by Fred Lanting

© Copyright October, 2000 - 2008

I think I shall add another motto to my collection: El Bien Retiro. Roughly translated, it refers to the world of leisure,la dolce vita, the good life of retirement. Certainly all that was mine again when I led a tour of Europe for a small group recently. The center of focus was the German Sieger Show in Bremen, where all the world comes to experience the world's largest breed show, admire the real GSD, and maybe shop for one. Since I retired from the chemicals business in 1997, I have been offering the only non-profit, SV-Judge-guided trip to THE show, along with visits to training clubs, breeders, and excellent sightseeing. My people are thrilled with the personal touch and the emphasis on the total dog, since much of the tour includes schutzhund activities. This year, I took my group through Holland, where we saw schutzhund training, police dog training, and show handling work at some excellent clubs and kennels. They were able then to see some of these dogs do their courage tests and compete in the beauty pageant in Bremen as well. I have been fortunate each year to have a group of compatible and wonderful people, from the raw novice to the old-timer in the sport, from working-only (with an interest in learning the breed aspects) to the show-only (with a respect for the character needs of the breed). Hopefully, in this same issue of GSQ, you will find an article on the trip by Sgt.Danielle Lewis. As Dani tells you, we toured the northwestern province of Friesland one day. This is where my ancestors' graves are, where my roots are. The reeds still grow in the lowlands along the marshes and canals, standing six or seven feet tall; they provided hiding places where my relatives hid Jews from the Nazis who were afraid to go into the vast fields of reeds themselves because they did not know where the firm ground was. You have read about how, after the most recent ice age, when the glaciers receded from this area, the prehistoric inhabitants built curious rock shelters (called Hunebedden here, dolmens elsewhere). You may have seen pictures of Stonehenge, the largest of such structures, or the better-built (perhaps much later) and preserved Newgrange outside Dublin, or other solstice buildings. The technique was used by the meso-Americans, Egyptians, and others. In Holland, they were very small and primitive, made of upright boulders topped with flatter but still huge rocks. They were apparently used for birthing, death and burial ceremonies, winter shelter, marking the changing seasons and solstices by seeing the beam of light fall on a certain spot, and other unrecorded purposes. We viewed the oldest of these in Holland, and learned of about a dozen scattered around western Europe. Local food and beverage specialties were enjoyed by all. Well, to an extent. The gals from Spokane and Heidelberg were not as fond of the raw herring as I was.

Friday morning required an early start, as the SV has scheduled all courage tests for that day because of the increasing entries and demands on Saturday's time. By 7:30, the tests were begun at the same time that the enormous youth (junghund and jugend, etc.) classes were being held in huge rings. There were about 220 bitches PRESENT in the 12-18 month class alone! To see the uniformity, the excellence, the subtle differences between one dog and a dog 20 or 30 places behind, is almost overwhelming to the first-timer from America where type and quality varies tremendously even in the tiny classes at most specialty shows. People from all over come to marvel and shop. I met people from China, Philippines, Malaysia, Japan, Russia and former USSR countries, and other locations. Even with only 2400 entries (down a little from last year's 100th anniversary show), I missed running into friends I knew were to be there, and bumped into others in the crowds. The 12-18 and 18-24 month rings had plenty of walking and posing room between them, but this was always filled with spectators and exhibitors going from one to another. Cool weather and good previous conditioning kept the dogs alert and running well.Later, the individual standing exams were started in the big stadium, the over-24-month dogs coming from the courage test fields to be evaluated and ranked one at a time by the president Peter Meßler judging the males, and chief Körmeister Leonhard Schweikert doing the bitches. They finished the preliminary judging and ratings by the end of the day Saturday,and approximately the top 50 males were brought back in for the finals on Sunday. I did not notice how many bitches, but about an equivalent number usually returns for the Sunday climax. One of the eterminants in choosing the Sieger and other VA males is how well they reproduce themselves and click with various partners, so the judging of the progeny class on Saturday is very important. After the better half or quarter of the younger animals are sorted out in the morning, the crowd adjourns to the stadium for the afternoon Progeny competition. If a dog does not produce exceptionally well, he will likely not be named Sieger. Several years ago, the very attractive Cash Wildsteiger Land only got as far as VA-2 because his progeny classes were not as good as several others.

