticket was booked, and the day in the middle of October dawned, when I was to set off  with my dog.

At the Copenhagen Airport, I already ran into problems, because I was not allowed to leave to the US, before being able to present my destination address. I hadn't given that any thought, because I was supposed to be picked up at the airport, and I took it that my friend would very well be able to find her way home from the airport, but there was no getting around this problem, so in the very early morning I had to make some phone calls and got the problem solved. So far, so good.

I flew from Copenhagen and arrived at Atlanta Airport 9.5 hours later, where I had 1,5 hours at my disposal, before going on the next airplane. Well, I had checked it out if 1,5 hours would be enough time to get my dog onto the next plane, and I was told that this would not create any problems. What no one had taken take into account beforehand was the fact that my plane had a  30-minute delay across the Atlantic, but I had good help in getting checked-in both my dog and my luggage, and then I ran the best I'd learned in order to get to the next flight, only to reach the gate and see that the door was being closed. My shoes had gnawed a bleeding blister into my left heel, so I hobbled down to the service center to find out, if my dog had got on the plane or not. Fortunately, this was not the case, and I asked the service center to give the folks a call and let them know that my dog needed water, and the service center told me they would take care of that. 

Then I got a standby flight for 18:00 pm (midnight Danish time). This flight, however, proved to be overbooked. Another trip to the service center, where I got the message that my dog, fortunately, was not on board that plane either. At 20.10 hrs (02.10 Danish time), I was told, I would certainly be on the plane, and so I hobbled off towards the 3rd new gate.

Of course, each departure had a new gate, so I walked (or rather hobbled) a few km that day. Finally , I arrived at the gate, from which I would hopefully get to my destination, and I asked about my dog again. I was assured that everything was in perfect order. This plane was delayed, too, and  t was 20.30 (02.30 Danish time) before I boarded the aircraft. Here, I asked the stewardess to kindly advise me when my dog had got on board. Nice and smiling she was, the stewardess, and promised to let me know immediately. The message came shortly after; she came down to my seat and told that my dog was  on board.  ... .. Deep sighs on my part and lifted thumbs from my fellow passengers. Also, it said over the speakers, "Welcome to the Danish dog on board", but ,unfortunately and only seconds later, the stewardess came down again and told me that "your dog is not on board and we do not know where he is!!” An elderly gentleman was very upset on my behalf and notifed the stewardess of the airline's liability and responsibility for the dog being comparable with the responsibility for a child and, finally, that they had to find my dog immediately and bring him on board!

It would have been wonderful, if that had actually happened, but it didn’t. On the contrary, they gave me the choice between staying on board or getting off the plane. At the time, there was no option to me but for me to leave the plane in order to find my dog. When leaving the plane my choice of words, amongst others, contained words like SHIT, and I also managed to utter that I was not in any way impressed by the performance of the airline. Back at the gate, my pitch was "slightly" higher than normal when saying that ”I now fucking demand that you immediately find my dog"! Quite cold in the a callously and unsympathetically I was informed that I was not in a position to ask for anything and that the police was on its way because of my unacceptable behavior on the plane ????? And, indeed, 2 Terminator-like police officers with various equipment, including pistols, arrived a moment later. “Damn it”, I thought, as  it was now necessary to keep calm, if I did not want to spend the night behind bars. Inside, I felt appalled that my dog had disappeared and fatigue had also gradually taken its toll, since I’d been up since 5 o'clock in the morning (Danish time, of course). I did, however, calmly explain to one of the officers (the second one had left again - probably after having assessed that his remaining colleague would, if necessary, be able to throw me into the floor and put me in handcuffs without any problems!) what had happened during the last many hours, and how I had repeatedly asked for my dog and had always been told that everything was under control, which it obviously wasn’t since my dog had now disappeared! The policeman was very helpful and in the meantime, the company had found out that my dog had flown on at an earlier point of time. “That’s, nice, really nice (not)”, I thought, but I abstained from speaking that out loud.

Immediately, I called my friend, and she told me that my dog had been present since 19.00 in Knoxville, but luckily she had already found out by calling the airport of arrival, and that the dog was now safe at home with her. She also told me that there is a last departure from Atlanta at about 10 o'clock (04.00 in the morning Danish time), and I, therefore,  tried to check out, if I could get on the flight at 10 o'clock. The answer was a pure demonstration of power, since it sounded: "Madam, you are not flying anywhere today." Great !? As if one would smile and be satisfied with this answer, just because you are spoken to with "madam"!. The airline condenscended to offer me a connecting flight leaving the next morning at 08.00 (14.00 afternoon Danish time)

At this point, I was so close to thinking that a trip back to Denmark would be more attractive, and the last message was  not particularly invigorating to my already washed-out body. The policeman was now talking to the company about accommodation. “Yes, that would be the very least”, I thought, but was surprised when I heard that they were talking about "discount". Discount?!?! Well, one would expect such cost to be carried by the airline, after they had so totally messed up the handling of and caring for my dog, but NO, that expense would have to be on me, since I’d been "thrown out of" the aircraft. Wow, the story was certainly also being messed up here. The policeman offered to drive me to a hotel, but I simply couldn't go to a hotel not knowing how to get to the airport again next morning. So I told the policeman that I wanted to stay at the airport, but I couldn't stay at the gate, as I had to check in again next morning. 

