BERMUDA…….When the invitation arrived I was excited to accept this ‘plum’ assignment knowing I would be returning to the island paradise I had visited so many times as a professional handler in the 80’s. The events would be held in the picturesque ‘Botanical Gardens’ and would have a definite casual flair with most treating the main reason for attending from overseas, ‘the dog show’, as a necessary excuse to enjoy all the island’s beauty and friendly local people. In addition to myself on the judging panel were Keke Kahn, Wendy Paquette, Gerry & June Penta and Thom Nesbitt. As judges, we were being lodged at the 5 star Fairmount Hamilton Princess, a hotel I had only dreamed of staying at during my previous visits. I also looked forward to revisiting all the ageless tourist attractions the island had to offer outside of the splendid pools, amenities and beaches of the ‘Fairmount Experience’.
The shows running from November 7th to 11th were staged around the numerous social activities that the local kennel club had planned to entice and reward the exhibitors for their participation. The 6 All Breed shows sponsored by the Bermuda All Breed Club under the auspices of the Bermuda Kennel Club afforded most dogs attending the opportunity to acquire the coveted Bermudian Championship. In addition the Dog Training Club of Bermuda offered a full compliment of Obedience and Agility trials. The entries at the shows and trials were starting a resurgence from the dwindling numbers caused by airline restrictions on dogs on flights and we would be judging a quality entry of both foreign and local dogs.
The short 2 ½ flight was made even more pleasant by getting upgraded to Business Class on both the inbound and returning flights. I was attending with Wendy Anderson and we were picked up at the airport by club member Leslie Butterworth. We enjoyed the pleasant drive and guided tour by Leslie of the scenic countryside on the way to the hotel. After checking in, unpacking and changing into some comfortable attire, we immediately took a quick tour of the island on our rented scooter, the preferred choice of transportation for visitors as the only other form of transport was public buses or taxis with rental cars not being available on the quaint island. We had arrived a few days early and would be staying several days after judging to explore the local attractions complete with scuba diving and snorkelling on the many beaches as highlights of our itinerary. Wendy was in awe of the beauty of the island in which even pictures did not do justice. The myriad of white roofs over a multitude of pastel colored houses were blended in with palm trees, tropical plants and flowers and surrounded by an unbelievably blue ocean, so clear, the sand and reefs could be seen by roadside.
The evening before judging we were quests at the Bermuda Kennel Club’s welcoming cocktail party sponsored by Bacardi International whose headquarters are in Hamilton, Bermuda. This Cuban heritage company’s hospitality afforded us a remarkable opportunity to meet the executive of the Dog Club and mingle with the exhibitors. We also enjoyed an array of appetizers and refreshments as well as a personal tour of the expansive offices by club member and executive secretary of Bacardi’s, Douglas Mello. Afterwards we made the short walk down Front Street, the “main street” of Hamilton where we spent the evening dining and wine tasting at a favorite local restaurant, Port ‘O Call.
The following day, Wednesday, all judges judged breeds and groups with Mr. Thom Nesbitt judging Best In Show. He selected a handsome Black and Tan Coonhound from USA, Windbourne Every Hand’s A Winner, owned by Jeri Moore and handled by Amanda Mitchell as his Best In Show winner. The shows were well organised by the Bermuda All Breed Club with Linda Atcheson handling the secretarial duties, assisted by Gwen Dean & Eileen Richmond and Kristi Grayston keeping everything in order as the announcer. Missing due to illness was Janet Owner, a long-time fixture of the shows, who’s presence was deeply missed. David Swartwood from Canada acted as Chief Ring Steward and he was assisted by volunteers Charlie Simonds from Canada and Tom Mesdaq from the US resulting in a truly international effort.
The afternoon was spent enjoying the amenities of the Southampton Princess, sister-hotel of the Hamilton Princess. A ferry was supplied by the Hamilton to take you to the private beach, however, we preferred to take our scooter and explore the island along the way. The beach was beautiful and had the lush amenities of personal tiki huts, lounge chairs and service of food and drinks at your side.
In the evening, we decided the best way to explore the culture of Hamilton was to “try a little of everything” which involved stopping at every venue that caught our eye and sampling a local drink and appetizer. What a selection! We were amazed with the array of different ethnic foods and signature drinks specific to each place we visited…..we would especially recommend The Hog Penny for the ribs and Rum Swizzle, The Pickled Onion for the Quesadillas and Margaritas, Fresco’s for the Beef Carpaccio and New Zealand’s “Montes Pinot Noir” and the Café Cairo for their Lamb Shish Kebab and Raki, equivalent to ouzo…the walk back to the hotel was a little slower!
