Monday, April 11, 2011

Blood, sweat, competition, and CHINCHILLAS

A few weekends ago, I decided to attend a chinchilla show.

I have actually owned chinchillas for years and began the Chinchilla Rescue and Adoption Network back in 2004. My own chinchilla was purchased from a breeder whose animals were relegated to one bathroom after her sons allergies became out-of-control. Nine animals in a bathroom wasn't working out very well.

After moving to Tennessee, I got to know a local breeder through an online forum. We had exchanged a few emails and held one telephone conversation before deciding to carpool together to the show in Indiana. 

At the last minute we even decided to bring my chinchilla, Solo, along to show even though she hadn't been properly primped and preened to show condition prior to her big debut. 

It was the National show actually and so the competition would be stiff and taken very seriously.

We arrived at one-o'clock in the morning and happily went to bed. The next morning by 8am we were at the fairgrounds and joined in with grooming the animals. Solo had never been brushed before, so I waited for her loud protests to begin as she was held upside down and combed meticulously. I of course had no idea what I was doing so the poor girl had to undergo extra time being suspended. Maybe it was the shock of unfamiliar or the unprepared chin not wanting to look like an amateur, but she kept from letting out any obscenities. (When I was done a kind breeder asked if I would mind him "re-doing" my grooming job. Thank you!!)

By 9 am, all the animals were placed in individual cages on rows of buffet tables and in numerical order by show tag. Solo was towards the end and by this time had decided the whole bit was not hitting her fancy. She furiously began trying to grab ahold of her neighbor and rip out his fluffy hairdo. 

A few hours went by and it was Solo's turn to take a trip to the judging table under giant fleurescent lights. The lights were meant to help show fur flaws. Chinchillas, I learned, are judged on multiple factors including fur quality, size, confirmation, fur density, color clarity, and veiling (another color term that refers to the three colors in a hair fiber). The judges take this very seriously and spend time sorting the table, moving animals up or down by how they compare to each other until they are in a row of 1st, 2nd, and so on. There can be more than one 1st place animal if the quality is in the 1st or 2nd category by their standards, but only one champion and reserve champion out of the group. Those then go on to compete for bigger titles. 

Now although our society has advanced quite a bit from days of segregation, the same is not true for chinchillas that are divided into groups based on "male", "female", "white", "black", and so on. "Tan" even has their own category. Solo was a "white" and one of the first groups to be seen. Do the chinchillas dislike this personal profiling? The jury is still out... Just don't do it at an airport.

I waited like a nervous mother while one chin after another was moved up or down the table. Solo began directly in the center of the table, then was moved up one place, then another. She ended up being the "best" 3rd place animal placed in her group (and may have gotten higher had I properly prepared her). Her comments were "good size and confirmation; clarity could be a little better; there seems to be some slight twisting in her hair". But I was pleased for a first show, and a large one at that.

The show ended at 12:30am and our tired caravan returned to the hotel. The weekend was full of new information, new friends, and one little white ribbon that looked quite perfect on my cage.

Here's a photo of Solo, apparantly asking if she can go home yet.


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