Stage 2 – Belgium & Holland
“….if our bitch is half the dog….I’ll be wrapped!!”
So we leave Finland behind…the cold, the early nightfall and we swap this for…..more of the same in Germany! We’re cutting it fine….the paperwork says collect the motorhome by 5pm…we are in the cab, racing down the freeway from Frankfurt International airport to Friedberg….ahhh…we can breathe now…4:55pm..We made it!
Johnny ventures in to the office while I unload the luggage and pay the cabbie….I watch the interaction form outside….I can tell we may have an issue….Johnny confirms this…the office claims pick up is by 4pm as it is now too dark to complete the condition report…..so…..we take a punt…we insist we are taking it tonight…we use the mobile phone torch for the inspection….things are tense…we know if we miss something we’re up for 1200 euro in excess….then to make matters worse the guy goes…”we don’t make our money off the insurance…don’t worry”…now I’m worried!
In any case it’s all done and we’re off…..next stop Belgium!
We have about 5 hrs ahead of us….it’s dark…but that’s ok…now it’s raining and getting heavier and the winds are picking up….not necessarily a problem in a car…but when your motorhome is a “cool room on wheels” and gets pushed around the freeway by a van half its size…..it’s a problem! We proceed cautiously…..I finish my shift and Johnny takes over….we agreed about an hour each to compensate for the extra concentration….an hour in to Johnny’s shift we agree to pull over and spend the night at the next truck stop and go again in the morning….good move….the wind intensified and this baby was rocking and rolling all night….and it had nothing to do with Johnny and I being in the back…if you get my drift!
4am start…..we told Felix we’d be at his place ready to walk the dogs at 7:30am…we made it! Flobecq, Belgium…a quaint little town, typically European and typically picturesque…brought back memories of my previous trips to Europe…..I first met Felix about 11 yrs. ago when he resided in Melbourne…since then we have kept in touch and had numerous discussions about Rottweilers. Felix is traditionally a Malinois and German Shepherd guy…but has recently become acquainted with the Rottweiler through his boys, Jack vom Heltorfer Forst and Badboy vom Checkpoint Charlie. Sound familiar?? You see, Felix is the person I entrusted to select our female Bluelady vom Checkpoint Charlie, and when he was there he met Badboy and it was love at first sight! You owe me one Felix……
The dogs are loaded into Felix car and we set off for the woods….for their morning walk. Felix is a professional dog trainer and this is his daily routine…morning walk…tracking and then to Christophe’s for protection work….I tell you…..Felix is living the dream!
The woods……a little different to Australia…no gum trees…..just huge oak trees! So we walk…..15-20 minutes for each dog…..there’s 3 of them….it’s wet…a little sloshy….no problem….the ICE BUGS are in full swing! (That’s the boots I bought in Finland). Badboy is 1st one out….he’s a medium size dog with good substance….and he exudes temperament and personality…runs into you and pushes you…lets you know he’s there….Felix has him under excellent control but you know he’s chomping at the bit to impose himself. Badboy is full of drive and has some presence about him….I look at Johnny and go…”if our bitch (Bluelady) is half the dog…I’ll be happy!”
Jack is next, a different demeanour to Badboy….he is reserved and serious….he is not really interested in us…unless of course you encroach on his space…he will then let you know you are not welcome….he is typical “old school” Rottweiler…the type of dog you need to mind yourself around. After Jack, it’s an exuberant, young female Malinois….she bounds around without a care in the world… full of energy and drive and without restraint…but again….Felix has her under control and when he beckons her, she complies! This has been a great opportunity to catch up with Felix and to meet and understand his dogs…next up; tracking!
A short drive out of the woods and to an open field. Awesome views, the wind is blowing, the pastures are lush and rich. Felix lays the tracks whilst Johnny and I wait….Badboy is first, whilst Jack’s track ages….Badboy is enthusiastic, tracking with intensity and a deep nose….beautiful work for a dog of his level of maturity and age….there is a video that I will upload in due course. Each footstep with precision and each article with accuracy….working the corners with intent…overall and excellent track!
Here is a video clip of Badboy completing his track this morning….
Jack is next…again super tracking…intensity and precision….particularly on the articles…Felix has them primed with an intense focus on them! Jack has a difficult track to accomplish, length, age and crosswinds…no problem…he makes this track like a pro!!!
THE BELGIAN COUNTRYSIDE – FELIX’S OFFICE
Back to Felix place for a bite and then off to Christophe’s place for the protection training with Badboy. Now this is an interesting part of the trip. In order to understand what this is like, you need to have previously participated in an activity where things are not black and white…and activity where there is plenty of grey….plenty of middle ground…something with room for inspiration and creativity….sports like soccer, football, martial arts where the participants are free to express their very nature within the rules and constraints of the game….the very thing, that intangible something that separates good from great…if you have this experience then you can understand Christophe and his approach to dogs…Malinois specifically, and now a small interest in Rottweilers. Christophe is a successful breeder and competitor in NVBK Belgian Ring Sport. He has bred many world champions and many superb Malinois. He has been in the game for about 25yrs.
Christophe and his family are welcoming and hospitable. We arrive as they are having lunch…raw meat sandwiches…I am assured this is “nothing to be afraid of in Belgium”….good thing we had lunch before we arrived! When it comes to culinary delights, this is tame…the worst is yet to find me…refer the upcoming German story! However, this is followed by a delicious, homemade chocolate mousse…absolutely perfect! Some great conversation; just general chit chat, the recent terrorist attack in Paris and other current affairs, then Christophe invites us to make our way to the clubhouse and the training field – all on his property, the training area is specifically geared towards ring sport and its many obstacles and variables. As we enter the club room you have a distinct appreciation of the history that awaits you….bite sleeves, suits, and other paraphernalia hanging from the racks…years and years of accumulation…living history and testimony to the man’s expertise…and now Christophe changes….he looks the same but its another side of Christophe….no more current affairs and chit chat….now it’s what I’m here for…DOG TALK!!!
