We got spoiled rotten and Ben grabbed all the glory this weekend at the MKA shows in his very last outing as a Baby Puppy.
We headed out on Friday to give the new car a good run all the way up to the top of the South Island for 2 Marlborough Kennel Association shows in Blenheim.
This was our first chance to traverse the completed roadworks that have been in place since Kaikōura's 7.8-magnitude earthquake in November 2016 which damaged the Main North Line railway and State Highway 1 along the east coast of the South Island. Almost a million cubic metres of rock and material fell onto the coastal transport corridor, Kaikōura and the surrounding rural communities were all cut off - all roads and the rail network in and out of the area were damaged and closed by multiple slips so the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery alliance was set-up to restore the road and rail networks and after 6 years (the pandemic didn't help) it is finally complete and truly something to behold .
If you want to read more about the earthquake and the project to repair the road and the rail line, the official site is here, and it's well worth a look if have the time. The work was so dangerous in the aftermath of the main quake, because of aftershocks, they had to abseil down the cliffs to clear the rockfalls. Even now, (because.... ahem... there is a reason they call New Zealand "The Shaky Isles") rockfalls are still a problem for which part of the road now has an ingenious, permanent "self-cleaning" net designed and installed by Tonkin & Taylor that catches the rocks and diverts the danger into the ocean on the other side of the road.
So, on we went, once we'd finished admiring the new roadworks and arrived in Blenheim a few hours later in time to set the gazebo for the next day and then on to our accommodation.
Saturday saw us up bright and early and out to the lovely MKA showgrounds. First show off the mark was the Champ show, and little Ben (Kitaco Ben de la Crème) was on fire. We've been taking him to Obedience and Rally-O training which has really taught him to focus. He strutted around that ring like he owned it and not only did he take the Best Dog CC under judge, Claire Trevalyan, but he also took Reserve Best of Breed and then went on to take the Baby Puppy of Group, as well!
Nikita took Reserve Best Neuter of Group, Ava took the Reserve Bitch and Best Intermediate of Breed while Tinky, who very bravely accompanied us on our trip without her Mum, Deb, took Best Junior of Breed, despite doing a fair portion of the walk around the ring on her hind legs. Seriously, that dog is so full of beans, you have to run her for a couple of klms before breakfast, just to slow her down at bit, LOL. The judge told us in the Best Junior of Group lineup that it was one of the strongest she had seen and any one of the dogs was good enough to take the Group, which was a great compliment for our little Stink-Bug.
Mexico came along for the ride too, and he earned his very first Neuter CC point. The main reason we bought him along for the trip, however, was because we'd promised our favourite Junior Handler, 8-year-old Arvia Caldwell, she could take Mexico for the Junior Handler trials. The pair of them did so well they came 2nd in Arvia's age event.
Ben made a real splash strutting out for the Baby Puppy in Show lineup and a new friend of Strauss, the 3 month old Great Dane pup he was standing next to during the judging. The lovely German Wirehaired Pointer came out on top on the day, so Ben and Strauss had to be content with their new-found friendship, rather than a ribbon.
Show 2 was the Open Show and by now, Tinky had run off enough excess energy to walk the ring on all four feet (mostly). Ava took Best of Breed, Best Bitch and Intermediate of Breed, Tinky took Reserve Best of Breed, Reserve Best Bitch and Junior of Breed, while Ben, once again, owned the ring and beat out the competition for the Best Dog and Baby Puppy of Breed.
It had been a long day so we let Arvia and her fellow Junior Handler, Paige, take the girls out for their Group Lineups, and what a brilliant idea that turned out to be. Ava and Arvia took Best Intermediate of Group and Paige, who had met Tinky only moments before they walked into the ring together, handled her so beautifully we were wishing we'd met her in the morning and let her handle Tinky all day!
So, with plenty of wins under our belt and some very tired puppies - we bought Mary-Kate (aka the Fluffer-nutter) and her sister, Ashley, along for the trip and they had spent the day getting cuddles from everyone who spied them in their pen - we headed back to our accommodation and the best part by far of the whole trip.
Normally, we stay in "pet friendly" motels on our away trips and eat lots of takeaways ranging from the gross to the "reasonably edible" variety. We did the math once on the economics of buying a motor-home to camp on site and worked out we'd get about a 1000 nights in a motel before the motor-home paid for itself, so we've never gone down that route. But a few months ago we pet-homed Fat Freddie with a lovely couple in Picton (23 Klm north of Blenheim). Their dog had died and they were broken-hearted, but felt they were too old to make the 15-odd year commitment for a puppy. Fat Freddie seemed the perfect solution as he was getting a bit miffed with the young 'uns in our pack and clearly thought he should be Head House Dog. So we "loaned" them Freddie, to see if he got on with them and they got on with him...
As they were leaving with Freddie, Lindsay and Rosie asked if we'd like to stay with them when we came up for the next show, as they live only 25 minutes from the show grounds.
It was a lovely offer, and it would give us a chance to see how Freddie was getting on.
So first... a report on Fat Freddie. We ain't ever getting this dog back, LOL. He clearly thinks he's died and gone to heaven. He has Lindsay and Rosalie wrapped around his little paw and has settled in like he's been their dog his whole life. They adore him and he clearly adores them and he is just so smug that he has the wonderful people all to himself.
It didn't take us long to figure out why.
Oh, how we were spoiled this weekend.
Rosalie had a roast dinner waiting for us when we arrived along with home-baked lemon meringue pie and whipped cream for desert. Lindsay got up before us in the morning (and we were up at 6!) to home bake a loaf of fruit-bread for us so we could have breakfast before we left (all the jams and preserves Rosie had made herself, too). They had a container of home-baked afghans, melting moments and shortbread for us for a snack on during the day. The shortbread was so good Arvia declared it the "best shortbread I've ever eaten in my whole life!" (OK - she's only 8, but still. that's some compliment!)
We came home after the show on Saturday to a fabulous meal of roast duck accompanied by fresh vegetables grown in their own garden and more pudding with whipped cream. This was after the canapes with home pickled gherkins, cheeses and of course, everything was accompanied by some seriously good local wines.
Sunday our indefatigable hosts were up again, getting breakfast ready for us before we headed home, and all this while the dogs had the run of their lovely house and their completely Chihuahua-proofed garden.
No wonder Freddie was thrilled to be adopted by them. We wanted to be adopted by them! Ava plonked herself on Lindsay's lap any time he sat down and wouldn't budge. Tinky and Ben thought the garden was fantastic and Mexico gave Rosie more than one episode of "canine paralysis" - you know, that problem you have when the dog is on your lap and you can't move because you might disturb him...
We cannot thank our gracious and generous hosts enough for their fabulous hospitality over the weekend and are thrilled that they have invited us back. We are now going to petition Dogs NZ to hold all the shows in NZ in Marlborough so we have an excuse to visit them every other weekend.