This year, Timo Berrekasten, the sable I raved about the last two years, was moved up to VA-2 and his progeny class was one of the largest and most lavishly praised in Meßler's critique. Never in the history of the breed have we seen such a large group of sables in a progeny class! While he also produces as many B&Ts, it was still quite a sight, and should stop the griping from owners of sables in the U.S. who equate the color pattern with only the Schutzhund competition dog. The smallest groups run first, then larger and larger to the final group. The largest progeny group again was by Rikkor Bad-Boll, Sieger for 1998 and 1999. Next was VA8 Esko Dänischen-Hof, a Jango Fürstenberg son; most of his dogs exhibited very nice reach and power. The fact that Timo had the third-largest group speaks well of his acceptance by the general breeding community and perhaps persuasion by the owner to enter the show.

This year's Sieger had the 4th-largest class. Ursus v Batu stamps his excellent pigment, masculinity, and substance as well as movement on offspring. Next down was Hagadahls Arex (he has a ZW of 80), then the Sieger Lasso son Enzo Buchhorn (Gayle Kirkwood from Pittsburgh showed off her Enzo son Drake for many amateur photographers Saturday morning). Jello Michelstädter Rathaus (the Karly Arminius son with ZW of 80) had a nice group, but did not show up himself. Baru Haus Yü (81), who has the same sire as does the Siegerin, may not have the most attractive topline himself, but he certainly produces a lot of terrific-looking youngsters. His sire, Natz Steigerhof (91) had the next-largest group, followed by Odin Hirschel (obvious father-type in offspring), Jango (pigment could be better), Hoss Lärchenhain (moved up to V1 slower than I had thought he would, possibly because of his progeny), Leif Noriswand, and the others.& Neptun Bad-Boll had a lot of two-piece dogs with poor toplines; Fello Farbenspiel is bound to improve next year because of so many good ones he's sired; Cary Fiemereck did not impress me (he was a coward in the courage test, and many of his offspring are pinched at the elbows);V-3 Zamp Schloss Runding's group was not yet as great as it may become.& Pitt v Tronje (remember I predicted he would or should be VA, and he was this year) had a very good class. Hobby (sire of the Sieger) stamped his substance and masculinity on his get. In the Kennel Group competition, ousted Helmut Buß won, adding to his honors with the V-1 male.

On the distant side of the arena, my favorite drove and glided her; way to the Siegerin title. Whether on leash or off, Chipsi Herdersfarm pulled away from the crowd with a superb ground-covering flow (for her, a better word than gait or trot). While the picky might say that at times she seems to turn out a tiny bit at pasterns, or they would like to see a little richer pigment, there has been nothing in recent years that could touch her for being the epitome of anatomy for a herding dog. I wish I could have seen her bitework, which was described as very good, but the bitches had their courage tests someplace around the corner and few knew about it until it was too late to watch them. See my report in the Spring 2000 GSQ issue for more about the bitches. The U.S. bitch I praised then, Hexe v Steffen Haus, moved into a well-deserved VA-8 place, and I hope Jane is watching the video right now; she will also rejoice over her SG-7 18-24-month bitch. This year was the first in history that an American-bred GSD was awarded VA. The Danish-bred beauty, Karat's Olly, who was V-1 last year, was VA-3. The V-1 Mary v Tronje is owned by the Ireland's Cedric Blackbourne, but stays in Germany. The same is true of Dr. Mort Goldfarb's V-37 male Wasko v Aducht, bred by his friend Heinrich Meßler, and several other foreign-owned dogs kept and handled by locals.

Since I am as interested (or more) in character as in body phenotype, I will mix comments about the bitework with those about the dogs who impressed me with Type. I will miss some, because I could not be in two places simultaneously. In the big arena, Sieger Ursus definitely earned his place, but in the courage test, he was a little handler-sensitive as his handler ran to reach him after the out; it looked as if the trainers were afraid he would re-bite and lose the shot at the title, and it appeared he had been strongly corrected in preparation for this event, to prevent that. Mack Aduct (VA3) looked stronger last year; this year he secured his placing but began to tire just before the end. If the judge had run or walked the dogs any longer, he might have had to move others ahead of this Rikkor son.