Our conversation ebbs and flows from breed specific discussions, to ring sport, schutzhund, IPO, breeding, specific dogs etc….I have to pinch myself…I’m like a kid in a candy store….keep talking…I’m hanging off every word! Despite the obvious differences in our chosen breeds, Malinois vs Rottweilers there are many common threads, particularly breeding practices…and this is Christophe’s forte. His answer to one of my questions sums up his whole approach and ideology……is breeding science or art??? His answer…..after some deliberation…..an emphatic response…..”ART!!!” so typically influenced by the French quarter as opposed to the German systematic approach….brave and audacious in its methods…little regard for the potential risks…for there is little reward without risk! And the rewards are clear to all when he brings out one of his prized Malinois to chomp down on Johnny’s leg!!!
This is a definite highlight…..one that Johnny won’t forget for a while….nor will Felix’ wife Maggie…but unfortunately I can’t show you that footage…but I can show you Johnny’s…..so Christophe brings out Jackie…a big Malinois…I estimate about 45kg…this is later confirmed accurate…..big, broad in chest and head…a handsome brute of a dog…..with an evident intensity that screams…”you’re in trouble!” the dogs eyes lock in on the suit…specifically the leg which he has been drilled to take in most cases….and in a whirlwind he’s on that leg!!! A grip so powerful and full, clamping down, shaking and massaging…..massaging and shaking….Johnny is sitting on a bench….he reals back in pain…he’s grimacing and smiling….not really sure whether to laugh or cry…but I know he’s enjoying this…this is why he is here! The dog is in the zone and he’s working Johnny over like a fat kid on an ice cream cone!!! Finally it’s over and the dog is taken away….Johnny sits up…he sighs…he smiles…he just got owned! I hear about this sore ankle for the next 3 days…it’s not the bone crushing bite pressure that did it….it’s the violent shaking that seems to have loosened the joint for him. Rest assured people…if the dog bit Johnny without the suit…Johnny would still be looking for his lower leg…….it was awesome! Christophe is smiling like a proud father…I can relate to this feeling….it’s a breeder thing!
A side note…..kudos to Johnny….new situation….unchartered waters….who’s up for it?? Johnny!! No questions asked…..he’s bold and he’s brave….just like one of those hardened and toughened shins he had so proudly on display through out the trip….he powers through anything that comes his way!
Next is Badboy’s protection training session.
Christophe does not make an impression as an athlete and most will admit that good decoys need athleticism…after all…it’s a physical endeavour…but this is where the intangible that I spoke of earlier comes into play. You see what Christophe possess that more than makes up for athletic endeavour (and please don’t misunderstand, he is physically capable and more than likely was an impressive physical specimen in his younger days) is timing, experience, knowledge and the ability to utilise his intuition and that intangible that comes from the sub-conscious to create what to me looks like poetry in motion, in the form of effortless and beautiful decoy work! Like a well-honed ballet dancer or gymnast who effortlessly and gracefully makes the impossible, possible.
Felix brings Badboy out…Christophe says “if want a better view come out on the field”…so we do. The intensity comes to mind; from Felix and Badboy….Felix is a handler that leaves nothing to chance….precise…and premeditated…every move clearly thought out and with purpose, nothing left to chance. This level of professionalism shows in Badboy; he is focussed on the decoy and nothing more….no distractions from the handler or any external influence. The barking is rhythmic and powerful…he rushes the decoy and settles into a hold and bark that is impressive; pushy but correct, and he puts everything into trying to make the decoy move for the ultimate reward…the grip! When the decoy finally gives in and presents the sleeve Badboy explodes….in an instant he has clamped down and is crushing the training sleeve….shaking and fighting…countering every move by the decoy; an impressive attack for such a young dog yet to reach the potential of his maturity.
As the handler and decoy continue to put this young dog through his paces there is one impression that remains for me…..the drive that the dog exhibits at the commencement of the session does not diminish, the dog maintains an intense attitude, and despite obvious signs of fatigue is as energetic and enthusiastic at the end as he was in the beginning. This my friends is genetics, and the will to work…in some circles they refer to it as gameness…in the German Rottweiler world if my translation skills are accurate it is known as “Belastbarkeit” meaning “the ability to maintain” or as google translator says “load bearing capacity”….this boy has it in bucket loads! Again…I look at Johnny and say…”if our bitch is half the dog…I’m wrapped!!!”
Back to the club room, more war stories and more dog stories….the time flies….but secretly you don’t want this to stop…you want to keep talking…keep learning; but, Felix says we have to go…we have an appointment with a Hawk………………
We arrive back at Felix house; the weather is nice…it’s warmed up a little, the skies are clear and they’re blue…..haven’t seen that since Melbourne….and won’t see it again for a while. Felix is a man of eclectic taste….his pets other than the powerhouse dogs are some very small scorpions that he keeps in his lounge room and a Harris Hawk that he keeps in his back yard. The scorpions are kept in containers in a glass cabinet and they are not really pets that you can interact with, so for me, whilst I understand someone could appreciate them, I cannot see why…….each to their own! The hawk on the other hand is something you can interact with albeit carefully….
