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Cherie-Finesse Lady Lida

Lady Lida as kitten and as adult.
Date of Birth 13 November 2000

Sire  Ch Lovebug King Arthur DM (sacc CHL05Sh) (cfsa PER.ZLM.5)

Dam Supreme Champion Finesse Dear Crystal (sacc CHL05).

Breed number(s) cfsa PER.ZLM.5  -  sacc CHL05Ch  - wcf TLHns12

Breed description(s) cfsa  : Persian Silver Shell Black
sacc : Chinchilla Longhair (Black) Tipped Silver
wcf   : Traditional Longhair Black Silver Tipped

Title sacc : Champion

Genetics Pure silver

Breeder Alida Delport

About her

Suffering is a mystery that boggles philosophers, theologians and psychologists: we do not know why, but we grow stronger because of it. Lady Lida's life story is woven with many sad things. Yet, it is a story of coping, of fighting, of winning.

Gene pool

The Chinchilla Longhair gene pool in SA, and world-wide, came under severe pressure during 2000. Before 2000, we could import traditional longhair chinchillas from the USA. In fact, our entire initial gene pool originated from Jeanne Ramesdale's Dearheart Cattery. But then we learned devastating news: fire hit the Dearheart Cattery, killing 42 cats on August 24, 2000: read about it.

Separating the breed standard

Jeanne Ramsdale was mentor to Stella Slabber and a few USA breeders who tried to preserve the traditional chinchillas and to establish them as a separate breed from the flat-faced Persian Chinchillas. Jeanne's key concern was her observation that out-crossing to other coloured Persians resulted in loosing lip- and eye liners, introducing poor eye color, throwing Chinchillas with tearing eyes and introducing PKD into a breed that was PKD free since its inception. Two people took up Jeanne's request: Stella Slabber in South Africa, and Jeannie Johnson in the USA. This was before the internet era. Stella and Jeannie did not know about each others efforts. 

South Africa: Chinchilla Longhair

Stella Slabber succeeded to get the Chinchilla Longhair accepted as new breed by SACC in 1996.

USA: Sterling (ICE)

Jeannie Johnson succeeded to get the "Sterling" standard accepted by the International Cat Exhibitors (ICE) for championship status in 1998. The breed maintained its own registry under the International Sterling Society. Both ICE and International Sterling Society seem not to be is existence anymore.

NOTE: The ICE Sterling with breed code ST is not to be confused by the TICA Sterling with breed code STE. The TICA Sterling was the forerunner of the Exotics, whe obtained their TICA breed standard in 1979. Read more on: http://www.tica.org/public/breeds/es/intro.php

Exchange planned 2001

Alida was shown an advertisement for 'Sterling Cats' from IveyLeague in the USA. She wrote a land mail letter to Jeannie Johnson. They discovered that they were striving for the same breed standard, and shared mutual objectives. It was agreed that the two catteries would exchange cats.

Lady Lida was destined to go to the USA to Jeannie Johnson (Ivyleague Sterlings, Fort Lauderdale). She was to be accompanied by a little male, Snow King. He was about 3 weeks older than Lady Lida.

Doom struck

Just prior to their departure, in March 2001, Alida put the two kittens on a cat show, with the intention to ship the SA show reports with the kittens. That day doom struck: a sick cat having snuffles was benched close to the two kittens. The sick cat was soon removed from the show floor by the show officials, but not soon enough: Snow King contracted the virus. He died the next week. Lady Lida, fortunately, did not show any symptoms. But we honoured a 3 month quarantine period before we did a virus profile which gave Lady Lida a clean bill.

Doom struck again

All was set to get the ball rolling for the export, when tragedy struck again. Alida's soul mate died on 29 June 2001. The export was postponed again.

...And again: accidental pregnancy!

When Lady Lida was 9 months old, she had an unplanned pregnancy from her father. She gave birth on 20 November 2001 to a tiny, in-bred, but extremely little cute male kitten named Braveheart.

Mating to Toska Alexander

Alida lost contact with Jeannie Johnson. Stella advised that Lady Lida to be mated to her grand-father, Champion Toska Alexander. A litter of 3 kittens were born on 2002-04-13: Luka, Tosca, Snow Belle. The kittens from Alexander were fairly small, as can be expected from in-breeding. But: there were no other Chinchilla male available.

