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On Top of the World


Few times in my life, I have felt such euphoria as on that 9th of July 2011. It was the absolute happiness and pride of living the upmost achievement I could ever dream of as a Briard breeder, owner and handler. But in addition, this happened in the presence, with the involvement and support of my family and friends, which gave the event another dimension.

As soon as I found out that the 2011 World Dog Show was happening in France, my home country but more importantly the home country of our breed, it became my priority to participate. And how could it ever be anything better than that incredible day: Sage, World Winner 2011, in France, over all the top Briards of Europe (132 Briards total), for the centennial anniversary of the FCI, then going to win the Breed and placing in the herding group (out of 50 breeds and 2266 herding dogs). My mentor and dearest friend Jacky Passebosc also became World Winner (female), with his bitch Douchka des Monts d'en Crouzille, while Corinne de Brouwer, the breeder of Calice, won the best breeding group of the herding group with 4 children of her beloved Taboo de la Chaume de Bois Dieu. My sister, who had never been to a dog show prior to that weekend, helped me immensely and without her, but also Gilles and the kids, my brothers Bruno and Denis and also Tim's support in the US, it would have been impossible. The funny part is that it was also obvious to all at ring side that Sage was living the instant as fully as I was and was understanding each winning step along the way to his highest crown. He was the best behaved dog and each time the judges were pointing at us as the winners of that specific class or step, he would immediately jump up and give me a big hug.

Not a single piece of those two days was incomplete or imperfect. We spent two days of joy and pride, in Villepinte, near Paris.

I will spare you the details of the nerve wrecking logistic to get Sage and Calice to Paris and bring them back home, but imagine your flight being cancelled the day before you leave with a 500 crate and a 700 crate and your 2 dogs, imagine how to maneuver with the crates and dogs alone in CDG airport and eventually pick up a rental vehicle large enough to fit them, similarly imagine how to manage walking from your parking spot to the show entrance about 1 mile away, pass the veterinary checks and be in the ring at 8:30 am while the parking lots doors would only start opening at 6:30am for close to 10,000 dogs / day, etc, etc…. Only one answer: lots of pre-planning and tremendous involvement of many people as mentioned above. And maybe it all happened thanks to the magic step in the poop with your right foot as both Sylvie and I did on Friday morning ! But the stress to actually get there was such that I knew that I would simply enjoy the shows.

The show was held in two halls of the Villepinte exhibition center, covering 100,000m2 surface, with the Championnat de France in the mornings and the World Dog Show in the afternoons, over the course of 4 days and with more than 38,000 participants. The rings were spacious, with green carpet, no fence around them. There was no formal benching/crating area, therefore crates were staggered wherever a little spot was found, but the overall area was not overcrowded. There were lots of vendors and meet the breed booths all over the place. The Championnat de France, on Friday, had an entry of 113 briards, judged by Lin Montenot. And the World Dog Show (La Mondiale), on Saturday, had an entry of 132, judged by Jean Larive for the males and Salvatore Gianonne for the females. Sage and Calice were each entered in their respective open class. On Friday, Sage was in the very first class to step in the ring at 8:30am. Sylvie and I had been in line to get in the parking lot since 5am and Gilles met us just before judging start so that we all could enjoy the moment and live it together. Sage was ready and from that moment, the rest was history. He obtained the CACS with ease. Next were the black girls. A lovely group of females that was headed by three grey relatives. Then came the tawny males and females. Calice was in the largest class of the show, a very beautiful group of 20 open tawny females. She too showed very pretty and ended up going RCACS to a bitch handled by Annie Taboutaud.

I was absolutely thrilled with the results, the performance of the dogs and the fact that we were able to have Corinne and Jacques see Calice for the first time since they had shipped her to the USA. In the evening, Sylvie and I met my friend Ellen for dinner around a bottle of champagne.

Saturday was the Mondiale and the number of competitors increased by 19, including the added participation of Calice's brother, the very handsome Jag, the dog who had won BOB at Crufts this year and at any show he competed at in Europe. Our ring time was 12:30 pm and at this time when we arrived the morning dogs were still there while the afternoon dogs had to get in. Density of set up was much higher. I had decided that a good performance would be all I wanted. Only the male and the female who would earn the CACIB would become the two 2011 world winners and I certainly thought that Jag was arriving here with lots of wind under his wings, along with some really beautiful dogs from other countries who have won the CAC or RCAC at the French National in prior years. Once again, Sage was a showstopper and he took the open class with ease under the obvious agreement of the spectators. The working class had two highly ranked males who were very stiff competition. But Sage got the CACS!. From that point on I was in my cloud. I watched the tawny males exhibition and there were some really beautiful dogs. I was able to watch many dogs I had only seen on the web in photos. Jag won the champion class and therefore we would be competing for the CACIB, along with the tawny CAC winner and black champion class winner. And it ended up being between Sage and Jag. To my biggest joy and surprise, Sage had that little extra and he is the one that Mr Larive chose as the World Winner Male.