Felix delicately unties the beauty from its perch and coaxes it onto the leather glove….as he stands it opens up its wings, almost as if its stretching having being woken from its slumber….now that is majestic!!! It’s not a huge bird…but I would guess the wingspan is at least a meter…..its body exudes power and strength as does its noble head piece…up close it’s a formidable creature. Felix’s repetitive instruction means that Johnny must be careful….”do not let go of the glove or the tether!!!”…………”if you do she’ll be gone”…there’s a distinct finality about those instructions and as such I chose to admire from close up however prefer not to take that sort of responsibility for someone else’s prized possession! Felix has spent some time training this bird of prey but not recently….as she is being held she stretches, and moves on the glove….this is an animal chomping at the bit to fly….as I said, she is majestic, powerful and something to admire! Much like her counterparts, all 22 of them on the hallowed turf of the MCG, in October earlier this year and the 2 years before that….the mighty hawks….powerful…majestic and definitely something to be admired!!! Sorry folks….I had to draw that comparison……LOL!
This was nice way to conclude the afternoon….now a little rest and in a while we’re off to meet a man that I tried to meet in 2009 but it was not to be….Guy Verschaste from Vom Schloss Hexental Rottweilers.
We arrive to area that is industrial in its appearance, similar to a factory outlet setting, only difference is that this is a dog sport outlet…wall to wall dog sport gear and all things canine! Apparel, leads, collars, treat, toys, training aids you name it…you need it, and they got it! This is one of the most comprehensive assemblies of dog training gear I have ever seen…very impressive! And this store is owned and managed by Guy and his wife Katrine. Guy is a long time Rottweiler fanatic. He has been involved with the breed for in excess of 25years and has been a “working line” aficionado for that entire time. His knowledge of the working / performance bloodlines is unparalleled in my view. He is a walking encyclopaedia…but I’ll cover that in a minute. On and off, Guy and I have been corresponding for over 10 years, exchanging information on dogs, bloodlines and all things Rottweilers. Guy is also the author of a book, covering 30 years of Rottweilers.
Felix made the formal introductions; he and Guy have been friends for some time and in the last few days completed a breeding between Badboy and Guy’s female, Liesl. Meeting Guy is a little surreal….someone that I have been speaking to for many years and known for many years but only just meeting them is a weird experience…weird but good….like a long lost friend. Soon enough the pleasantries are over and we are engaged in some “deep” dog talk….pedigrees, dogs, character attributes…..and more……it’s like a long rally at the tennis…to and fro….forehand…back hand…volley…smash…and on….only one significant difference…there is no objective to “win” the discussion……it’s about appreciating each other’s knowledge and building a mutual respect! This hour long session has broken the ice, and Guy has now invited us to his house to meet his dogs and continue the discussion.
We arrive at Guy’s but have to reverse the motorhome and leave it at the front of the driveway…. it’s too narrow to reverse out and turn it around…. It’s also dark and we can’t really see where we are heading…. Walking the drive we find the first 2 dogs in the front yard; behind a fence thankfully….it’s Charly vom Tanneneck and a female…..Charly is the full litter brother to our Clyde…..Charly is the good looking brother, it’s dark and so I can’t see him properly but he’s not quite as big as Clyde, but when he starts to bark, I could close my eyes and find myself transported to my yard….he sounds just like Clyde! And, just like Clyde, Charly has some grey under his muzzle but still has the same vitality….I had seen their mother Xanta vom Hohegeiss during my 2009 trip…if I remember she was about 9…but still the boss of the yard and Uwe was struggling to keep her at bay! So, her boys are just the same….they are some potent bloodlines! A mini highlight of sorts and a little sentimental.
Guy brought out his females; a fine pack of female Rottweilers and a testament to Guy’s effort to produce a well-balanced dog…. One that fits the breed standard and one that works as a Rottweiler should….not just a show dog! I am happy though that they do stray to the work side more than the looks….as they should! Next Guy brings out his young prospect; Noris vom Schloss Hexental…. He is a fine specimen, thick set, rich colours, nice head type, dark eyes and pigmentation….a really nice Rottweiler….with an intensity to match. This is a young dog to look out for….
Once we were done outside, Guy invited us inside for a drink….he quickly brought out a Belgian beer that he was proud of; 9.8% alcohol!!! Holy moly…one stubby on an empty stomach and you know you’re drinking it! Whilst the conversation was flowing and we were well acquainted…I think this helped the relationship to another level….. Guy was up and about, bringing out folders and folders of old pedigrees and photos of the most significant dogs of yesteryear…and when I say photos, we are talking about original photos, not something printed off the internet! Photos that either he took or had the owners of these dogs send to him, a testament to his dedication, and an expression the efforts he has gone to over the years in his attempts to secure the best there was. That fat kid in the candy store just arrived, and his name was Laurie! The conversation moved to other topics too, but they were of no real consequence to me…. I’m still stuck on the folders and the dog talk! A quick visit turned into a few hours….and if Felix had not insisted we needed to go…we’d still be there!
It was late and whilst Guy and his wife were insistent that we should enjoy more of their hospitality, common sense prevailed…they had work in the morning and we had dogs to walk! And, we had yet to have dinner…..so if you’re in Belgium, and it’s late in the night, what do you find to eat….what else? Kebabs!! Thanks Felix, made us feel right at home!!
As a side note, not because it was insignificant but rather in my view a most generous gesture…we had been talking about family and I told Guy that my daughter Angelina was expecting chocolate from every country that I was visiting and subsequently asked him which Belgian chocolate he recommended…..well….he did not make a recommendation….he went to his pantry and brought out a 5 pack of chocolates….he offered them to me as a gift for my daughter…they were his personal favourites and his personal stash for the week! I know the bond between man and chocolate very well…and as such I understand the sacrifice!!!! Guy, you are a most generous man…thank you….thank you for the chocolates….your time…..your generosity and your company!!! We will meet again one day soon!!
