A trip to the Pyrenees in September 2003

Ever since we visited the Pyrenees at Easter in 2001, the whole family has wanted to return. If we took the trip in September, we could combine a holiday with the French specialty and meet all our Pyr friends, so the timing was obvious. It is 2400 km one way from our home to Argelès, and with two children and two Pyreneans it is quite a big family.


On the road

As the show was on Sunday the 21 September, and the character test was on the day before, we had to leave home on Thursday morning. We aimed for Belfort in the northeast of France, but road works and queues all through Germany made the first travel day really exhausting. The driving on Friday was much easier, and we arrived in Seth at the Mediterranean coast by noon. Maria's wish was to take a swim in the Mediterranean, and this was the first promise to fulfill. We had some lovely hours on the beach. The water was not very warm, but compared to go swimming at Ystad at home in the summer, nothing is cold. Jazz was not content as he was not allowed to get all wet, but with that salty water just before a big show…

A swim in the Mediterranean at Sète


Next stop was Ola's wish Carcassonne, the best-preserved knights-town in Europe. It always draws a lot of attention when you travel with the pyrs, and here was no exception. You can never walk more than a couple of meters before the next people want to talk about dogs. We had a good meal on Roquefort salad and duck, and the first thing the waiter did was bringing us the menus, and two big water bowls for the dogs. Ice-cream and coffee at a café ended the meal. One hour of driving took us to the hotel in Toulouse.

Carcassonne



Saturday

On the Saturday we had two hours of driving to get to Argelès. There we had to find the Casino Park. This is the location of both the show and the Saturday events with character test and the aptitude test for the shepherds. The park was beautiful, and the temperature was around 30 degrees. In the park, many of the exhibitors were there already, meeting old and new friends.

The Casino, a part of the parc and mountains in the background

Parc du Casino


We had entered Niki for the character test, Jazz did it already in 2001. She performed very well, and got 20 out of 20 possible points.

In the afternoon, there was a meeting in the French club. Meanwhile, we could find our house, move in and go shopping for some supplies. We had rented a house through Gites de France. It is much easier to live like that with children and dogs, instead of a hotel room.

The house we rented. We had the left part of the house at our disposal.


In the evening, all the exhibitors and the organizers met in the park for a parade with all the dogs through town. First there was a horse and carriage, and a driver in old-fashioned clothes. In the square, we were met by the mayor who gave a speech, and by the tourist office that offered us drinks. Many of the inhabitants stopped for a chat and to have a look at the dogs. The evening ended with a banquette in the town gymnasium.



The Show

The show was supposed to start at 9, so we arrived about 8 to get our papers. With 113 Pyrs, there are different rings and different judges for males and bitches. They have nine classes, from puppies 4-6 months to venerable (honorable), but half of the dogs are shown in open class, because there they give the CAC.

View over the show area with the open class bitches in front and the open class males behind. The big tent in the back is the show office.


We had entered Niki in open class among 26 bitches, although she could have been in "intermediaire" with 5. The judge Mr Sénécat wanted everyone to stay in the ring during the judgment, so the circle of 26 dogs and handlers mowed around the ring for more than an hour at the speed of a snail. The sun was gazing, and it was more than 30 degrees hot and no shadow at all, and the family handed water for both Niki and me. When the judge was through with everyone, he sent the secretary to arrange the papers. Some got their papers and were sent out of the ring. It remained 14 who got "exellent" for grade. Then the judge made us run a tour of the ring, thought a while, and then he sent one out to pick up the papers. This was repeated again and again while he was eliminating dogs one after the other. I am normally not very nervous at shows, but this was arduous. All the time the sun, the heat and then running another tour of the ring. Niki was not in the mood for running in this temperature. She was just getting used to 15 degrees at home, so every round was somewhat of a fight between her and me.

