LIVING A DREAM: A TOUR OF THE GERMAN SIEGER SHOW
by Mary Klein
Imagine going to the 2003 Sieger Show in Ulm, Germany with internationally recognized SV judge Fred Lanting, followed by a long tour of the famous vom Wildsteiger-Land Kennel given by its owners, GSD breeders extraordinaire Martin and Maria Göbl, and sightseeing in beautiful Bavaria and a little of Austria. That is the dream trip that I, a Schaeferhund lover, just completed. Fred leads a tour every year to the Sieger Show and includes several days of sightseeing and kennel/training-club visits.
As another tour member, Barb Loftus, owner of Richtbar German Shepherds in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, says, “it was the trip of a lifetime!”
Alpine views and medieval castles are terrific, but not as exciting as watching the newly crowned World Sieger Bax von der Luisenstraße display his courage, drive, and that special beauty created by outstanding conformation and movement. But VA-2 Larus von Batu, with his illustrious bloodlines (son of two-time World Sieger Yasko vom Farbenspiel), harmonious lines, and deep red and black pigmentation was a crowd pleaser. Why was he not crowned king? Probably in part because this three-year-old still has a small progeny group, says Lanting, our tour leader. Considering the enormous affect the World Sieger has on the future of the German Shepherd (this top dog will be extensively used for breeding), Larus's ranking makes sense. (For an analysis of show results by Fred Lanting, go to www.SiriusDog.com)
Being surrounded by about 1,300 competing German Shepherds and an estimated 30,000 enthusiastic GSD lovers for three days (Sept. 5-7) is an incomparable experience. Stand in the right spot and you are a few yards away from incredible dogs in the show ring. Stroll around the grounds or over to the area where young dogs competed and there is ample opportunity to meet canine beauties and their owners or handlers. Pet a puppy while watching the action in the ring, and it might climb into your lap, as one of our tour group members delightfully discovered. (Owners bring puppies to the show hoping to go home without them.)
But nothing compares to the thrill of seeing a lightning-fast GSD, such as newly crowned Siegerin Kora vom Bierstadter Hof or VA-3 Hill vom Farbenspiel, excel at bitework in the courage test or powerfully command the ring during confirmation competition, earning the roar of an admiring crowd.
Loftus was particularly impressed by the way the dogs were judged: “First, the protection work that they had to pass in order to advance to the standing (posed) individual exam and preliminary ranking, followed by the group judging, and extensive gaiting around a very large soccer field. They gaited slowly in a walk, then a fast trot, and finally fast off-lead, which was very impressive” she says.
The biggest surprise for Loftus, a breeder of American Shepherds, was the quality of GSDs. Prior to the SV Show she was not keen on German dogs. “But I saw some gorgeous German dogs at the show. It was really an eye-opener. I still love the elegance and suspension of the American-bred dog, but there are definitely benefits to using some good German males/bitches in our breeding programs.”
She kept a close eye on the male GSDs at the show. Of the 11 VA male dogs, I particularly loved three: VA-4 Ando v. Altenberger; VA- 7 Quantum v. Arminius, and VA-11 Quirin v. Hochmoor. Of course, the Siegerin was beautiful. She could hold her own here in the U.S. in my opinion. The males impressed me with their masculinity, black and red color, (generally) plush coats, bone, and strong ears. None could be mistaken for a bitch, even the smaller males. Bitches were generally small to medium in size and feminine on the whole. “No snippy muzzles here,” Loftus says.
At the end of each show each day, Loftus, myself, and the six other tour members would climb into the green Mercedes van that Lanting drove and head to a traditional family-run German restaurant for a hearty meal, tall glasses of local beer, delicious don't count-the-calories desserts, and lots of laughs. This was a time to reflect upon the day's competitions, exchange ideas about dogs, and sometimes, dream of taking one home. Most importantly, it was an opportunity to continue bombarding Lanting with GSD-related and SV Show questions, all of which he answered in detail, providing a behind-the-scenes look at the intriguing and sometimes politically difficult GSD world. For instance, during one conversation, Lanting correctly predicted the show placement of several dogs, including Bax as the new Sieger. Another time he told us about several award-winning GSDs whose progeny were somewhat more likely to have certain genetic problems.
A Bavarian Adventure and the Wildsteiger-Land Kennel
And then the 2003 SV Sieger Show was over, and another adventure began. We drove south on Germany's renowned Romantische Strasse (Romantic Road) into Bavaria, heading toward the vom Wildsteiger-Land Kennel, famous for producing world champion GSDs, including VA-1 (1982) Perle vom Wildsteiger-Land and Uran Wildstieger Land, the outstanding stud and German Sieger in 1984 and 1985, and of course Palme, the dam of both Uran and Quando Arminius. The fabulous Karly Arminius (out of a WildsteigerLand bitch) was also there to delight us.