After having been on the underground train god knows how many times and been running around for god know how many hours -  it felt like several marathon races - I arrived in  the check-in hall, where I took a hard chair. Here I sat and nodded my  head for 2 hours, before I discovered that some small 2-seater sofas were located around the corner. A single one was still available, and I lay down and tried to rest with my bag as a pillow and my cell phone set to wake me at 04.00 (12.00 Danish time). Within a few hours, I felt so sick that I repeatedly had to run to the "privy", and fortunately a young couple cared to "keep my couch free” until I was back. At 5 o'clock in the morning check-in opened, and I got my boarding pass and took me to one of several infinitely long row of checkpoints, before I, once again took the now familiar trip to the underground train and arrived at the gate in good time.

It was not until now that I found out why I had been ill during the night. I had not had anything to eat since lunch on the plane the day before. Finally, at long last, I sat on the plane and was allowed to remain on board, and within 60 min.  -  with a 16-17 hour- delay - I arrived in Knoxville, at a time which corresponds to at. 15:00 Danish time.

Back at my friend’s wonderful home, I was reunited with my dog, and I thought that with a "start" like this the rest of the stay could only get better. And it did, indeed, get better than "better".

Since I had, after all, decided to take the trip from Denmark to the United States, I had also signed up  for some shows, but I was not in great hope of being able to do anything than showing the Danish flag. However, I had settled with that and had agreed to accept that as a fact.

Next day, we packed the car with 9 dogs and went to Marietta, Georgia, with equipment for the 4 show days. 4 days of showing........... Yes, I had expected that these 4 days would be a great drain on my energy, but due to the different display of show system everything was easy and painless. We had, in advance, received the ring distribution, and each ring was divided into 4 times throughout the day, so that you could see at which point of time it would be good for you to approximately be in the hall. It is not allowed to set trim tables etc in the hall, so you just arrive with your dog around 10 min. before the time stated in the exhibition material. Here in Denmark, you need to be very timely at the ringside, which is also the case in the  U.S., but the difference is that judging of the breed does not start before the designated time.

To become American Champion, 15 points are required, obtained by min. 2 majors and the rest can be won in the "small" points.

After the 4 shows in Marietta, we had won 4 majors with 3 x Best of Breed and 1 x Best Opposite, which gave a total of 13 points. There were still 2 points missing, but still 2 more shows to come in Knoxville the next weekend. At that point I thought it was possible to get the last 2 points. And with 2 x Best of Breed in Knoxville I got an American Champion. It's a little funny to think back to the first times in ring of honour, where I was ignored, but since I kept coming back I was now greeted, and my dog commented upon in positive terms by the pro handlers. However, we didn't get placed, but were satisfied to be able to take "the walk" in ring of honour. 

Later, I was told that I would have been placed in ring of honour at the last show. Now, how could I possibly have got this piece of information, you are probably thinking. The explanation is that when I flew out of Knoxville and waved goodbye to my committee, I discovered a man smiling at and waving to me further back in the queue. It turns out to be exactly the judge, who judged on Saturday and who judged the group on Sunday.  While I was looking for my gate, the judged arrived and asked very gently about who had won the breed  on Sunday. I told him, "I did", but that I had decided to drive home to start packing. The judge replied that it was a pity, because he had been looking for me in the group. I replied that I had the feeling we wouldn't stand a chance in between all the pro handlers, but with a twinkle in my eye I couldn't resist asking, if my dog would – by any chance - had had a chance since he had been looking after us? Quite seriodly, the judge answered that I had been placed. “Shit, shit, shit” it said in my mind, but this piece of information was a very nice one to take back home to Denmark.

At the U.S. shows, there are not many so-called "owner handlers”, but primarily professional handlers, and the word" handling" gets a whole new meaning, since the dogs are being handled both inside and outside the ring. I had the opportunity to talk at length to one of the handlers and she told me how she would prepare a cairn terrier for the ring:

The day before the dog would be washed and blow dryed! On the show day, the dog would be filled with mousse, then blow dryed again, then it should be stained (!), wiped with a towel until the color can't be seen on the towel, and finally "inflated" with various products.

I received this piece of information on the day before the first show, so I did know that the competition was quite different from what I had previously experienced.

In spite of the fact- one might well say – that I did not adopt the American show preparations, my dog, up till today, has been decorated with  9 national championships, Danish, Finnish, German, Gibraltar, Latvian, Lithuanian, Estonian, Luxembourg and American titles as well as Baden Württemberger Sieger 2003, Berlin Sieger 2004, Letvian Winner 2006, Baltic Winner 2006 Terrier and Porto Winner 2007 and Baltic Champion and International Champion.

Given that, elsewhere in the world, dog owners are sending their dog to a handler  that provides for trim and handling, my dog's titles have, in all modesty, been obtained with my trim and handling, and I wonder what my dog could have achieved, if I had been as good as the good trimmers and handlers. America is a different experience, and despite the hassles in the beginning, I am, indeed contemplating repeating the trip some day, and since my dog shall, hopefully, have offspring “over there” early next year, I, as the owner of the sire,  really "ought to” go and see the offspring.


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