Thursday was a full day of judging with one All Breed show in the morning, followed by an additional All Breed show in the afternoon. Judge Dr. Gerald Penta selected the Cairn Terrier, Dogwood Love Affair from the USA, owned by Pam Davis and expertly presented by handler Ernesto Lara. The afternoon show was a repeat performance for the Cairn from a strong Terrier group under Judge June Penta
In the evening the Dog Training Club of Bermuda hosted dinner on board the ‘party boat’, Lady Tamara for a Dinner Cruise and dancing. The trip around the Hamilton Harbour , delicious buffet dinner with all you could drink of beer and wine was a perfect way to unwind after the long day of judging. Everyone was in a party mood, some as a result of inhibitions lowered by fine wine and the dance floor was filled to capacity. Another tradition that we were entertained with was some interesting ‘pole dancing’ with locals Fabian Minors and Douglas Mello demonstrating their prowess. A ‘FUN’ time was had by all.
Friday was a day off from shows and trials and we spent the day in the eastern part of the island exploring the historic town of St. Georges and enjoying the sightseeing and shopping at the many local attractions of this island jewel. The gorgeous weather beckoned us back to the beaches where we explored several until settling at Horseshoe Cove where the snorkeling was out of this world. The amount of tropical fish was astounding as most of Bermuda is unreachable due to the reefs. This has attracted some of the most beautiful fish in the world and they were all around us, some of them so close we could almost touch them. During our exploring around Bermuda we discovered wine was quite inexpensive and was provided in an extensive selection. We had packed a picnic bag and found ourselves daily refilling our stores of wine, cheese, crackers and other delectable’s to enjoy as we explored as many beaches as we had time for.
Friday evening the Club President Marie Claire Onabowate and her husband Simon, hosted dinner at their hillside home overlooking the North Shore for a scrumptious Italian dinner and my ‘award winning’ Caesar salad that I had volunteered to prepare. The meal was complimented by the fine wine from Simon’s wine rack as he graciously offered to dust off many bottles from his vintage collection.
Saturday morning came too soon after the previous night’s revelry with another full day of judging of two more All Breed shows. Judge Keke Kahn selected the feisty Cairn as her choice at the morning show.
Wendy spent a luxurious morning at the pool and then dropped by the show to pick me up as I had the honor of judging Best in Show that afternoon and would not be required until then. We spent the afternoon leisurely poking through the myriad of shops in Hamilton and I was enticed enough by the pride of the local people in their island to find myself caught up in the ‘Spirit of Bermuda’ and I purchased the traditional Bermuda shorts and tall socks. I proudly wore my suit to judge Best in Show in which the Cairn Terrier owned by Pam Davis and shown by Ernesto was clearly my favorite in spite of a Best In Show line up loaded with a compliment of exquisite contenders.
The Sunday final show was judged by Wendy Paquette. She chose a beautiful Lowchen, Donalen Magical Spell from Canada owned and handled by her breeder Donna Cullen. The shows resulted in many visiting and local dogs attaining the title of Bermudian Champion. In order to claim the title a dog must accumulate 10 Championship points under at least three different judges as well a one 3 point major.
Sunday evening the Awards Banquet was held at the exclusive Riddell’s Bay Golf and Country Club. Great food, wine and camaraderie made for a fitting ending to a well staged event. Sadly, most would be returning home the next day and farewells and promises of meeting soon were the order of the day for the exhibitors and judges who had been treated to outstanding hospitality, some great shows and trials in an idyllic island setting. Fortunately for us, we would be staying for several additional days of rest and relaxation in this heavenly island.
Monday morning began with bright sunshine and a quiet breeze along the south shore which was perfect weather for our outing with dive master and club president Marie Claire Onabowate who graciously volunteered to take Wendy and I scuba diving. After a quick refresher course of the equipment and safety procedures, we enjoyed a fascinating journey in and among the tropical fish, plants and wildlife of the reef at John Smith’s Bay. After our adventure, which ranked high on our list of activities, we returned to one of our now favorite haunts, The Hog Penny for a leisurely lunch and Rum Swizzle. We bid our new friend farewell and thanked her for an unforgettable day.
That evening the hospitality continued as we were guests at the home of Kristi and Michael Grayston’s for another dinner party along with honoured guest Charlie Simonds. Charlie has been travelling to the Bermuda shows for decades and is held in high esteem amongst the locals. We also had the pleasure of many other friends and club members including Janet Owner who was feeling well enough to join the festivities and her husband Michael. Kristi gave us a tour of her ‘farmhouse’ which was over 200 years old. She has a wonderful talent for decorating and welcomed everyone at her candlelit outdoor patio which boasted a cozy character and ageless charm. Their house is a wonderful collection of antiques and period pieces yet lacks no modern convenience. We were delighted when extended the invitation should we ever return to Bermuda, that we be their guests. We assured her we would take her up on the invitation.
Over the next few days we frequented many of the local tourist haunts travelling from one end of the island to another as we enjoyed some spectacular sunshine and sunsets. Snorkelling on many reefs just off shore of the numerous beaches was part of our daily routine as well as the great food, wine, hot tub and pool of the Southampton Princess. On our final day we sadly boarded our plane, while cherishing the holiday and vowing to return soon to visit again with our new found friends and their isle of pink sand and crystal blue water.