September 12, 2001 start: It is always difficult to begin writing, whether it be a book or a short article. But this time it feels like I am trying to push an enormous boulder up a hill. The heavy weight of tragedy is there, the onslaught having occurred on the eve of the intended return home of most of this year’s Sieger Show tour. A dozen happy tourists piled out of two vans and announced with smiles our arrival at the last (we thought) hotel on the itinerary, only to be met with a terribly saddened hotel manager who directed our attention to the TV on the counter, showing the crash of the second WTC plane-bomb. Some initially thought it was a movie, but she told us “Jetzt!” (right now). Sergeant Dani Lewis has agreed to write about the sightseeing part of the tour for Schutzhund-USA magazine, and will have more to say about the attack and some of its effects on our group. Therefore, I will return to comments that may have a slightly less painful echo when read many months from now.
This year’s Sieger Show was held in
Düsseldorf again. I had attended an important
Landesgruppen (regional) show a month before the
Hauptzuchtschau (one of several names for the Sieger
Show), and also had noted the winners of the Dutch and
Belgian Sieger Shows as well as other preliminary
events. Putting everything together from those results
plus the quality of progeny classes and pronouncements
from the judges, we can come up with some pretty close
predictions. Thanks to my position as an SV breed
judge, I sometimes get “well-founded rumors” — sort of
insider information from “a friend of a friend”, but
coming to them from the source. The front-runners
before the show were Mack Aducht, Timo Berrekasten,
Esko DänischenHof, Untox Ducati, and perhaps Yasko
Farbenspiel. Mack, a Sieger Rikkor Bad Boll son, had
won several shows and represented the Ulk line; Ulk was
bred by Margit van Dorssen who is from the same city
and local club as SV president and Sieger Show judge
Peter Messler. The fact that Mack was bred by Peter’s
brother really had nothing to do with his success, but
the power wielded by van Dorrsen and Rikkor’s breeder
Hans-Peter Rieker is certainly great. The tremendous
“mover” Timo faced great anti-sable prejudice even
though Messler admires him greatly (his description of
Timo’s progeny in 2000 was positively glowing). It was
pretty much agreed that last year’s Sieger Ursus v.
Batu would not compete, nor would the 1998-99 Sieger
Rikkor. This would seem to leave the field more open
for Esko and Untox (the 2001 Holland Sieger), both dogs
of excellent anatomy but not as strong in color as
Messler wants. In fact, in private conversation with
Peter, and by overhearing him stress deeper coat
pigment to others, I knew that neither Esko nor Untox
would become Sieger. By process of elimination, if
Messler were to bow to the anti-Timo pressure, who
would be left among the better-pigmented front-runners?
The up-and-coming Odin Hirschel son, Bax Luisenstrasse, had only turned two years in April, so he had not paid his dues nor established a progeny group, so he was out of consideration for the top prize, although good enough to be VA, even this year. Dux Della Valcuvia, Italian-bred but German-owned, had a very good progeny class, but his time was not yet ripe. To leapfrog him over many higher-ranked dogs would have been unacceptable. He will advance next year, though, I believe. Mack did not have a spectacular progeny class, and having placed behind Timo in past years, should not have past the gray dog this year either. The real competition to Timo, therefore, came down to the 3-year-old Yasko Farbenspiel. This is a dog very close to the Standard, though most people would like “just a little more dog”, such as a large, masculine head like Timo’s. Yasko is a son of Ursus, but looks more like his dam’s side of the family, in body style and strength. He does not have the power and ground-covering gait that Timo does. He has better color in his “brown parts” (legs, underside) and he is calmer in his demeanor. Timo loves to proclaim his presence by barking almost all the time he is not in action or posing. A very small comparison to Timo is that by being less vocal, Yasko is more frequently seen with his mouth shut and his ears up rather than folded back as frequently happens when dogs bark.