We had realized from the beginning that it would be impossible to show both dogs in open class, so we had entered Jazz in Champions class. The judge in the other ring, Jean-Bernard Moings, was getting ready with the open class males, so my husband was waiting with Jazz by the ringside. As the placing of the bitches went on and on, I was more and more stressed to make it to the other ring with Jazz. When they called for champion males, I was still in the other ring with Niki, but luckily the rings were side by side, so I could call to the secretary "I'll come in a moment". Then, how did it end? Well, Niki became second best in open class and Jazz won his champions class, so both got better results than we had ever expected.

The five in top of open class bitches.


When the veterans took over the rings, we could finally get some rest in the shade of the huge trees. During the lunch break, the tourist office had arranged for local folklore dancers and singers to perform, and a market of handicraft and local products.



The finals

There were a total of 324 dogs from all the four Pyrenean breeds Pyrenean mountain dog, Pyrenean Mastiff, Pyrenean Shepherd and Gos d'Atura Catala. The participants were from 14 countries, those who had traveled furthest were from the USA, Northern Ireland, Sweden and Finland. There were also 4 Swedish shepherds, so we were not the only Swedes at the show. The finals started with Mr Pecoult calling all the foreign dogs to the ring of honor. We were in groups for every country present. It was lucky that it was a big ring, because there were really a lot of dogs and handlers there at the same time.

Next, all 6 placed dogs of every class was called in, starting with all classes of male shepherds. All the class winners got a cup, and all the 6 placed dogs of open class. After the cups were handed out by Mr Procureur, everyone except the class winners was sent out of the ring. The judge had to decide about best male/best bitch. For the Pyreneans it was the winners of open class for both males and bitches. BOB was the male Noustamic du Neouvielle, and BOS was Tourmaline du Mas de la Valliere, both owned by Mme Laffitte of the Neouvielle kennel.

BOB Noustamic du Neouvielle


The cups were really huge, like Best in Show cups of the big Swedish shows. Jazz got a golden cup, almost half a meter high. Immediately after the male pyrs, the bitches were coming in, so I just handed out the cup to my daughter and exchanged dogs with my husband. Nikis trophy as second best in open class was even bigger than the one Jazz got. This shows the importance of the open class.

Directly after the best bitch, it was the couple class. Judge was Mme Sénécat, who had judged shepherds earlier. It is always a little nervous to show two dogs at the same time, because they are not always cooperative. Jazz was very alert, as he had rested most of the day, but Niki was tired after two hours in the ring in full sun. I had to slow Jazz down and pep talk Niki, but eventually they managed to cooperate. The result was that we won that class too, and got another huge cup! The best was the fantastic response we got from the judges table, where the judges of the show, the board of RACP and some foreign judges were sitting.

Couples class

Break among the cups.


It was so much commotion around us afterwards that it was not until the next day we found out who became BOB. It was past seven o'clock when we left the show. It was really a relief just to have 5 minutes "home", and a prepared meal in the fridge. None of us would have enjoyed going to a restaurant after 11 hours in the sun and heat.



Tourists

After the show we had a couple of days to look around. We visited the Cockenpot family at the Pic du Viscos kennel on the mountainside just above Argelès. We visited Lourdes, we went to the market in Argelès (where Benoit Cockenpot was selling his Chèvre, the best we ever tried), and we took a trip up into the high mountains (where we met Eunice Merridith on the top).

Col Tourmalet at 2115 meter above sea level


The fact that the show is in a small town makes the town full of dogs and people interested in dogs, so wherever you go with the dogs, someone wants to talk. All the foreign exhibitors and visitors live close by, so you run into them everywhere. It is seldom a problem to bring the dogs to a restaurant or a café, but it is of course easier when they have tables outside.

The trip home went by Maastricht, where we visited pyr-friends and took the dogs to a show (what else should you do when passing through Europe?). Finally we arrived home Sunday morning at three o'clock, after a completely wonderful trip.

A shop window in Argelès with only pyr odds and ends