By Jim Cheskawich
Riley came out of his retirement as he approached age 10 in January of 2011 when we decided to show him at just the west coast Samoyed Specialties to "see what he could do." Most Samoyeds are retired by age 5 or 6; some do go on longer in the show ring. Riley is out of the superstar Ono (BISS Ch. Oakbrook's Strike It Rich) and Group Placing Cricket (Ch. Sanorka's Trip Into Tamara).
Riley is owned by Jim and Celinda Cheskawich and was bred by Celinda Cheskawich, Janice Hovelmann, and Christie Smith. He had received a Best of Opposite Sex award at the Washington State Samoyed Specialty at Enumclaw, WA in August 2010 giving an indication that he could ..."still be a contender." We had no idea of what was to come.
His sire, Ono, had won the SCA National in 2000 and had died tragically at age 4 in 2001 when placed in the wrong part of the plane travelling back to California from the first AKC Eukanuba Classic in Orlando, Florida. Ono was considered by many familiar with Samoyeds as "THE DOG" of a generation. Looking back now on Riley's National win, he seemed to have a destiny to fulfill and it didn't matter how long it was going to take him. We just had to be patient and later we learned to kick back, relax and enjoy the ride! He did get better with age as some judges have said! Riley didn't go to many Nationals due to travel time or Celinda or Christie judging them so when the time came, he made the most of his opportunity and picked his last show for his best performance!
Previous to 2011, Riley was only shown at the 2 local Samoyed Specialties each year for several years. As a young pup living with the Stevensons in California, Riley finished his championship fairly easily and took a few Best of Breed wins with Alan at the end of the lead. Heather and Riley went Best Puppy at the SCA National in Denver in 2001 out of about 100 Sams. He knows his way around the ring but wasn't in to showing the first few years and really looked like a puppy until he turned age 8 or 9 years old. He always could move out but was a slow maturing male. Celinda and Christie Smith used to say if you can find a Sam that moves better than Riley, pull that dog or bitch aside. When Riley was a ten week old puppy headed out west from Virginia to Christie in Oregon, Jim just thought he had long legs and would never be anything special. Christie wrote in a letter to Celinda around 2002 that "...this boy was our next Best in Show."
Riley only had one conformation training class in the last 7-8 years as he was almost flawless each time in the ring. Jim once lost the lead from his hand at the Willamette Valley Samoyed Fanciers Specialty show in 2010 but Riley continued around the ring without breaking stride as if nothing had happened and then Jim caught up to him. Riley got Best Veteran at the Show.
Jim showed him at a few shows early on in 2003 and 2004 and picked up some Breed wins including the January 2004 Rose City Classic when Riley thereafter ended up on Animal Planet reruns of that show for almost 3 years. Riley was retired sometime later. He is a happy boy, always wanting to travel, and became an easy keeper, unlike the first couple of years when he tore up mattresses, ripped out walls, barked his head off, and was the "straw that stirred the kennel" with his antics. He was destructive, willful, and too smart for his own good growing up the first 3 years.
Following is Riley's record for his last 9 shows:
|August 2010||Wash State Spec||Best Opposite Sex/Best Vet|
|Jan 2011||LA Sam Spec||Best Male Vet|
|March 2011||Ariz Sam Spec||AOM and Best Vet|
|May 2011||Barbary Coast Spec||Best Vet|
|June 2011||Nor Cal Spec||Best in Show at a Spec (BISS)|
|June 2011||Nor Cal Spec||Best Opp Sex at a Spec|
|June 2011||Willamette Spec (OR)||Best Vet|
|August 2011||Wash State Spec||Best Vet|
|Oct 16, 2011||SCA National||Best in Show (BISS), Best Vet|
After his National win in 2011, Riley is now retired and finished 2011 as the #8 Samoyed under one system for Canine Chronicle. For the last 9 shows, he won: two Best in Shows at a Specialty, including the National where there were 316 Samoyeds entered, 2 Best of Opposite Sex awards at Specialties, an Award of Merit, and he was always the Best Male Veteran. He turns 11 years of age on March 17, 2012 and raised the bar for at least the oldest winning Samoyed male at a National. Just to win a National at any age is something to treasure forever.
Ryann Grady showed Riley to his Northern California Best in Show at a Specialty after Riley was groomed in the Oakland, CA airport parking lot. Jim and Riley stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in American Canyon and a fast food restaurant served "Ono Burgers" on the menu across the street. Heather Kelly showed Riley to his SCA National Best in Show. Heather insisted on giving Riley a bath again on Friday the day before the Best in Show judging on Saturday.