When the top 70 or so Working Class males entered the big ring on Sunday, there was considerable whistling (a mark of disapproval in Germany) because Timo was up front. This in spite of applause both at this time and at his courage test as well as later when he ran. Only a few of us could see the board at the dogs’ entrance to the arena, where Yasko’s name was in first slot, and it appeared to be a matter of deliberate showbiz or political maneuvering that Yasko was late in arriving for the line-up, so he could make a big entrance and alleviate the tension in the anti-sable crowd by trotting past all the other dogs to take his place at the head of the line. This fear of gray dogs is very real. Since sable is a dominant genetic pattern, the Germans generally fear that a sable (“grau”) Sieger will result in that becoming the predominant “color” in a few years — that the breed would be overrun by them. Obviously, this would mean a shift in economic power centers as well.
Where do the rumors come in? And how closely do they approximate or describe what really happened? We can never be sure of another’s motivation, only his actions, but… From more than one fairly reliable source we glean one possible scenario: If Messler was set on making last year’s VA2 dog (Timo) the Sieger this year, as is a frequent and logical procedure), then Herr Rieker was reportedly going to stymie the move by bringing back the double Sieger Rikkor from retirement and forcing Messler to again place him ahead of Timo. Credence for this theory is found in the fact that Rikkor was indeed entered and in the catalog. When he did not show up for the courage test, it was the common buzz that Timo would be stuck in second place again, and his future as a contender ended. The only question then was, who was Messler going to put ahead of Timo? The answer turned out to be Yasko, who caries on the Sieger tradition of following the bloodlines (most Siegers seem to be sons or grandsons of past Siegers), even though he was a little bit of a dark-horse candidate. Yasko is a worthy dog and in other circumstances might have universal approval, but it is a shame that both in the on-lead and off-lead fast gaiting, he could not pull ahead or move out of Timo’s way. It is a frustrating feeling that I can empathize with, having been stuck behind a less-ground-covering dog before (I won’t call them slugs as others have). I knew how Gerd Dexel and his handler felt. Some had asked, was Neptun Bad Boll’s last-VA a sign to Hans-Peter that his power was recognized but Neptun would not be rewarded further? Sort of a reactionary slap? We’ll never know.
Here are the placings in the VA males category:
VA 1 Yasko v Farbenspiel: Ursus v Batu x Connie v Farbenspiel
VA 2 Timo v Berrekasten: Wanko v Lippischen Norden x Leska v Berrekasten
VA 3 Mack v Aducht: Rikkor v Bad-Boll x Quale aus Wattenscheid
VA 4 Esko v Danischen Hof: Jango v Furstenberg x Una v Oxsalis
VA 5 Untox v Ducati: Xandor v Tronje x Joska v Ducati
VA 6 Dux della Valcuvia: Max della Loggia dei Mercanti x Una della Valcuvia
VA 7 Bax v d Luisenstrasse: Odin v Hirschel x Beaury v Huis Kirura
VA 8 Neptun v Bad-Boll: Yasko v Roten Matter x Eibe v Bad-Boll
V 1 Orbit v. Tronje
VA 1 Milla v Frutteto: Shanto’s Xano x Dolli di Casa Piellier
VA 2 Yonka v Fichtenschlag: Shanto’s Xano x Holly v Fichtenschlag
VA 3 Enschi v d Piste Trophe: Jello v Michelstadter Rathaus x Prixi v Wildsteiger Land
VA 4 Betty v Huhnegrab: Kimbo v Monchberg x Brigitt v Huhnegrab
VA 5 Amida av Norden Stamm: Zoltan v Haus Geltinger x Jenny v Faltor
VA 6 Heilei’s Farina: Sasko v Noriswand x Heilei’s Aline
VA 7 Olga v Poxdorfer-Tannenhof: Pascha v d Jahnhohe x Prixi v Wildsteigerland
VA 8 Karma v Ochsentor: Wasko d Ulmental x Feli v Ochsentor
VA 9 Cesna v Bad Waldle: Valium v Arminius x Cosmea v Noort
VA 10 Relli v Bergmannshof: Hinnerk v Kiemoor x Hanny vd Schwarzen Zigeunerin
VA 11 Anabel v Sofienwald: Xorro v Klostermoor x Anna v Sofienwald
Top 5 Young dogs males
SG 1 Hill v Farbenspiel: Huppy v Arlett x Dasti v Farbenspiel
SG 2 Erasmus v Noort: Yasko v Farbenspiel x Alke v Noort
