Showsight June 2021


Patrick Pettit

Ch. Rissana Hillwood’s Perfectly Tuned going BISS from the classes, sitting with my baby nephew, Ronan.

My mother also has an uncanny ability for whelping puppies. In all our years of breeding, we have only ever had (knock on wood), two C-sections. She could get puppies out of a stone. And dead puppies simply come alive in her hands. I always tell people that the three of us are in charge of different departments; my sister runs stud dogs, my mom runs breedings, and I run the showing department. My second mentor would have to be my best friend, my sister, Sosanna. She is three years older than I am, and we competed against each other in Juniors and in the breed ring at every single show. We were fierce with each other inside the ring gates, but when we walked out, we were just sisters again. We didn’t and don’t harbor grudges against each other. We both understand that we are work- ing toward the improvement of our own line of dogs. She’s a better handler than I am, and is always nurturing that one special puppy toward perfection. I know that I am luckier than most to have a built-in group of “peeps” around me, who cannot and will not betray each other, something that I know can be a painful part of this sport. The first handling class I went to was at the Belle-City Kennel Club, run by a lady named Grace Church. She gave me a beginner’s packet that I still have today. She was very much about the correct way to show your breed—and your dog. There was no grandstanding. There was just the proper way to do things. It was the finest foundation in handling anyone has ever had. And then another hugely influential person entered my life: Patrick Pettit. He taught me about the art and joy in showing dogs; the presentation of beauty, and most of all, Drama. He taught me tips and tricks, and always with a gleam in his eye. He bred curvaceous Whippets under the kennel name Patric. And we were there, every week, come rain or shine, driving to St. Louis for handling class. And every week, after class, we would all go to the restaurant down the street for dinner. And I sat still, was as quiet as was possible for me, and just listened. It was devastating for me when he died. I wish he was here to help me and to see what I’ve accomplished. He was someone who believed in me so much that it made me believe in myself. It was in the Midwest that my love for Weimaraners was also born. We only had one Vizsla when we started showing in the US, but my mom had made a friend, Kelly Lovejoy (also a military wife living in Belleville), who had come back from being stationed in Germany with two Weims, and at one time had

their knowledge with me without feeling threatened. Through years of moving to new schools and being thrown into new environments, I had already per- fected the secret to getting great mentorship; sit still, be quiet, and listen. I am always bemused by people who claim to be unable to find “good” mentors or find that people are unwilling to share their knowl- edge. Mentors don’t have a curriculum for people to follow. Being mentored takes time and patience— something in short supply lately. My first mentor was, obviously, my mother. She has a keen eye for a dog, and is unflinchingly merci- less when it comes to our own breeding program. It is the single greatest lesson I ever learned from her. I had a Vizsla puppy that was 10 months old, and I was 12 years old when I showed her to Best of Win- ners at the National. Being a kid, this clearly made her perfection on a lead. Well, after that, I couldn’t get a point on her to save my life! One car ride home from a show where we had lost miserably again, I was lamenting about all of the terrible judges who were all “such idiots.” My mother slammed on the brakes and pulled the car over onto the gravel (I can see it in my mind, to this day). She turned around, looked at me, and with steel in her voice said, “Do you really want to know why she lost?” “Yes,” I replied. “Get out of the car, then.” She got my puppy out of the back of the car with a show lead on her, and made me watch as she took her down and back. Twice. And there it was; a front you could drive a Mack truck through. I was devastated. Heartbroken. But mostly, embarrassed. Then she looked at me and said this: “There are a few bad judges. But, put together, ALL of the judges can’t be wrong.” She is, quite often, annoyingly right (don’t ever tell her I said so).


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