An early start…..up for a toilet break….it just happens to coincide with Felix getting the dogs out and ready for the morning walk…..Johnny is sleeping….snoring….
Felix and I get ready and off to walk the dogs…..just me and him this morning…Johnny did not stir….not sure if it’s the beer from last night…the kebab…the conversation…the motorhome perhaps….jetlag??? or, maybe he’s just catching up on the sleep he missed in his youth…..
This morning’s walk was through the township of Flobecq, past children on their way to school and people going about their daily routines…again, Felix shows his professionalism….he has trained the dogs to walk on his right side with a different command to the normal heel command which is on the left….this is a trained relaxed walk as opposed to a concentrated powerful heeling exercise, specifically created for circumstances such as this or when he has a long walk from the carpark to the competition field….an interesting insight to the driven competitors mindset; nothing is left to chance!
Three dogs, 15 fast paced minutes a piece….and we’re done. Johnny is up and joins us for a breakfast. After breakfast it’s off to Christophe’s for more of the same as yesterday…only difference is today is raining and cold…so more discussion than training….but still an awesome way to spend a few hours.
This afternoon we are heading to a training field in Holland, where Felix is competing on the weekend for his preliminary obedience session with Jack. A nice drive but when we get there is cold, it’s raining and it’s just a football park…no shelter….but, we’re not here for comforts, we’re here to learn and experience another way of life.
The conditions are terrible; its dark, it’s raining and the wind is picking up…feels like the temperature has dropped a few points from the already low level it was at…never fear…we have the long pants on and the Icebugs (my newest pair of outdoor boots) are hitting their straps! Despite the conditions, Felix is still as methodical as ever. Training aids in place, dog walked before the session to warm up….a zealot for routine, Felix just keeps to the “process”. Obedience practise first for Jack…an IPO III, successful competition dog, yet Felix is “fixing” things…things that most would not even know need fixing…..but Felix is a perfectionist. Reminds of the time Felix had a little disagreement years back over email….I had sent a photo around to a few people of a Rottweiler doing a hold and bark with his front paws on the helpers chest…barking into his face….I thought it looked impressive….probably appealed to my immature, male ego at the time……Felix’s response was…”that costs points”…my reply was….”ok, Mr dog sport”……my reply was at that time condescending in tone…but having now witnessed Felix and his daily routine…it’s befitting the man….only one difference….in the most POSTIVE manner!!!
Felix and Jack then work through their protection routine with the gentleman that has been waiting in the rain as long as we have….commitment??….craziness more like it! The ride back is slow and steady….one more thing for the night…an interview with Felix…this one is on you Johnny….I’ll stay behind the scenes….work the camera and gather my thoughts on an awesome 1st 4 days of the trip!!! Tomorrow morning we are up and at em early….on our way to Joep Selders place on the border between Belgium and Holland.
It’s approx. a 2.5 hour drive to Joep’s (pronounced Yoop) and Kristine house……when we get there…..wow!!!! I placed a photo on Facebook and commented….” A fairy tale place…” a beautiful big home, with a thick thatched roof nestled on a 2.5 acre block with an oak forest as a back yard! Manicured lawns and beautifully presented gardens….you can tell Joep works hard!! The house is unique even in this very nice neighbourhood, obviously a very nice part of town! Joep and his wife Kristine greet us, warm friendly and inviting. They are not what you would call typically Rottweiler people….it’s hard to characterise people when you’ve known them for all of 5 minutes, but these a cultured people, intellectuals, well presented, well-spoken and if their home is a reflection of them as people then well-kept too!! I later found out that Joep is an English teacher and his wife Kristine an insurance industry executive….I guess that one thing I’m getting better at as I age….reading people…or at least I hope so!
Joep takes on a tour of the property and to meet the dogs. Joep has been someone I have wanted to meet for a while. I have studied his breeding practises via the internet; Working Dog eu predominantly…and from what I have seen he has an eclectic taste for the “purest of working line” Rottweilers as do I….and I was keen to meet and speak of his current and past dogs….particularly some of the dogs that he has in his pedigrees that are similar to those in the Seeuferhause pedigrees. First we are greeted by Jacko von der Tripelallianz, a handsome fellow….an IPO III male Rottweiler….decent size and presence about this dog…..and a dog that will reveal more about Joep’s character than his own in due course!
Jacko is running with Julie von der Tripelallianz and to the rear of the garage (funny how half way across the world our practise of locating dog runs and kennels around a garage seem to be just as right as it is in Australia) is Alpha von der Drachenhohle….this is a young female that carries the weight of the future for Joep…a talented IPO competition female that Joep is looking to, to secure the future for his kennel. Alpha is granddaughter of the awesome Peppi vom Amtsbach; I need say no more…..
In the house is the lovely, big teddy bear Diva vom Turnleberg, and the other hope for Joep; Keisha von der Tripelallianz…..Keisha’s responsibility is twofold…the future and the past! How can that be? Well, Keisha represents all that was and still is great about von der Tripelallianz…..she is down line from Joep best dogs and her recent breeding to Jacko is an awesome line breeding opportunity of all of those great dogs. Keisha is just weeks from giving birth….and at the time of writing this article she has delivered some healthy puppies for Joep. So, this brings me to the cryptic clue from earlier about Jacko revealing Joep character……
When I approached Jacko in his kennel, whilst he did his job and defended his territory to the stranger, he wasn’t as committed as one would have hoped….and this would be the revelation…..when Joep and I sat down and had a coffee and a great conversation about all things Rottweilers, I asked him why he used Jacko for the breeding with Keisha (there are many, more intense options at Joep’s fingertips)….Joep calmly and confidently stated that whilst Jacko did not have the “heart” he would prefer, he is calling on his common ancestors with Keisha to shine through the combination…and if that happens he will be a very happy man…so, what does this tell me about Joep? It tells me he is a man of integrity & respect on a couple of levels….he could have easily attempted a sales pitch on Jacko…..after all he knew I am surveying prospective stud dogs for our Bluelady, instead he opted for the truth! Level 1 covered….level 2…..It also tells me that there is integrity in his history….his breeding that precedes the current dogs he has, and he has a belief in this integrity and respects it to the point of allowing it an opportunity to express itself….this is a man that does not breed for the commercial aspects but rather to satisfy his own goals and aspirations related specifically to the quality and type of dog that he is trying to produce! He is backing himself and his breeding program….and that my friends deserves our respect!!! So, my hat off to you Mr Selders, and I wish you nothing but success…time will tell!