SG 3 Quantum v Arminius: Dux della Valcuvia x Only v Wutachtal
SG 4 Phausto du Val D’Anzin: Dux della Valcuvia x Jacky du Val D’Anzin
SG 5 Champ v Dakota: Rickor v Arlett x Vienchen v Arlett
Top 5 Young (Junghund) females
SG 1 Ronda du Val D’Anzin: Dux della Valcuvia x Minnie de Parilly
SG 2 Nenni aus Agrigento: Till v Lechtal x Gusta aus Agrigento
SG 3 Nasa v Hochmoor: Till v Lechtal x Fici v Hochmoor
SG 4 Gwendy v d Vallendarer Hohe: Saber v Steffen Haus x Hexe v Steffen Haus
SG 5 Inga aus der Brunnenstrasse: Vax aus der Brunnenstrasse x Queen v Bergmannshof
Top 5 Youth (Jugend) males
SG 1 Larus v Batu: Yasko v Farbenspiel x Jitta v Batu]
SG 2 Marko della Valcuvia: Dux della Valcuvia x Simba della Valcuvia
SG 3 Quando v Sofienwald: Flex v Tronje x Anabel v Sofienwald
SG 4 Indo v d Bildeiche: Jago v Danischen Hof x Nixe v Sendling
SG 5 Rasko d Ulmental: Esko v Danischen Hof x Daffy dei Tre Pini
Top 5 Jugend females
SG 1 Repetition Amanda: Zycco v Arminius x Ungana v d Wienerau
SG 2 Walhalla v Bierstadter Hof: Ursus v Batu x Fee v d Breitenauer See
SG 3 Lady v d Herdersfarm: Mack v Aducht x Rena v Wildsteiger Land
SG 4 Peppermint Pety v Deutschherrenhof: Saber v Steffen Haus x Donata v Isidora
SG 5 Perle aus Agrigento: Packo v Alex x Xena aus Agrigento
One synonym for “politics” is “power”. A very nice dog was the V1 Orbit, bred by the judge. It reminded me of another excellent and worthy dog bred by Peter Messler who had a hard time breaking into the VA category. Pitt v. Tronje would not have cost Messler his job if named VA a year or two earlier than he was. But Messler would have been toppled if he had given Timo the deserved top title. Still, it may have been the wisest move on his part to sacrifice one worthy dog and to keep his job. He has implemented a number of improvements to the organization during his tenure, and should be allowed to continue his progressive leadership. Perhaps it should be enough for many of us, to acknowledge such tough choices and to simply consider Timo as Sieger in our hearts — in spirit though not in name.
You will notice in the above results that one star is on the rise: the Italian kennel, dellaValcuvia. Italy probably has the second-largest and important GSD breed club in the world, and this kennel is one of several that turn out handsome, very-well-pigmented dogs in considerable numbers. The du Val D’Anzin name is another important non-German kennel, and there are also increasing numbers of Danish and Dutch names as well. This is truly an international competition.
Without last year’s breath-taking Chipsi Herdersfarm, and missing the 2000 VA-2 Cindy v. Hirschel, the Hündinnen were not as exciting to watch this year. But Leonhard Schweikert did his usual good job in selecting beautiful bitches. It is customary for bitches to make one stab at VA, and then retire to the whelping box where they can do more for the breed. Here is where the philosophy in showing differs tremendously from that in the U.S. where super bitches like the Westminster-winning Scottish Terrier or the AKC GSD Mystique may make a big splash at high-profile shows and rack up a record in BIS wins, but never have a baby to carry on the genes.
One of my favorite parts of the Sieger Show is the courage test, especially the males. All Working-class (24 mo. & up, titled) dogs must perform the excerpt from the SchH-1 bite work on the attack from the blind, and the long-distance defense. There were many more prepared dogs this year than at last year’s shameful showing. Showdogs must receive regular refresher work after they earn their titles. The tougher standards, while still not ideal, are working. This time, there were fewer dogs given “Pronounced” who were really worth only a “Vorhanden/Present”. Some dogs’ sires could be guessed (I kid you not) by their guarding style, and those who read my last year’s comments would understand what I mean. All Timo sons I saw, with one marginal exception, earned their Ausgeprägt/Pronounced rating. Untox, Esko, Mack, Yasko, and other top dogs did very well in the bitework.
