The Winner of the NWARA Specialty Show is Connor's English Angora
|Connor is 11 years old, this is him and his beloved English Angora doe Mischief.|
|On Sunday, Connor enters Mischief in the youth show, and judge Tom awards the Best In Show to this "perfectly groomed English Angora with great body". Mischief receives her 3rd leg and eligible to be a Grand Champion.|
His very loving and proud mother Karen wishes to share Connor's English Angora journey. It's a little long, but if you read it, you'll find it endearing and you may even have tears in your eyes at the end. His sense of commitment and tenacity is something that us adults can learn a thing or two.
Unfortunately, he didn't anticipate how difficult it would be to find someone willing to sell the wooly breeds to a youth, especially a 9 year old. After several months of hitting road blocks in regards to finding and financing an Angora, Connor decided to switch gears and raise Jersey Woolies instead. He bought a small herd from a graduating 4H'er and quickly fell in love with them. He learned the intricacies of caring for their wool, and for their special health needs. In the spring, Connor talked his mom into signing them both up for spinning classes so they could craft together. Spinning and looming is something they both now love doing together as a team. In fact, for Christmas this year, Connor made his gifts from the fiber he raised. Of course, it didn't take long before Connor realized that he would never reach his goal of helping others with only a couple of Jersey woolies producing the fiber. So, he saved up his money from egg sales and chores and bought two English Angoras from Craigslist. Looking back, He says it was obvious he didn't know enough about the breed to make a great purchase, but he did the best he could and doesn't regret the process. Very proud of his two EA bucks, Connor took them to the Frozen Friends Show in St. Helens, Oregon to see how they would rank. Though the youth were all very excited to see the super wooly bunnies, it only took one look at the rabbits being shown in open for Connor to realize that his dream of showing Angoras wouldn't happen with the loves he'd found on Craigslist. In fact, he still laughs when he tells the story about the Frozen Friends Judge who said, "I have to give you best of breed because you're the only one brave enough to show them, BUT I'm begging you... PLEASE don't breed this animal. It's a terrible representation of the breed."
Connor remembers smiling and promising him, but deep down he was super bummed. When his mom questioned whether the Angoras needed to be re-homed because they didn’t fit into his plan for success, Connor simply said “Nope! Not everybody is built for show, Mom. That doesn’t mean they don’t have a purpose in life. I can still use their wool even though it’s not great, and their personalities will make them perfect for something else, I’m sure.” Before long, Connor had found that purpose and started training the Angoras to be therapy rabbits that provide comfort and companionship to the elderly in nursing homes. Their calm demeanor also makes them perfect for teaching new 4 h’ers and families at the fair about the breed and how to handle them. Connor continued to save and talk with breeders at shows about the Angoras. He asked his Mom to help advocate for him and get folks to understand that, “I can do this! They just have to give me a chance.”
Last summer, Maria Carrington took a leap of faith and gave Connor the chance he’d been waiting a year and a half for. She took Connor under her wing and mentored him on what he needed to do to be a great Angora breeder. She gave him several choices of young does to pick from and explained the positives and negatives he should be aware of. Connor decided on a Chocolate tort with the ear tag “Yours”. Her body was sound; she had amazing wool, but most of all she had a fantastically rambunctious spirit which Connor loved immediately. Her antics over the next few weeks earned her the name “Mischief” (Missy for short). Connor began working with Mischief and entered her in the 2015 ARBA National Convention in Portland, Oregon where she took Best opposite in breed for the Youth show. The buck Mischief lost to went on to win the entire show! Connor watched as the winner was announced and then whispered to his mom, “Next year, that’s going to be me!... but first, Missy deserves to be a Grand Champion!”