Friday night, Jim left the Awards Ceremony very early to read the USA Today newspaper with Riley. There was an article in the October 14th paper about Kissimmee and Orlando, Florida as travel destinations. Jim told Riley that one could spell "Ono" by taking out a few letters of "Orlando" and Jim was reminded of how Ono's name appeared just before Riley's last Best in Show. Jim remembered spending time with Ono in December 2001 at the first Eukanuba Classic in Orlando while they stayed at a time share in Kissimmee, Florida.
Before Riley and Jim left the La Quinta hotel room in Utah for the show site on Saturday, Jim showed Riley the glossy 8 by 10 inch picture of Rex of White Way in harness that Mardee Ward Fanning had given Jim earlier that week for the Rex project. He told Riley he had a double legacy to live up to (his great sire, Ono, had won the National in 2000) and he had to go out there and beat all the rest of the 320 Samoyeds entered because he was getting too old for this show business and this was his last National. Riley looked at the picture of Rex, heard what Jim said and seemed to make a connection. He understood. Jim used the "magic comb" 4 times going over Riley on Saturday morning at the show site. (Heather's left arm practically disappears in Riley's coat in the flower garden picture after the BISS.) That was one more combing than even Multi-BISS Ch. Seattle (Riley's best buddy and brace partner) used to get at her big shows.
Team Oakbrook had 14 dogs to handle the week of the National and Riley was the last one up. Heather decided she and Riley would either be sent out of the ring, carted off to get oxygen because of age and elevation, or walk out with a purple and gold BISS rosette. When judge Beth Riley pointed to Riley for Best in Show, Heather picked him up (forgetting about her broken back), hugged him, and would have carried him out if there weren't so many people running up for hugs and congratulations!
Before Heather put on her armband #145 to take Riley in the ring for the first time on October 16, 2011 for Best in Show judging under Judge Beth Riley, Jim had written in ink "Mister Best in Show" on the inside of the armband, unbeknownst to Heather. We just knew.
Heather said during Best of Breed judging after making eye contact with her dad (Alan) outside the ring, she felt Ono's presence and looked down at Riley, the two of them became one and they were in a zone. He is the consummate show dog!
At times during the show, the sun always seemed to be shining its rays on Riley—particularly when the judge was looking his way. Standing still, Riley appeared at different points to Jim to look like Ch. Yurok of White Cliff or Eng. Ch. Kara Sea—both great Sams from the now distant past. Jane Stevenson had "called" his win first on Tuesday during Veteran's Sweeps the week of the 2011 National when she said that Riley was "pushing for breed." Then we all believed. He didn't disappoint and gave everyone connected with his win the thrill of a lifetime.
We thank Beth Riley, Audrey Lycan, and Walt Herrmann for "finding" Riley in their ring the week of the National and putting him up. The crowd response was tremendous and Riley thanks his "army" which started forming at Vet Sweeps on Tuesday which seemed to be made up of a lot of his Sweepstakes Judges, Regular Judges, and the handlers and owners of his competition.
Riley is welcome in all major banks in Woodland, Washington and has spent an afternoon in The Presidio Chapel in San Francisco while we worked on the Rex docu-drama. He excels at therapy dog work with the Alzheimer home and Assisted Living places in Longview, Washington and is a fine breed ambassador who enjoys "Meet the Breed" events at AKC shows. He still chases that darn tennis ball like a Golden Retriever, likes the Lone Ranger TV series (especially the horse, Silver), weighs 58 pounds and stands just a hair or two over 23 and a half inches. He still does his regular "road work" up the hill to keep in shape.
He followed in Ono's footsteps, and has now left his own mark on the Breed as he made a very late (seemingly impossible at his age) but successful "Run for the Roses." He belongs to the Breed now. The ultimate show dog!
The Sorceress' Apprentice
Early Riley Show Shot
Early Riley Show Shot
Riley in 2002
Riley in 2011 at Barbary Coast
Riley at Barbary Coast
Riley at Northern Calif Spec BISS win in 2011
Riley and Ono in 2001
Riley and Heather after the BISS at 2011 National
Barbary Coast Show-Heather and Riley
The Sorceress Flying High with Riley at the National in 2011
Riley in Arizona in 2011