Because of the parallel judging for the males and females, I decided to not show Calice in order to stay focused on Sage. Ellen ended up taking Calice in the ring. She showed well and received excellent but did not place. For Mr Gianone, the World Winner Female was Douchka. Which made Jacky Passebosc the other world winner ! This was perfect.

The breed would be chosen between Sage and Douchka, two gray briards, and cousins ! Winning the breed was not important to me at all, but of course I was happy that we did. This meant that we had to show in the group which is something I have always found exciting, even though the day was getting really long.

Our group judging was preceded by a French Cancan danse !!!! Group judging was a series of many events, best pair, best couple, best breeder group, best youth, best veteran and then best amongst the best of breed winners. Group participants were gathered in a ring behind the honor ring and were "pre-judged" by the judge there. Then we all entered as we were called in the extremely large honor ring on this very beautiful blue carpet. The herding group counted 50 breeds, many I had never seen before, representing a total of 2226 herding dogs. Out of them, the judge, Miss Lisbeth Mach, made a cut of 6. We all had then to do a triangle and a go around again. Her final decision came and we were called in reverse order to our placing spot. Sage won the group 3 placement. We stepped out of the ring, at 7pm, absolutely exhausted but with a huge smile and a big trophy!

At each and every moment, Sage showed perfectly. I could never ask him to do anything better than what he did those two days. He was proud, happy, enthousiastic and simply gorgeous. It was his cluster of shows and he owned the place. I believe no other briard was indeed close to challenge him.

Sage came back home with the key CACS of the Championnat de France, which completed his French championship title requirements, the CACIB of the world show which made him the 2011 World Winner and on top of that the BOB and a group III at the WDS.

Breeder Group:

It is really too bad that such a competition does not exist in the USA. It is the moment of pride of the breeders. Such competition exists at every all breed show in France. One can present a group of dogs that he/she has bred and that were entered at that show. There is no requirement to be the owner of the dogs. The idea is to present an homogenous group of dogs to show how consistent - and hopefully how beautiful!- your production has been. On the previous days, I had watched that competition for other groups. It is really a beautiful sight, specially when the presenters also make the effort to dress alike. The black and white newfoundlands (apparently not landseers ?) won their group and all dogs were so beautifully similar but the presenters all also wore the same outfit. In our breed, traditionally the breeder will choose a group of dog that are homogenous in color and type, mixing males and females. But I do recall a group of three gray males briards that gave me goose bumps each time I saw them. They were presented side by side by their breeder, all half brothers, from the same sire, almost perfect copy cut and in perfect harmony. Never a tooth was shown even though they did not know each other and each of them lived with a different owner.

But back to the Mondiale. There were three briard breeder groups presented in the herding group (2 tawny and 1 gray). Calice was asked to join her brother Jag, sister Croq'epine (both already Fr champions) and her half sister Baboo. Corinne had asked us to wear black pants and had selected a purple shirt as top. So we, the people, were all similarly dressed as well. We had worked out the order in which we would place each other. Calice, being the smallest, was on the outside and Jag the largest in the middle. The 4 of them gave a very beautiful representation of the rich tawny color, with the same mask and a very similar silhouette. All groups entered in a line and then were placed around the ring, all facing the judge in the center of the ring. We managed to have all 4 dogs really glued to each others' sides and looking in the same direction ! The judge cut 6 groups out of all and we remained as the only briard group. We did a down and back with all 4 dogs side by side and after that exercise, the judge decided on her placement. We knew that she liked them as one can notice when the eye stops on you and really studies the dogs, but we were not sure it was that much ! The Chaume de Bois Dieu group ended up winning that breeder group to the biggest joy of Corinne and Jacques, who rightfully so, were glowing with pride. I was simply happy for them and happy to have had the opportunity to participate in that competition.

For me it could not have been a better selection of winners, with recognition of my dog Sage, Jacky's female Douchka and Corinne and Jacques' breeder group :-)

Some of the Photos are Credit of "Briards du Bohemien"