Maria and the rest of the NW Angora club vowed to help Connor reach his goal and Connor’s worked hard over the last few months to make that dream a reality. He spends an average of 5 hours a week grooming and taking care of Mischief’s coat which grew to over 5 inches long on the top. He learned the hard way that even “easy care” coats on an English Angora are “not so easy” to keep free of mats and tangles in the wet Oregon climate. In January of this year, Connor once again entered the Frozen Friends competition in St. Helens, but this time he was there to win. Unfortunately, he didn’t do as well as he hoped and the competition wasn’t enough to earn a leg towards Mischief’s Grand Champion dream. With his eyes set on the 2016 National Championships, Connor knew that the Lower Columbia Rabbit Show in Astoria, Oregon over Valentine ’s Day would be his last chance to Grand Mischief before she would need to be sheared and bred. There was only a week between the two shows. So, Connor spent every spare minute he had blowing out Mischief’s coat and keeping her clean. With fingers crossed, He entered Mischief in two open shows, the youth show and a specialty Angora show; knowing that the lack of competition in youth would mean he’d have to win a leg in the other three shows to make granding a reality. When we asked why he entered the youth show instead of another open show where he stood a better chance at getting a leg, Connor replied, “Youth need to know about this breed and that they can do it too. If I don’t show in youth, no one will ever take notice and give kids a chance.” Knowing it was a gamble, Connor stood true to the plan. In show A, Mischief took Best opposite Variety. It was a great showing, but not good enough to make the dream a reality. Connor shared his disappointment with his mentor, Maria and the rest of the group. They responded with continued encouragement and support. Don’t worry, they said. It’s not done yet. Show B arrived, and Mischief snagged her first leg by winning Best Opposite Breed. Connor was ecstatic! When asked about it, he replied “She got her first leg! I’m so excited!... but mostly I’m excited because the judge said she was perfectly groomed and her coat was awesome! That means all my hard work is paying off!” Re-energized, but nervous, Connor and Mischief returned to the show floor Sunday morning and waited for their turn in the Youth show. Since there was only one Youth judge, that show took a bit more time and they ended up at the Angora specialty show first. Once again Connor’s efforts in grooming combined beautifully with solid genetics, and, much to his surprise, Missy took Best of Breed! As if the day couldn’t get any better, Mischief returned to the table an hour later and was announced as Best in Show for the Angora specialty. The hard working 11 year-old and his fluffy friend had just claimed victory over 70 of the most beautiful animals the Northwest has to offer. “LEG 2!, Connor shouted as he high-fived his mentor, Maria and hugged his mom.
The only show left was youth, and Connor knew this one was a long shot. As the only English Angora in the show, he had to win the show to grand her. The exhausted judge worked his way down the long line of beautiful animals who’d won best of breed. He briefly looked over Mischief, placed her back in her cage, and moved on. We could see that the selection of the winner was hard for the Judge as he kept coming back and looking at different rabbits, but none of them were Missy. Connor waited patiently, but already the sadness and fatigue of the long weekend had set in. He knew he was going to make it all the way to the end and not finish with a Grand. The judge announced that the quality of animals he had to pick from was superb and he congratulated the youth on an amazing job raising and breeding quality stock. Then he announced the winner of the show will be…………. “The English Angora!” Connor literally jumped in the air and screamed! He grabbed his mom and started crying. He’d done it. He’d done it. Missy was a Grand Champion! When he turned around, the other breeders and the Judge had tears in their eyes too! Connor walked over to the Judge, shook his hand and thanked him for “helping me make memories today.” There were lots of pictures to be taken and thankyous to be said. Then, with the help of Ms. Heather Campbell, Mischief lost her beautiful coat and was now ready to make the next National Champion! When asked about his favorite moments at the show, it wasn’t the winning that Connor appreciated the most, though that was “Super Fantastically Awesome!” It was making new friends and spending time with old ones, feeling appreciated, being allowed to help (he especially loved table writing for the Flemish Giants and helping to carry animals to and from the table), and the acknowledgment of a job well done.
Showing is so much more than building the breed, it’s really about building the breeder… regardless of age. Thanks for the awesome experience and the lifetime of memories! See you on the show floor! "