As the day rolled on and my initial thoughts of Joep and his wife were validated….they hosted a generous lunch with great hospitality. The conversation was deep and honest with some revelations on certain dogs that I had hoped for and we then ventured over the border to the IPO club in Roosendaal to watch some training and meet some more people and dogs. The weather was mild for a couple of hours….Roosendaal is a nice setting….dedicated IPO fields….2 separate clubs….there are some people on the training track already….Joep has his leaf blower locked and loaded; testament to his dedication the club….he is not training or trialling on the Sunday, but he wants to clear the field of Autumn’s leaves so the dogs can see the dumbbells…..he doesn’t have to do it…he wants to do it…service, another quality that seem to be forgotten by many!
There’s a rough looking dude on the training field; he’s directing people and handing out advice….I recognise him…..that’s Henks Baks the owner of Ercas vom Kinzigtal. It a little surreal…..I’ve watched this dog on the internet for years….Ercas is 4 times Dutch Champion and probably the most successful stud dog outside of Germany…bred by the Germans but used by the Germans…that a whole other discussion…Henk sees the Aussies and recognises us…after all….no one else wearing shorts on this field!!! Gotta be the Aussies!!!
Henk’s outwardly rough appearance is quickly disarmed by his warm personality….we are speaking like old time friends…this is the language of Rottweiler and dogs in general…a kinship! Henk disappears and them re-appears with Ercas….no need to keep watching the training…I’m off like a flash…its Ercas that I came to see. Ercas is the brother of Enya, and of course the uncle of Bluelady. He is just like in his videos; compact, powerful and fast. He’s been retired for a while now, but he’s still edgy as he approaches the training field. He thinks he’s going to work! Henk puts him through a little obedience as a display for us….the dog is keen as the day he retired…a little older…maybe a little less intense…just a little though….but still keen as mustard! Ercas has been one of the most intense IPO competition dogs of recent times and I admit I am surprised by his open and social character.
Henk had told me as such in previous conversations but until you see it I guess you don’t really believe it. We were able to pat him…take photos and interact as if he was our very own dog. It’s a shame he is retired and we could not see him perform some bite work but we saw a glimpse of the intensity as Henk sent him around the blind for him to come and hold and bark for a ball….the old boy still got it!!! A further testament to this awesome dog was the progeny that he had sired that were going through their paces on the field next door…they were preparing for the trial on the Sunday; and yes, Ercas has stamped them with his character and intensity!!!
It was a great afternoon and then it was time to go….on our way to Germany…it was Friday night and we were keen to be there for first thing in the morning…..
Belgium and Holland were great! Super dogs, super people and a very picturesque backdrop….I’ll be back…no doubt about it….I have unfinished business here…..Marc van den brink of the Van Thuredrecht kennel; unfortunately Marc was ill and could not make it to Roosendaal for us to meet. A long time Facebook friend and another working Rottweiler fanatic and, Django vom Rottberg….the up and coming young star of the Rottweiler world. Unfortunately on a trip to the north of Germany for breeding duties….we will meet next time for sure!!
I anticipated I would enjoy this part of the trip….I just did not know how much!!!
Stage 3 – Germany…..and a dash of Holland…again….
DAY 7 of the trip…….
As the sun sets (it’s not late, the sets early…approx. 5pm), we leave the carpark at the IPO club Roosendaal and head for Germany. We’re heading to Robert Weiss house, the owner of the Checkpoint Charlie Rottweiler kennel and the breeder of our Bluelady!!!
It’s not too far, couple of hours and we’ll be there – we decide to make the entire trip tonight, find somewhere to eat and then crash and be up early for the morning. Sounds easy enough…and the drive was easy…but arriving in a quiet suburban area in the dark, and having to find somewhere to eat is another story…..10kms later and we find a nice Italian restaurant.
From the outside the façade does no justice to the cuisine….beautiful, big servings of pasta are flowing, the patrons are obviously enjoying themselves, heightened voices, laughter and hearty appetites! Reading through the menu I’m trying to decipher what is what….the waitress appears holding quite possible the best looking pizza I have seen….”I’ll have one of those!” I say…Johnny settles on the gnocchi….turns out my pizza is close to the best I’ve had….4 cheeses and 4 hams!!!! How could you go wrong….proved my heart is ok…it’s still working!!!
Back in the van…..find an industrial looking street…park it….and sleep! We just had a huge day, I’m tired but too excited to sleep…I need to look at my photos and videos from the day…..send some emails…speak to Elena….share some photos on Facebook and now I’m ready to sleep…..
Up early, and in no time we find ourselves in a quiet cull de sac, parking the van in front of Robert’s house….I’ve been excited since last night…now it’s building…and I’m not the only one….as the van comes to a stop and I reached down to pull the hand brake…BAM! There’s Robert’s face in the driver’s side window….GOOD MORNING!!! I guess he was excited for us to be there too! The greeting is warm and friendly, more like friends than breeder / customer….but then again we’ve been talking to each other for a few years now and we somewhat know each other.
