My name is Lee Harper. I live near Vancouver, British Columbia on the west coast of Canada. This is the story of my adventures campaigning a cream and white female Persian named PJ…
I began showing Persian cats in CFA in 1995. I granded my first cat that year. Before the season was finished, my second cat had earned a kitten RW. As I started my second year showing, I was looking for my third cat, and wanted one to campaign for a national win. Clearly, my sights were set high. Good friends suggested I was delusional. No one can show a cat to an NW in their second year of showing. Undeterred, I began contacting breeders to see if I could find a special kitty to campaign.
While showing my kitten the previous season, I had seen a lovely kitten at a show in California, owned by a young couple, Brad and Linda Hayashi of Granddelight Persians. They were new breeders who had yet to grand a homebred of their own, but they were working with the well-known Persian bloodlines of Furfrenz and Bolo.
I called them. Unfortunately, they were not expecting any kittens. Linda was flying up to a show in Portland, OR to get winners ribbons on the kitten I had seen in California. I offered to drive the 9 hours to Portland, pick her up at the airport, and visit with her over the weekend while she showed.
I met her at the airport and we drove to the hotel where we were sharing a room. Linda and I talked cats all night. Never slept at all. At 4 AM, Linda began bathing PJ while I served as her assistant.
By 8 in the morning we were checking into the cat show. That’s when Linda ran into a snag. PJ wasn’t listed in the catalogue. In fact, it turned out that the entry clerk didn’t have Linda’s entry. Linda never received a confirmation, but this was the day of snail mail, so she hadn’t worried about it. Never checked with the entry clerk. (This was a mistake she would never make again).
PJ wasn’t entered at the show and there was nothing we could do about it. After the initial disappointment, we shrugged, and went back to the hotel — to sleep.
We spent the next two days talking, laughing, and because PJ didn’t need to keep her hair in show shape, I got to play with and handle her endlessly. She slept on my bed that night. I was in love.
The Hayashi’s show plans for PJ were to grand her then take her home to breed her. I offered them a different possibility. Sell her to me and let me campaign her for a national win. The answer was no. Disappointed, but understanding, I took Linda to the airport to catch her return flight and then drove the 9 hours back to Canada. By the time I arrived home, there was a fax in my machine waiting for me. PJ was mine. And that’s how PJ became a Canadian.
Let’s Try That Open Thing Again
The next weekend I was showing PJ for the first time… as an Open. I did make sure she was entered :-).
Judge Brian Moser was newly approved as an allbreed judge. The show was his first AB assignment. He called PJ to his final. As he began taking cats out in reverse order, he finally pulled PJ out when there were only three cats remaining. I thought, Third Best Cat from the Open class! He shared with the audience what he admired about PJ, then with a flourish held her in the air and announced. My Best Cat!
It was a glorious moment. PJ’s first Best Cat – but it would not be her last. Still, I marveled at the confidence and courage it took for a new judge to place an Open cat over all those other Grands.
Out Of The Starting Gate We Stumble
Not all judges recognized PJ’s quality as quickly as Brian Moser. It actually took her two shows to grand.
By the time PJ was a grand (the first homebred for her breeders) and we were ready to start serious campaigning, it was July 1996. With what I would later realize was a huge dose of naivety, we traveled to the East coast to the big campaign show of the weekend. All the best cats being shown by big-name campaigners were there. With a critical eye I compared them to PJ. She was better than most and could hold her own with the best… or so I thought.
The weekend’s results: out of 8 rings, PJ only made 3 finals. I could see I was going to have to rethink things. And so began a thoughtful, strategic, carefully planned campaign.
CFA’s Old Point System
This was the CFA of 1996. The old ring point system was in effect. Back then, a cat took all the points it earned at a show, divided by the number of rings at the show (including rings where it didn’t make the final), and the average was the number of points counted for each ring.