As I mentioned last year, I realize that not everybody is retired (every day is Saturday to me!) and not everybody can schedule his own vacation time, but if you love the GSD, you owe it to yourself to see this great spectacle and some of Europe on the side… maybe also the Bundessiegerprüfung. Life is short, so enjoy something you’d remember rather than spend all your time on your knees worshipping the god of Work. Go to the show or the trial. If you want to economize and get some guidance, join a small group that has an experienced person at the helm. Even if you go for only a few days, treat yourself to the experience. You’ll never regret it. I never met a person who said he was sorry that he went to the Sieger Show in Germany.
Two weeks after the conformation spectacle, the Bundessiegerprüfung was held in Göttingen, a university city in central Germany, between the industrial and population centers of Frankfurt, Hannover, and the Dusseldorf-Duisberg-Dortmund corridor on three sides, and the Harz Mountains on the east. This was my first tour group for the Bundessiegerprüfung, and while the number was decimated by a combination of the recent terrorism and disruption of flight or other plans and personal reasons, those who made it had a wonderful time. If I get a bigger response early enough for next year’s national schutzhund-3 championships, I will organize another working-dog-oriented trip. Our 2001 experience began when I picked up enthusiasts and trainers from the greater Philadelphia area at the Frankfurt airport. It was no trouble keeping them awake since one was a Porsche driver and the other had never traveled as fast before — the autobahns have no speed limit in many stretches and even cruising along at 100mph, you have to keep to the right to allow the faster ones to zip past in the “BMW lane”.
First stop was to check in at our hotel near Stuckenbrock and Paderborn, and meet with the bubbly Dorothea Twohigg, a German dog owner/trainer who is a German but learned English from her former husband, a Brit. Consequently, when she spoke, the broadest Cockney accent and colloquialisms sounded humorously odd. She works with the Leistungsrichter Werner Plöger and the Zuchtrichter Heinz Grottendiek, all in the same Landesgruppe, and who joined us for supper and the next day invited us to their homes, kennels, and clubhouse. Dorothea arranged an English-speaking tour guide for our walk through the Detmold castle, where the Prince and other heirs of the feudal family still live. We still had time to climb the “Externsteine”, a curious outcropping of massive rocks that looked out of place in this rolling agricultural countryside, and to visit the statue of Arminius, the Teutonic hero who repulsed the Romans some distance to the Southwest of here. His name is the Latinized form of Hermann, and many refer to him as “Herman the German”. The statue’s upraised sword alone is 7 meters long! A corollary or consequence of his name is the kennel name chosen by another Hermann (Martin) who with his brother Walter Martin ruled the GSD world for many years. The Arminius and Wienerau names are indelibly etched into the breed’s history and type.
The following morning was spent touring the largest police academy in Europe, NordRheinland-Westfalen, with the biggest and best police dog training facility you could imagine. My friend Alfred Macejewski is still in charge, although he said he would follow me into retirement in a couple more years. I had lectured here in the mid-1980s, and was pleased to see some of the original remained and some new buildings added. My group, which at this time consisted of Sue Cosby and Marv Sharfstein, were treated to a video and the various functions and facilities. A disheartening fact was that while on my first trip here there were only a few non-GSDs, now the GSD makes up less than 50% of the dogs being trained, and the whelping rooms now have only Malinois. The SV really needs to do something about this, and when I spoke with president Messler about that at the Bundessiegerprüfung dinner and opening ceremonies, he agreed and said it is a hard job. The statistics prove that the Malinois, on average, performs the police dog functions better than does the GSD, but this is colored by the issue of bloodlines. The few GSDs offered to the department are not of the caliber they need, and the best in the breed are instead sold to schutzhund people looking for high-scoring competition dogs.