Robert brings us into his home, and introduces us to Agnes; his wife. They are a very open friendly couple and make us feel very much at home. Robert is an intelligent, articulate gentleman, and his nature is reflected in his communication, interaction and his home. The home is large, well-appointed and its style is reflective of Robert….intricate, high end, classically European and somewhat eclectic….this gives me insight to Robert and his taste in working Rottweiler bloodlines….only the best will do!!! As I mentioned Robert and I have been communicating for years, and again, with hindsight one could assume it was all predetermined….Robert and I seem similar in some ways…..our passion dictates our behaviour…..we both have passion for working Rottweiler bloodlines and we are predisposed to search far and wide for them…..from opposite ends of the earth a common thread…..a common pursuit…to find the “good stuff!!!”
Some years ago Robert had emailed me to enquire about the frozen semen that I have in storage from Rocky vom AllNatal (add link); after this email there were numerous phone calls….alas…Robert was not permitted to utilise Rocky in his breeding program as Rocky had not completed the ADRK ZTP or breed suitability test…this despite being a multi IPOIII dog! Whilst there is disappointment in this event it does demonstrate the rigorous nature of the ADRK breed selection program. Some may argue the application of this program is not what it should or what it used to be….and I am one that would weigh into this discussion, however it is what it is and as they say rules are rules.
My meeting with Robert is special on another level……personally I believe in destiny and fate…..the first breeding bitch that I bought from Joy Belles in 2003 was Rotvel Cors Au; she was a granddaughter of the Dutch import Luca van de Contente….and on this trip I found out that this dog was one of Robert’s first ever Rottweilers!!! Wow….blew me away that 2 people from across the globe with no common friends etc. can be connected in such a way….and to add to this in the next 2 days I will meet the person that owns the breeding kennel, van de Contendte!!! I was pinching myself…..
Entering Robert’s home we are greeted by a young female Rottweiler…this is Coco….she is approx. 8 months old and a full sister to Bluelady from the repeat litter. She is alert and a little aloof with us….her natural inclination towards strangers….no problem…5 minutes in Johnny is rolling on the floor with her and she has now come out of her shell…..now she is showing her true character….biting on my forearm and doing a mock hold and bark on me…..the intensity of the grips on my forearm is increasing and I know if I don’t defuse this it will begin to hurt…..luckily she is now back on Johnny….she is a nice girl…a little small for my liking but she has a big character.Our next introduction is Enya vom Kinzigtal; this is Bluelady’s dam and the sister to Ercas vom Kinzigtal whom we met yesterday; the family resemblance is definite and unquestionable…..Enya is confident and outgoing…..no overt greeting gesture here…she calmly comes over and inspects us….within a few seconds she has accepted us into her home (this is how Robert has raised her), Enya is Robert and Agnes home dog and as such she is respectful of strangers once Robert has invited them in. This is another demonstration that high drive, elite sport dogs can live within the home without a fuss…it’s a matter of education and effort on the owners part.
Once we have greeted all members of the family, a coffee and some great discussion about our trip to date, dogs, and anything and everything….then…a huge brunch / lunch and we are off to training…to meet….BLUELADY VOM CHECKPOINT CHARLIE!! I am excited, but I’m also nervous…..what if she is not what I am expecting….what if she doesn’t measure up…..what if the dogs back home are of equivalent or higher quality…..the thoughts are tumbling through my head….not long to go now….the last 18months have now boiled down to a matter of minutes…..all questions will be answered….
As a side….all day long Robert has been hinting at a special dinner treat…he says…”tonight is men’s night….we eat alone…no women…just men……” I don’t think I want to know…..history will show my gut feeling was right……
We arrive at the training ground….first up we meet Andre…he is the owner of Airon vom Checkpoint Charlie and then we meet Erwin; he is the man designated as Bluelady’s (Chilli) caretaker and trainer…Erwin is as Robert had indicated….a man in his later middle aged years…probably in his 70’s…I say later middle ages as I prefer to think I will live a long life…LOL!! Erwin is gentle and accommodating with Chilli….and it is clear that this approach leaves plenty in the tank with regards to her performance.
Bluelady vom Checkpoint Charlie…..a dog that has been years in the making for us…countless hours of research, countless hours of emails, pedigree searching, phone calls, and $000’s invested….is she what I hoped for….as I take it all in and appreciate where I am, and what I am seeing…the answer is a resounding…YES! She is medium in size, has nice conformation, dark colours and pigmentation and most importantly a great character, loads of working drive, thick nerves and represents her pedigree and lineage!!! I am a happy man……is she ½ as good as her brother Badboy? ….in my opinion….yes! Will she fulfil my expectations? ….hopefully yes! My trepidation and anxiety have subsided…and in the coming days and weeks as I watch the footage countless times, and share it with my closest confidants seeking their opinions….my belief in this grows….Bluelady has been worth the effort, expense and investment….now, let’s hope she will fulfil her potential as a brood bitch when she arrive sin Australia in June 2016!
My resolve in these bloodlines, Robert’s kennel and related offspring is further strengthened over the next 2 days…..first there is Enya and her brother Ercas…superb working Rottweilers, highly credentialed….the sire Bullweih vom Schandpfal, one of the most revered working Rottweilers in Germany and the consistency that I saw in the progeny down-line from both Ercas and Enya leave me with a level of confidence in the opportunity for improvement that Bluelady brings which I have not had in any or our breeding prospects to date.