That meant if just one judge didn’t final your cat, it could make all the rings from the entire show useless as far as counting towards your top 100 rings. I decided I would need to look for large shows with judging slates of knowledgeable Persian judges who would recognize PJ’s quality and not be able to deny her a final.
Campaigning from British Columbia was not easy. Few flights out of Vancouver could make the connections I needed in the US… so most weekends started with a 3 hour drive to the Seattle airport followed by a 4-7 hour flight to a show somewhere in the US.
We traveled all over the US, from Washington to Florida, from California to New York. PJ began making finals and Best Cats. People were talking about “that cream and white Persian with the Canadian”.
PJ started moving steadily up the rankings. But, of course, she still didn’t make every final at every show. A fellow exhibitor once asked me what I would do if PJ didn’t make a national win. I replied, “Rosette or no rosette, the cat remains the same”. That became my showing philosophy. PJ deserved to be a national winner, but win or lose, her beauty was a constant.
Naked Is Not Nice
By the fall, PJ cracked the top 25 nationally. She was definitely on track for an NW. Then I noticed more and more hair in the sink after her bath. PJ was one year old and blowing coat. In no time she was naked.
Having competed in 86 rings and standing #22 in the national rankings, I had a difficult decision to make. Even though she was losing condition, should I keep showing her… or should I stop for now, and maybe lose all momentum? I elected to keep PJ home to grow coat for the month of November. Then for December. And then it was January.
By mid-January, PJ had enough coat for us to come out to the shows again. It was worth the wait. She was better than ever.
PJ was Best In Show in 3 out of 4 of her first shows. Every show she went to after her return to the ring eventually counted towards her top 100 rings. We never had a wasted show. She steadily climbed up the national standings. Although it had never been my goal to do any more than earn her NW title, exhibitors and judges encouraged me to keep going with her.
A massive girl, but undeniably feminine and refined, PJ was noted for her melting baby-doll expression, exceptional smooth doming arching between tiny ears, enormous copper eyes, perfectly placed break, extremely short, cobby body and sound color. Everywhere you looked she was round, round, round.
Judges loved to “sail” PJ from her judging cage to the judging table, her huge, silky coat floating around her like a sexy negligee.
Uninterested in teasers when on the judging table, PJ would prefer to stand and survey the audience from her vantage point. I often suspect that she was judging THEM. Fortunately, she had no ribbons to hang. She definitely had a “presence”.
PJ reached #2 in the national standings the first week of April. Mathematically, she couldn’t catch #1 and the cat in the third position couldn’t catch PJ. We stopped showing. PJ was officially retired. She had shown in 22 shows over the season, was awarded Best Cat 65 times and won the hearts of judges and Persian breeders across the US.
The Things I Remember Most
But its not actually all the Best Cats and finals that I remember most when I look back on PJ’s campaign.
I still smile when I recall how PJ would sit in her grooming space watching the people go by. Or how she would play with my pen while I marked my catalogue.
PJ always slept on my bed near my head. One night in the hotel, she got up and walked across the night table and stepped on the button that turned the radio on, blaring full blast. That was a LOUD wake up.
Then there was the time I was asleep on my back and she jumped from one side of my head to the other, something she often did. Only this time, she missed her step and put down a back foot mid-jump. I went to the show the next morning with three painful scratches across my face. No one could believe that PJ did it.
Buckle Your Seat Belts Please
We had lots of adventures on planes. PJ liked airplanes. On half-empty flights, I would let her sit in the window seat and she would stare out into the dark for hours. She never told me what she could see out there.
On the way to the prestigious National Capital show on the East coast, storms canceled many flights and PJ and I were stranded in Toronto. After rushing to catch standby on another flight, we arrived at the show hotel at midnight… but unfortunately my luggage didn’t. It was still somewhere in Toronto. You quickly discover who your friends are when you call their room at 1 AM begging for shampoo, brush and a hair dryer to bath your Persian. It was worth it when PJ came home with 3 Best Cat rosettes.