Burmilla experiment

Alida decided to try mating Lady Lida with a Burmese for Burmilla. A mating was tried with a stud from Burlamien of Caledon, but the Burmese stud was aggressive towards the fluffy Chinchilla and the mating plan was abandoned. So, 2002 came and went with no kittens for Lady Lida.

More doom: Lady Lida went missing for ten days.

When Lady Lida came on heat again, the mating to her grandfather was repeated. What happened thereafter is best described in an e-mail that Alida posted to the SACATS chat list on 2002-11-28:

"Last Monday morning my youngest female Chinchilla, Lady Lida, came to give me a purr in bed. She was 2 weeks pregnant. I went to work. When I got home, I was informed that she went missing. My kids, who went to write matric exam that morning, saw her in the garage when they left, but did not give it a second thought that she should not have been in the garage at all.
Of course we did what one always does - search, pray, then later rationalize that somebody must have stolen her, or picked her up and gave her a good home - she was too beautiful not to be wanted by anybody.
I thought I heard her faint miaau a couple of times outside somewhere in the garden, but whenever I called her name, the neighbour's dogs would start to bark, and then - silence.
Last night I was sure I heard her again. I went out, and took my stud, King Arthur, (her father) with me. He went berserk - he sensed her. He called - she replied. I called - she replied! Then the dog came and - silence.
I went to my neighbour, Tinus Oosthuizen. It was 10:30 pm. He was so kind to put the dogs in the garage, and helped me. We pin-pointed the miaau in a very high tree with very thin branches. While Tinus was organizing light and ladders and more help in the bodies of my son and his son, I climbed on the garden fence (lost a couple of buttons from my dress, but so what). I tried to talk her down. It was pitch dark up in the trees. Twigs cracked as she tried to get down. She cried a lot. I got a first glimmer of her eyes in my faint torch light at about telephone pole height.
She was rescued, but was in a terrible state. She started to abort whilst in the tree, and I was just in time to assist her with this awful process in the safety of my bathroom. After some food, glucose water and a hot bath, she was fine and purred non-stop till this morning!
I am so relieved and thankful. I do not know how she survived. She is one tough little girl!"


Another mating with Alexander produced one male kitten: Kimbari.

Milan September 2003

Lady Lida was casted for the 2003 Nestle Europe Gourmet TV commercial, together with her mother Sp Ch Cherie-Finesse Crystal and aunt Ch Cherie-Finesse Ms Daisie. We got the contract. We flew from Cape Town to Amsterdam, where the cats stayed overnight in the Animal Hotel at Schipol. The next day they were transported to Milan. The cats traveled well. Lady Lida was the client's favourite. Silent cameras were requested by the animal handler, but the cameras used were noisy. This scared Lady Lida and most of the scenes were performed by Crystal and Ms Daisie. 

I wrote an artilce for "All about Cats" issue 21: read it here

2004: death of Toska Alexander

Toska Alexander died in 2004. We could not find a suitable male available to mate Lady Lida. At wits end, we allowed in-breeding back to her father. The litter from King Arthur produced 3 kittens on 2005-12-04. Two survived. Below is a photo of one of them: Cherie-Finesse Remi. They were beautiful, despite the in-breeding factor of about 70%. 

Cherie-Finesse Remi

2006: death of Jeannie Johnson

The sadness doesn't end here. Jeannie Johnston died in 2006. The Chinchilla Longhair fancy lost a valuable, key patron. At the time of her death, there were still not enough buy-in from breeders in the USA to continue with her Stirling initiative. 

USA Exchange with L'Dearheart

Thanks to the internet, Dianne Amble of L'Dearheart could search for remaining Dearheart bloodlines. She found the Cherie-Finesse website. Eventually Lady Lida went to the USA in 2006: six years after the initial plans with Jeannie Johnson!

Lady Lida is contributing to what Jeanne Ramsdale, Stella Slabber, Jeannie Johnson, Dianne Amble and myself set ourselves to do: to preserve the Dearheart bloodline with healthy, strong cats!