Airon vom Checkpoint Charlie is a dog that Robert has spoken to me about for some time. Airon is small to medium size male….what he lacks in size he more than makes up for in working ability and character. He is a dog with enormous capacity to work in all phases of IPO and can cope with that pressure due to his clear headed temperament. Whilst he is a beast on the working field, he is also social and a take anywhere dog. He displays an intensity in his work, and is absolute joy to watch….for those that may partake in the “civil” arts, this is a dog that may appear somewhat boring due to his methodical precision…but for those in the know he is impressive and has an underlying power that cannot be denied; evidence of this is his qualification for the 2016 Dutch Meisterschaft (working championships) – it will be interesting to see how he fares.
Johnny’s testament to this dogs hitting ability was clear after taking a long send in hit from him…..he caught him and walked away clutching his ribcage…said it was like a punch in the chest…it was just on dusk…it was dark and the dog’s speed surprised Johnny and the hit was hard…and not absorbed too gracefully…but a good catch never the less.
Now it was back to Robert’s place for the “men’s dinner” and the bulls balls……….that’s right…..bull’s balls…a delicacy that Robert assured me I would love…one that he grew up with and is most probably his most favourite food; coming from a man that makes a living import the finest seafood into Germany I thought it a big call and to begin with gave me a sense of anticipation of something special…..then the process of the cleaning and the cooking began….the membrane removal…the slicing….the springy feel to the meat….my sense of anticipation had given way to sense of dread…..I eat just about anything….but this, I was very unsure about and I thought it may get the better of me…..watch the video and make what you will of it…..
Let’s just say the vodka and Robert’s expert cooking / sautéing skills made the best of a bad situation! I don’t wish to sound unappreciative and as such I retort when Robert visits our shores with one of my own specialties…some classic Greek kokoretsi or maybe even some stuffed spleen!!! I’m sure he’ll love it……
What a day…..the crescendo of the trip…..the last 18 months building to this day….I’m still buzzing…if at all possible becoming more and more excited at the possibilities that this venture will bring…..2016 will be big year for Seeuferhause Rottweilers and our associates, Bohemia Hause & Sanehause Rottweilers.
A new day has dawned…and we’re knocking on the door at Robert’s place….time for showers and breakfast before we head for a big day….today we will cross borders into Holland and visit a Schutzhund club where a couple of dogs bred by Robert, related to Bluelady train in the sport of IPO. Once again Agnes has cooked up a storm….ham, eggs, fruit, bread rolls…a feast! And, certainly much better than the plain old servo food we would have settled for…..
A nice effortless drive in the Benz on the autobahn ad we arrive at the club…..Robert had some trouble finding the ground…..one thing that doesn’t disappoint is the consistency with which men….from all over the world…..will not publicly listen to the directions of a woman when driving….even if it’s from a GPS unit!!!! LOL!! So we spent about 20mins driving in circles till Robert finally accepted that he had to listen and we made our way to the club….hahaha….made me laugh….
Once again we meet Andre and Airon…Andre is committed to his pursuit in IPO and has his sights set on the 2016 championship in Holland…I have a feeling that if he continues on this path he will have a significant input as to who is standing in the podium….once again Airon’s stability and sociability is on display…greeting all and sundry with an underlying strength ever present in his demeanour.
Next we meet Benny Slegers with Arkan vom Checkpoint Charlie, this is the full litter brother to Airon…..once again…stable and social but there is a hint of something more to this dog….and edge that make itself known in a very subtle manner….this would reveal itself in a most dynamic manner in the next couple of hours….
Both Airon and Arkan are half-brothers to Bluelady, through their mother Enya…and now we meet Bond vom Checkpoint Charlie, a full brother to Bluelady….Bond is very much in the mould of the Checkpoint Charlie dogs…small to medium in size….heavily muscled with the robust fast twitch fibres that makes them the working machines they are….and besides the physicality he also possesses the character and mental strength that makes the dog appear at least 30% larger than he is….once again a high performing working Rottweiler…man…these lines are potent!!!!
One of the most interesting aspects of this day and of the whole trip is meeting people that can provide firsthand account of the great dogs of yesteryear that appear in some of the Seeuferhause pedigrees…for instance Joep Selders and the information he shared regarding Quantus Vom Hause Anin….and now, today I have one more opportunity for this; Robert has just introduced me to Goof Kuijpers, the owner of van de Contente Rottweiler breeding kennel. Goof is a at straight shooter, a man with a rough exterior and an aloof character…the type of person that takes a little time to get to know, and even more time to open up and share with you…..unfortunately time is something I don’t have….Robert seems to have a special relationship with Goof; they’ve known each other a long time and Robert got his first dog from Goof….so, you would assume a student mentor relationship to be in place…but this is not the case…the relationship seems one of mutual respect. Robert has a quick discussion with Goof and then turns to me and says…”off you go”…..my reply…” go where”….he retorts…”ask Goof whatever you want to know, whichever dog form the past…he knows them all….has seen them all….” Holy shit!!! Like a kid in the candy store…..the next 20 minutes is a barrage….an onslaught…..but specifically there is one dog I wanted to dearly know about…..Caesar vom Hause Steiger…..the sire of Rocky vom Allnatal; a dog that you can find minimal information about on the web and it seems few people know about him…even people in working circles….the summary of Goof’s input is: “…not a dog for today…..an anti-social dog with real power…..a dog that in today’s modern world is likely to be shunned…” the feedback correlates to the information that is available…low scores in IPO….either representative of a dog lacking the pre-requisite character to complete and attain high level scores or a dog that is difficult to manage, train and have perform at will…..according to Goof, Cesar was the later…..”Too much dog for the handler….”