PJ and I often made friends of our seat-mates on the airplane. Going to Vegas we had a long chat with Marion who was going for a weekend mini-vacation to the city of sin. I took PJ out of her carrier to let Marion pet her. She was amazed at PJ’s face and coat.
That weekend we had a great show but it ran long. Late for our plane, PJ and I had to dash through airport security. I took her out of her Sturdi bag for the x-ray, zipped her back in her carrier and sprinted for the gate. We made it. I tucked PJ under my seat near the front of the plane, sat back and sighed. About a half hour into the flight, I heard a voice from the back of the plane call my name. There was Marion standing in the aisle -— with PJ in her arms. In the rush through customs, I apparently had not been careful enough pulling the zipper fully closed on the carrier -— and PJ had decided to nudge the door open and take a stroll down the plane’s aisle. Marion recognized her, called and PJ jumped into her lap with an elegant leap.
Not all flight attendants appreciate you taking your cat out of its carrier on the plane, but on quiet flights, they not only let me sit PJ in the empty seat beside me, but would pet and admire her, often bringing her water and tidbits from the gallery.
One time, on a crowded plane, there was a 6 year old boy across the aisle from where I was seated who was crying loudly because his ears hurt. No amount of comforting from his mother could make him stop. The passengers were becoming progressively more irritated.
I leaned out of my seat and asked his mother if her son liked cats. She smiled, “He loves cats. We have one at home”. I took PJ out of her carrier and placed her in the upset youngster’s lap. His tears stopped and he ran his grubby hands all over my show cat’s coat. He was captivated by PJ. He fell asleep with her still on his lap. When the plane landed, as I stood up with PJ in her carrier everyone applauded. PJ was a CFA ambassador cat before there ever was such a thing!
The Lady Of Leisure
After her retirement, PJ was bred only a few times. Her first two litters her hubbies were Persians, but her third time she was bred to an Exotic. In the litter was an exceptional red tabby and white boy. Nicknamed Perry, he granded quickly, going Best Cat as a Champion. Never shown as a grand, GC Mockingbird X-Periment was the start of my Exotic Shorthair program. But Perry was to be one of PJ’s last kittens. She just stopped coming into season.
Y2K marked the debut of PandEcats.com as the Internet’s first online breed magazine, and PJ and Perry became our logo mascots.
The next few years I was busy building the magazine, co-writing an encyclopedia about cats, working on home renovations and raising kittens. PJ was always at my side. Laying on top of the computer monitor. Her nose investigating the plumber’s tool bag while he worked. Supervising other queens’ kittens. And of course, still sleeping on my bed at night.
One morning, when I awoke, she wasn’t there. Going into the living room, I saw her curled up asleep on my favorite chair. It was only when I lifted her up so I could sit down that I realized she had died in her sleep. She was 11 years old. Her loss was a shock for which I was unprepared. I was heart-broken.
I have a Japanese style garden that I designed and planted myself. There is a goldfish pond, stone walkways and gentle hills and valleys. I buried PJ on a slight knoll and placed a concrete Japanese lantern as her headstone. On warm summer nights, I sometimes place a candle in the lantern. As it flickers and dances, I smile and remember the wonderful times we had together. PJ was my once in a lifetime cat. She was the key that opened the door to the cat fancy for me. I still miss her after all these years…
GC, BW, NW Granddelight PJ of Mockingbird
Cream and White Persian Female
CFA 2nd Best Cat in Championship 1997
CFA Best Bicolor Persian in Championship 1997
CFA North West Region Best Cat in Championship 1997
Born: October 20, 1995
Sire: GC Furfrenz Chaucer
Dam: Bolo It’s My Party
Breeder: B. & L. Hayashi
Owner: Lee Harper
and below is her only Exotic son…
GC Mockingbird X-Periment
Red Tabby and White Exotic Male
Best Cat Winner
Born: October 31, 2000
Sire: CH Baronin’s Leonardo of Mockingbird
Dam: GC, BW, NW Granddelight PJ of Mockingbird
Breeder/ Owner: Lee Harper