The Time of Their Lives
Sisters Julie and Kathy Jones, of Jasiri-Sukari Basenjis, make every show a family reunion.
By Julie Jones
Have you ever been listening to the radio and a song comes on that conjures up all kinds of memories?
It happens to me a lot. There are some songs that I turn off because they bring back bad memories. Some songs are very sad and make me cry, but I usually leave them on anyway. And some songs bring back really good memories and usually make me smile.
One of the good songs is Green Day’s “Good Riddance (The Time of Your Life).” When that one comes on, I always turn it up real loud and let the memories flood into my head.
Try it sometime. Listen to the words and see what memories it brings up.
The “Basenji Sisters,” Julie and Kathy Jones, feel as
though they have the largest family in the world.
For me, it stirs up wonderful memories of our life in dogs. Memories such as:
There are so many memories that new ones go through my mind every time I hear the song. And the best thing is that every single memory includes our friends.
- The first champion I put every point on myself.
- A group win on a strong circuit.
- Winner’s Bitch at the national specialty, under Mrs. Clark.
- Winning Best of Breed because my competitor turned to me and said “Ha ha” when he was put at the front of the line—and the judge heard him. I have to admit, that one still makes me laugh out loud.
- That first champion: A friend told me how to put the chain in the right place on the dog’s neck so he would trot, instead of pulling.
- The group win: Another friend, one who was actually in the group with me, told me to leave more room when I went around so the judge could get a better look at my dog. I think that friend was third in the group and was the first to congratulate me.
- Winner’s Bitch at the national: A good friend spent a lot of her time helping me train that wild puppy.
- The “Ha-ha” breed win: Well, my friends all laughed with me—in private, of course, back at the set-up!
Dozens of Cousins
My sister and I come from a very small family. Both of our parents are deceased. We have no aunts or uncles in our lives. No living grandparents. We do have a wonderful brother and we have each other. However, we have so many friends in this sport that we feel like we have the largest family in the world.
Every weekend we feel like little kids at a family reunion. The judges are like the grownups, and you should always be on your best behavior around them.
The exhibitors are like your many cousins. There are first cousins who you’re very close to; second cousins who you know, but you’re not quite as close to; and third cousins you recognize at every reunion but don't really know well.
There are really smart “straight-A” cousins. They have a lot of good information and they are very willing to share it with you, if you’ll only take the time to listen. (A lot of the professional handlers are straight-A cousins). There are cousins who you share all your secrets with and you know they’ll never tell. And there are cousins you share your secrets with because you know they will tell! And of course, no family reunion would be complete without a crazy aunt or uncle. We have a few of those too. Not that we don’t love them …
The one big difference between real families and dog-show families (besides DNA, that is) is that third cousins can become second cousins and second cousins can become first cousins. And, of course, any cousin can become a grownup.
You’re Never Alone
Once I flew from California to the Louisville cluster with my dog. We won the breed the first day. The second day, my dog was so sick I couldn't show him. I was there by myself, none of my first-cousin friends were there, and I was feeling pretty alone.
I was taking my dog back to my hotel room when one of the local professional handlers (a third cousin) asked if I'd won the breed again. I told her that my dog was sick and wasn't exhibited. She asked what was wrong with him. I told her his symptoms. She took me by the arm, led me into her set-up, and handed me some medication and a bottle of Pedialyte. She told me to come back to her if I needed anything else. She found me every day and asked how my dog was doing. He couldn’t be shown all weekend, but thanks to that third cousin he was well enough to fly home on schedule.
She’s my very favorite second cousin now.
At one show, after a disappointing loss we were talking to—OK, we were complaining to—a friend. We complained that the dog that defeated us lacked breed type, and so on. She told us, “Just keep breeding to your standard, one day it will come back in style.”
How very true that is. As tempting as it is to breed for characteristics that win in the ring, it is important to stay true to your breed standard. Only then are you truly serving your breed. That friend is definitely a straight-A cousin, and we’ve learned a lot from her over the years.
One year we had a litter of only two puppies, a dog and a bitch. The dog was a standout, one of the best-moving dogs we’ve ever bred. When the puppies were about 6 months old, we showed them to one of our first-cousin friends. We told her that we planned to keep the male, but would most likely sell the bitch because we didn’t need to keep littermates.
She told us we were crazy. She asked if we had really looked at the bitch. She told us to quit comparing her to her brother and to look at her as an individual—look what she has to offer us, look at her type and soundness. She was right. The dog went on to be our top winner. The bitch is one of our top producers, and every generation down from her is thanks to that first-cousin friend.
Only a couple of examples, but there are many, many more. And new examples are created every weekend. You see, you never have to be alone in this sport. There’s a whole family of people out there waiting to meet you, to help you, to guide you, to laugh with you, and to point you back toward reality, should you wander away.
So, next time you receive your judging program in the mail, consider it an invitation to a family reunion. And then come and mingle with all the cousins. You just might learn something useful, and your next generation might be a little better for it.
Quoting that great song from Green Day: It’s something unpredictable, but in the end there’s right. I hope you have the time of your life. I swear, someone in that band must show dogs.
Julie and Kathy Jones have bred the Jasiri-Sukari Basenjis for over 25 years. They were the 2008 AKC Breeder of the Year (Hound Group) recipients.