This statement of “too much dog for the handler” is used often but needs to be into perspective…one person’s too much is another person’s reality or norm….so we need to look at all the information available to us and make our own judgements…..I am convinced of the qualities that Goof espoused for Caesar for a number of reasons: Caesar was a Rocco vom Horster Dreieck son, one of the most successful competition dogs of the late 80’s….he produced Rocky vom Allnatal; a successful IPO competitor and down line from that we have produced Seeuferhause Buddy…this is a consistent line of “old fashioned, robust, character / temperament full Rottweilers”…which I am now even more excited about continuing.
A few more dogs to see and then we head off to Benny’s house to see a young female from the “C” litter vom Checkpoint Charlie…Coco’s sister. Small in stature but nicely put together and full of life…another fine example of these working bloodlines. The future prospects for Robert and his clan look great…a number of potential breeding bitches….some formidable males….and all of Germany and Europe at his doorstep….makes me envious….but I am happy for him as I know his motivation is similar to mine to maintain and continue to prosper the ADRK working Rottweiler bloodlines!!
It’s been a big day and as the afternoon draws to close Robert is adamant he will drive us on a 5 hour roundtrip to see a dog called Tex von Avalon….this is the lengths he will go to in order to ensure our stay is everything we want….it took me 30mins to convince him otherwise…Johnny and I will do this on the way to Austria, when we leave Germany in the morning. Tex is a dog for sale that I will have a look at for my good friend and Rottweiler associate Sonny Nguyen….Sonny wants his own German import….he wants to have what most Rottweiler enthusiasts in Australia never will, as he understands that this is what will set him and his kennel apart in the future…Sonny is man prepared to pay the price for success…..
Big dinner….big session on the iPad with Robert…working dog eu is getting a workout….the Rottweiler pages are running hot….big sleep and an even bigger breakfast once again….and this time Robert really has outdone himself…he snuck out of the house at 6:30am…thinking we would not see him to visit a traditional German bakery and bring back some cream filled pastries for our impending road trip to Austria…this guy understand me well…too well…..I’m sure that in Robert I have found a lifetime friend…another example of how these majestic creatures we know as Rottweiler bring people together from all over the world and allow us to forge friendships that will last a lifetime….
This part of the trip feels somewhat down….it’s like I’m leaving a holiday and heading home to work on Monday….these last few days have been built up for so long….my anticipation of meeting our girl heightened and now it’s drawing to close and we move on to the next stop…I have thoroughly enjoyed my stay with Robert, Agnes and their canine companions…it was an absolute pleasure….but there is something that doesn’t feel quite right…since we arrived Robert keep asking when we are leaving…he’s had the itinerary for a while now and we have also discussed this on the phone prior to our arrival….who knows…maybe he needs to get away for work…just feels weird…a man of surprises…all will be revealed in due course…..
We’re packed and have said our final goodbyes….and we are heading off to meet the renowned ADRK judge Paul Dieter Viehoff, the owner of the Heltorfer Forst kennel, and the owner of the famous Elch vom Heltorfer Forst….Robert insisted we do this and made sure that Paul would be available…Robert said we could not leave without meeting Paul and Elch…so we do….We find the place….on a suburban street….not the type location you would think someone with a number of Rottweilers would live….seems congested and without enough room…the homes are located close to each other and they don’t seem to have the yard space…I say seems because when Paul shows through to the back of his place it opens up to nice sized courtyard and plenty of room for the dog kennels at the side of the house….
Paul is a tall , very tall slender man….a strong likeness to a school principal type and I feel somewhat on edge…this is an ADRK judge…who am I to be in his presence….it’s one of those things you build up in your mind….you revere these people, these dogs, this place and this system….it’s the holy grail!!!!
But very quickly, Paul puts us at ease with his manner, and the requisite joke about the Aussies in the shorts…..that joke is following us through Europe….and we settle in to a long, informative discussion on all things Rottweiler…we cover off on dogs, Paul’s philosophy, bloodlines etc….and we then head into the yard to meet Elch and Hein.
Hein vom Heltorfer Forst is the pretty boy….a male Rottweiler that has excellent conformation and size, and is also handy on the working field. I have seen this dog on the internet many times and he’s impressive and I appreciate him but he’s not what I came to see….I want to see Elch;
Elch vom Heltorfer Forst!!! Elch is the DM champion for 2013, physically a large Rottweiler…much larger than his appearance on videos…this is definitely due to the relative size difference to Paul….as Paul is a very tall man he makes Elch look small to medium but in fact Elch is large….and seems to produce large from what I have witnessed during this trip….a social dog that is happy to meet and greet strangers, but a definite underlying energy ready to explode at a moment’s notice….this is evident when I start to play a little and push him back….he starts to ramp up…and Paul very quickly tells him to settle down and behave…overall a super Rottweiler and a definite breeding prospect for Bluelady…my task of selecting the most appropriate male for her is becoming harder by the day….
Now we are back inside and I ask Paul about an ADRK eyechart and head measuring ruler….he obliges on both counts, and we now find ourselves discussing the ADRL ZTP and an upcoming event….I suggested that our female Bluelady vom Checkpoint Charlie will soon be entering such an event….Paul says “yes, that is Robert’s young female…”, “no, sorry, that’s my young female…”, “no, that’s Robert’s….”, “ahhh…no…that’s mine….”…and then Paul says…” here is the schedule for Saturday’s event….and Robert’s female is entered…..”, he is right…..Bluelady vom Checkpoint Charlie is entered in this weekend’s ZTP event……..BAM!!!! That’s why Robert kept asking when we were leaving….and could we stay longer….he was trying to surprise us!! A quick phone call to Robert…he wasn’t happy that his surprise was ruined….haha….
A little longer with Paul and then we were on our way….a quick 3 hour detour for Sonny and then onto Austria….