After kennel and clubhouse tours that afternoon, we drove to Göttingen and found the stadium, and saw the “draw” where the order of the next days’ competition was determined. Most dogs had two events on one day and the other on a third day, some had one on each day, and some had a day between. The tracking fields were almost an hour’s drive away by bus, and we all elected to stay in the two stadia for the obedience and the bitework, shuttling back and forth between the two in the intermittent rain. The vendors’ tents were strategically located between the two. Last year I admitted I was not familiar with Aly Vordersteinwald, but I did my homework and looked at offspring in the intervening time, so I got pretty good at spotting his sons and a few of his daughters without the help of the catalog. Aly is famous for great hips and great working traits, though he throws narrow heads. Yoschy also did that, as well as the occasional gay tail. Aly is a dark sable and his offspring are almost all very well pigmented. Last year’s Universal Sieger, whose courage test at Bremen knocked my socks off with its precision and focus, was the Aly son V-109 Camp v Mühlteich, a dog that had scored 296 in his last trial, a week before an accident that left him with a limp and damaged soft-tissues in his thigh. Aly is a Troll bosen Nachbarschaft son, and Camp is linebred on the great Troll.
This year, we saw wonderful performances by progeny of well-known dogs: Lewis Malatesta, Karthago dogs, Aly, Troll, the late great Yoschy Döllenwiese, Nick Heiligenbösch, Xato bosen Nachbarschaft, and a few others, including some from “Hochzuchtlinie” (show lines). I have always observed that historically there was far more outcrossing in the working lines, but in recent years the lines have narrowed, with the above dogs dominating the breeding and competition. Some very nice performances were given by 10th-place Quasy Nachbarschaft (Xato son), 13th place Alf Primsblick (handled by Franz Gugnon to a 96-97-92 performance that looked 3 or 4 points higher to me in C), Iriac v Ruhbachtal (Xato son who was the winner in 1999 but 37th this year with 279), the Troll daughter Cora Märchenwald with 288 because of a few errors in obedience, Aly daughter Exe Schmiedegarten with 8th place 288, and a few I missed in the top 15 down to 284 points. A handler from the Youth category was Bernd Raiser (Helmut’s son), who got 12th and 285 with Drago Mainos. In 3rd with an exciting 290 was Troll son Rocky Zingelgärten; 2nd was Glenn Hühnergasse with 290, and the big winner was Bastin Koketal owner-handled to a 291 by Martin Rappl. Last year’s Bundessiegerprüfung-Sieger Ernst Weinbergblick failed with a 91-95-0, but I did not see his protection work to find out why. To go from first to 122nd out of 124 has to make for a very long drive home, no matter where the dog lives!
Agility finals were a part of the Bundessiegerprüfung show, and while our dogs are not Border Collies, some showed remarkable speed and jumping ability in this fun team event. Sightseeing resumed after the Sunday closing ceremonies. I took the party to a country inn further north, in an historic feudal town with a dilapidated castle, a war cemetery, and ancient buildings, finished off with a truly delicious meal laden with the local special mushroom variety. The next morning and part of the afternoon were spent in the city of Goslar on the edge of the Harz Mtns. and close to the old DDR border, with its buildings dating back to 1500 having been spared bombing because the city had been declared a hospital region, and red crosses had been painted on every roof. Beautiful chimes sounded at 9 and noon, and glockenspiel figures came out of a third-floor loft to proceed in an arc overhead. The Dom (castle) was a stupendous tour and afforded a great view if the city’s steeples. Next to that was a memorial to the brothers enslaved by the Russian and East German Communist regime.
Evening was spent largely at the home of Heinz & Inge Balonier, owners of Camp and both schutzhund judges. Heinz has judged many times in Canada, and has an invitation to judge in the U.S. in March, but is afraid to fly because of the terrorist attacks on America. I tried to convince him to come because the chance of it happening again is smaller now that the system is on high alert. I also tried to encourage the USA team to not drop plans to compete at the WUSV, but was personally attacked for my opinion by a couple of people on a USA members e-mail list. My feeling is that when we stop or severely curtail our activities, the enemy gains a victory. I appreciate others’ viewpoints, but I wish they would respect mine, too.
An interesting side note to the Bundessiegerprüfung is that the conformation dogs seldom compete after they reach six years old, but the usual Bundessiegerprüfung competitor is six or seven, and some even older. These very healthy dogs are maintained at peak condition for longer than most dogs, and are a joy to watch. I encourage all of you, whether you join my non-profit group or do it on your own, to attend one of these premier GSD events and as an added benefit, see some of the world that few Americans have.