The aptly named Romantic Road passes through quaint villages with half-timbered, red-roofed houses with flower-covered balconies, medieval walled towns, and some of Germany's most beautiful rural countryside. As a bonus, the snow-capped Alps offer a stunning backdrop. Our sightseeing forays included “Mad” King Ludwig's fairy-tale castle, Neuschwanstein, the inspiration for Disney's theme-park castle. Perched high on a hill overlooking Lake Alpsee and the Tyrolean Alps, the grey-granite “schloss” was completed in 1886. Some of our tour members took a horse-drawn carriage up to the castle, while others hiked a beautiful footpath to one of the best views of the castle from a narrow bridge spanning a dramatically deep gorge.
We made another stop at one of the greatest rococo buildings in Europe the Wieskirche (Meadow Church) built as a pilgrimage church to house a statute of Christ that a farmer's wife said she had seen crying. Because of its plain exterior, I was unprepared for its spectacular interior. Gold-plated stucco ornamentation, multi-colored marble pillars, and a frescoed dome depicting the Gate to Eternity were a sight to behold.
Germany and Austria are breathtakingly beautiful and soooo clean, and the people were all very friendly.
For a somewhat less pious experience we went to a small shop that specialized in a wide variety of schnapps. After sampling several flavors and buying a bottle as a gift for Martin and Maria Göbl, we drove to their kennel Wildsteiger-Land. At the time, I did not know that one of our tour members would later make an offer to buy one of their dogs.
The Göbls, friends of Lanting's, warmly greeted us, flanked by their gorgeous GSD female, Nata, who had just placed V-7 in the Gebrauchshundeklasse of the SV Show. Entering their alpine-style home, everyone was awe-struck by the scores of silver trophies and other awards bestowed upon their dogs. After coffee and cake, we went outside to their immaculately kept kennels (adorned with colorful hanging flowers) to meet their dogs. Maria and Martin brought out one remarkable GSD after another. We played with puppies, petted young dogs that might be on the road to stardom, and got our faces licked. Cameras clicked as Martin handled a high-spirited young male and then rubbed its stomach, and Maria posed with another energetic dog. One young female, its foot bandaged from a minor injury to her pad, caught the eye of a potential buyer in our tour group. I sensed that he was looking for the right time to make an offer.
All of the dogs had exceptional temperament; they were very friendly and outgoing. And the Göbls were very friendly. The only drawback was that they didn't speak English and none of us (tour group members) could speak German, except Fred, who says his is only pedigree German.
Then a moment came that Lanting had been waiting for. Martin brought out the great Karly von Arminius, now 11, who had consistently placed in the VA group in his younger years. Karly, whose last show placement was VA-2, is the son of Sieger Kimon v. Dan Alhedy's Hoeve. Lanting greeted Karly with great warmth and affection as an old friend who will never be forgotten.
After more than an hour, the Göbls brought the last dog back to his kennel home and finished doing chores. But we did not have to say goodbye yet. Lanting had invited Martin, Maria, and their son Markus to join us for dinner, and off we drove, following the Göbl's car to a very special Bavarian restaurant. (One of our lucky tour members rode with the Göbls.) After a hearty toast at the restaurant, we enjoyed a fabulous meal of traditional Bavarian dishes. (Well, we actually had several enthusiastic toasts, too.)
While sipping after-dinner drinks, Lanting, on behalf of our potential buyer who spoke no German, asked if the female with the bandaged foot was for sale. Yes, she was. How much? After a brief discussion with each other, the Göbls said 5,000 Euros (about $5,750 U.S. dollars). Would the buyer also be interested in buying a young puppy, Martin asked. Yes, how much? About 500 to 600 Euros, Martin said. But it would be better to buy two of the pups, Martin said, so that they could keep each other company on the long flight to the U.S. Our intrepid buyer smiled, and said he would let them know soon. Later, we warmly said our goodbyes and jumped into the van. On the way back to our inn, Lanting filled us in on what really was going on during the sale negotiations. Basically, if our tour member agreed to buy the bitch, the Göbls would give him a very good deal on puppies he wanted to sell. It was the end of another perfect day. (Price negotiations continued for several days and the sale fell through. But for the rest of us, the conversation about the possible sale was fascinating.)
The next morning I reluctantly left the Lanting tour to return home. I felt even more regretful when people who continued the tour told me it was fantastic. More sightseeing followed my departure, including a guided tour through the SV headquarters, the gilded Rathaus in Augsburg (established in B.C. by Caesar Augustus), and other wonderful experiences. As Loftus puts it: “I had a great time, met some new friends and finally got to see and really appreciate the crème de la crème of German dogs at the Sieger show! I recommend that all Canadians/Americans visit at least one Sieger show if at all possible to view the venue for themselves. They won't be disappointed.”
Mary Klein is a free-lance journalist and award-winning filmmaker now living in Germany.
Her e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org
* Just a side note.
I was the intrepid buyer that Mary was referring to.
Here is a picture of the VA Bax von der Luisenstraße &
VA Nata vom Wildsteiger Land daughter I didn't buy.