Time For Reflections?
Christmas and A Bright New Year are on the horizon — and maybe time to forget about all the wrongs and rights in this world, even the future — and take a historic look at the past?
Over my many years of involvement with the Dog World, a forever reappearing question from “non-doggy” friends has been: Why after all these years are you still wasting your time with those dogs? Of course, referring to the four-legged variety …
And from my “doggy friends,” a frequent question has been: Any dogs that made a special impact over these years?
I will try to answer both.
What has kept me going and my interest alive is of course my interest in dogs, but also nearly to the same degree: Meeting a bunch of very special human beings!
I have previously mentioned my original mentors, both for Terriers and German Shepherd Dogss, but at an early stage I had the burning desire to work with dogs during my school holidays.
Letters were sent to kennels in England, Sweden and Norway. The Brits probably thought a 14- or 15-year-old was too young to be responsible and never replied, but a few Swedes put me on lists as a reserve. Then finally a letter from a well-known Norwegian Poodle breeder, Elisif Thrana of Elitra Poodles, who would very generously let me work in her kennel for six weeks during the summer. Without pay, but I would be fed! And I could bring my two Wire Fox Terriers. I was not aware of the fact that in addition to her Poodles she also had a boarding kennel.
Her kennel manager was the later — by now sadly late — well-known Poodle breeder (Sunline) Solveig and her assistant, a very young man named Rodi (Picador Dobes, Briards, even Pinschers and Giant Schnauzers later on). Solveig shared my interest in GSDs, and Rodi had just imported a Dobe from the U.K., Tavey Stormy Picador (which the name indicates with the famous Rancho Dobes Storm in his pedigree). And thus my interest in that breed started.
Rodi’s fiancee Wera had a Whippet named Charlie Brown. My first-ever encounter with that breed. Both Wera and Rodi Hubenthal are today popular all-rounders.
But the one who made a lasting impression and even lifelong friendship was the kennel owner herself. The kind of personality I have always admired – and in a way envied — she did whatever she thought was right and never blinked an eye! And without any worry about what anybody else thought about her decisions!
She immediately asked to be addressed by her first name, which in those days was rather unusual!
Elisif had been involved with dogs and horses her whole life. For a few years she trained guide dogs for the blind. In addition to, with her husband, being a very competent and competitive Rally driver!
With a very special pedigree herself, a combination of tobacco and shipping, I was early on aware that the only reason she started this boarding kennel was to accommodate some of her own dogs, plus get access to pocket money not controlled by anybody else.
Dogs had been part of her life since the very beginning. Growing up on a huge country estate (I think today the Norwegian government and prime minister’s country residence), her mother bred, as any respectable person should, Wire Fox Terriers. Her aunt The Countess Mollie Cronstedt lived in Sweden and was a prolific breeder of Poodles and Lakeland Terriers. One of her cousins was an enthusiastic GSD breeder who later on imported dogs like The Sieger Basko v.v.Kahler Heide and Ch. Eros v.d. Wienerau in strong competition with Japanese breeders who in those days (and maybe still?) were paying hundreds of thousands (be it DM, USD or NOK) for the overall winners of this huge event.
That same cousin also paid a lot of money for a few Standard Dachshunds from America, which she soon realized was an error — and donated them all to cousin Elisif. (Who actually made it a challenge to mix them into the German variety, and a couple of generations later had some success. And I actually showed one of them at Stockholm International in 1966.)
Elisif was fearless, and one of my favorite stories shared by one of her childhood friends was about her riding through Hamar city in her teens, standing on the horseback, followed by a pack of her mother’s Wire Fox Terriers. Wish I had a photo …
I don’t think she ever had a dull moment in her life — and my favorite of her stories:
The family of course also had a residence in the capital, Oslo. In her late teens, she had been partying with a bunch of friends and come home in the early morning. So she was rather upset and annoyed when her father a few hours later woke her up with these words:
“What the hell have you done? Why is the milkman’s horse (and the entire cargo) grazing on the front lawn?”
Even if she never really remembered the incident, her theory was that she met the horse and the milkman, then, feeling sorry for the poor animal, purchased him for cash, and parked horse and carriage on the front lawn. (Which was of course meticulously manicured.)
She never moved the horse to the country, but found a boarding stable near Oslo (Ekeberg, for those who might know this city) where he lived happily for the next 20-plus years. So definitely turning out to be an expensive night out …
The two dogs of hers that made the most impression: Josh, a Toy Poodle (Ch. Rothara Lord Jocelyn of Dicillo), 34.5 centimeters, so just under the limit, who produced champions in both sizes; and a very special Min Pin named Nanette.
Josh accompanied his owner everywhere, no leash required. But he had one very special behavior: If he noticed anybody looking at him, he stopped and posed until his owner came back to get him — or people stopped staring.
He was at the time extremely popular at stud, but he would never breed a bitch without strutting his stuff, a kind of foreplay — and his results defied all theories about reproduction:
He bred 105 bitches in his lifetime (!!!), resulting in 525 puppies according to Solveig the kennel manager — five in each and every litter!
This guy had earned a lot of respect, and there was never ever a mention of changing his trim, and until his dying day he was still in perfect English saddle!
Nanette the Min Pin was another huge character, being in control of the pack to a large extent. We were always convinced she believed she was a Poodle. Eventually Elisif decided to breed from her. The top sire in Scandinavia at this time was in Stockholm, Sweden. So off they went by train overnight. However, Nanette would not let that fabulous, but disgustingly hairless, dog near her — and in those days breeding had to happen the natural way. AI not in question.
So they returned the next day — and 10 minutes after entering the house Elisif found Nanette in their main bedroom, in the middle of the king-size bed, tied to the love of her life: a Silcresta Toy Poodle whose name I cannot remember, but with a triumphant look at her frustrated owner.
Just a few memories that are part of why I am still involved in this sphere of pedigree dogs — plus an added bonus: a bunch of rather special and eccentric breeders. Many so generously shared their wisdom and experiences with a kid, then as now, wanting to learn … Well, some 60 years later maybe not exactly a kid, but still with ears and eyes open.
Dogs as well as people are equally important ingredients.
Until next time …