VA4 Enzo is a beautiful dog, but in the bitework he did the silent guard with good bites; that's ok, but sometimes a lack of barking when holding can signify less hardness than the working enthusiast wants. Showdogs are seldom trained as much as the ordinary Schutzhund enthusiast's dog. VA5 Yasko Farbenspiel is a well-pigmented dog with very nice work in the test, and he may well move up next year. VA6 Untox Ducati is a Xandor Tronje son who sneaked up on me (I did not notice him in previous competition). One of my favorite dogs is the large and hard Pitt v Tronje, VA7 this year, and very good in his bite-and-outs. He is a very good producer, also. Esko did out, but was dirty in his bites. Hoss Larchenhain was moved up from way back in the pack until he ended up with V-1. Some sarcasm was heard in the crowd, indicating that this was his owner-handler's consolation prize for being booted out of the number two spot in the SV over questions of silent ownership in many of the VA bitches he put up in 1999. Hoss is a very nice, dark and strong dog. Right behind him was Margit van Dorssen's Rickor v Arlett, ably handled by the youngster who still looks like a little boy. A dog I am excited about is V-4 Layos v Thermodos by Mutz Heilbronner-Schloss ex Vesta v Mönchberg(I can hear y'all asking,Whoooo???). Watch for him next year. He has a 76 ZW and is a super-nice-looking dog! He was very, very good on the courage tests including the outs. V-8 Triumph's Gucci (90) is a handsome dog with hard hits and full bites initially, but sometimes he likes to munch on the sleeve. Don di Casa Nobili, V-14, had one of the best performances on the courage field, with excellent bites and obedience, and he has great pigment, too, something that seems to be an Italian-dog trait. An impressive and well-pigmented V-17 was Romeo Pallas Athene, but he was a bit dirty on the bites. I saw some attractive offspring and predict he will be one to watch. V-18 was the very large-looking sable Yasso v Arlett, a nice Ulk son, which is something for me to say because Ulk is not my personal ideal. Other Open (Gebrauchshundklasse) dogs of note, perhaps more to the working-type person: several from Estonia, Ukraine, and Russia showed a serious lack of good training. The 1999 VA-10 Huppy Arlett (Eros L.) failed to bite and therefore lost a bid at a higher VA this year. The V-42 son of Ursus, Tacko, did very good work. V-7 Kimbo Mönchberg did not out until almost too late. Karly Murrtal (I gave him a V2 in India) got V-75 here. Romeo Agrigento, the Scott Deodatus son with the beautiful outline, bit but then backed away at one point and did not at another. V-47 Zorro Arlett (I also saw this handsome 87-ZW sable on his home field the next week) bit well and moved quite well. V-19 Laius Moorbeck, owned by E. Vilkova of New York, is a very good-looking dog, destined to improve in the standings. Addi Gundorfer-Höhe, a previously great producer and showdog, was T-2, vorhanden; he reportedly broke his penis earlier. Ouch!

V-109 Camp v Mühlteich (Aly Vordersteinwald ex Alfa Mühlteich, (and I agree with you, never heard of them) is a very rich and dark sable with excellent bites and great obedience, a golden middle dog for all sides of the fancy. And (Holy cow!) he has a 66 ZW! By the way, it was after I had been back in the States a few weeks and wrote that, that I found out Camp was Universal Sieger, which is the very definition of that term, golden middle. I would recommend him to anyone, and know of a litter in Arkansas. Disappointing with a vorhanden and thus given a T-2 in the rankings, was the popular stud, Hagadahls Arex. Jello M. and Jango F. were not shown, and some questioned the increased demands of the test as a possible reason. Jango has the same sire (Wobo Larchenhain) as Arex. V-24 Grando dei Profeti, a son of Iwan Lechtal whose DNA has been questioned but who is safe in Australia now, with arguments about those reports and no re-submission of swabs or blood), likes to chew on the helper's elbow instead of giving a solid bite on the arm. V-63 Xasko Roten Matter (Quartz Templari), owned by Randy Tyson of California did very good bite work (of course!) and V-46 Joe Roten Matter (Fello F.) also was exemplary in that area. Hoss L. did out, but was on the verge with too many re-bites. Last, but not least, we must mention John Henkel's Rykerr v Wilhendorf, American-bred handsome son of Pitt, who was V-32 this year. If he has a good ZW number and hip rating, he should be considered for those who want to improve their lines without going to Germany.

Returning to my opening statement, I realize that not everybody is retired (every day is Saturday to me!) and not everybody can skip school or schedule his/her 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. 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. 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.