Chapter 5 - Elaine gets a “Mercedes”

We had been showing, mainly Jordis and Chelsea, with mixed success, but one really memorable day for us came in 1997. John had just come out of hospital after 2 weeks being treated for pneumonia, and Elaine decided that he would be better off going to the club show, held that year near Leicester, so reasonably close to home, so off we went. The judge was Gisbert Langheim, long time president of the IHF, and we were very proud when Chelsea was awarded best in show, with her brother Timber best opposite sex. The following year, we went to the IHF weekend for the first time. It was held at Hohenrode, in southern Germany as part of (I think) the 50th anniversary celebrations of the German Club. It was an amazing event, with the usual conference on the Friday, working activities and exhibitions on the Saturday, and then the show on the Sunday, with over 300 hovawarts entered. The small British contingent, still unable to take dogs abroad, looked on in wonder.

Gisber Langheim judging Timber and Chelsea
Gisbert Langheim with Maggie & Timber and Elaine & Chelsea, 1997

Crufts has not always been our most successful show, although it is one that we always enjoy, as it is an opportunity to catch up with the many visitors, especially from overseas, that make the annual pilgrimage to the NEC, but the show of 2000, under German judge Christopher Habig, proved memorable, with Limerick taking best bitch, and Chelsea reserve. The following year’s show was also memorable, but for a totally different reason, as John had the honour of judging, an experience that gives mixed feelings. It is exciting being in the ring, but with the eyes of the world on you as in no other place, it is also a daunting prospect.

The year 2000 was exciting for us on another front. The government had just introduced the Pet Passport scheme, enabling animals with rabies immunity to return to the UK without having to suffer the 6 month quarantine. Our first thought was to find a dog to use with Chelsea, and we immediately enlisted Volker Wienrich’s help. He directed us to a German Champion called Arek, who lived an hour south of Berlin.


With Monika in tow again, we set off to Treuenbrietzen in what had been East Germany, travelling some 900 miles in hope. It was only when we got close that the thought occurred….supposing Chelsea is like her mother, and won’t accept the dog? We drove into the yard in a state of some anxiety, to be greeted by this big black and gold boy, and it might sound fanciful, but when he and Chelsea met, it was love at first sight. We have never seen, before or since, two dogs so obviously take to each other. We had four good matings, all under a special white lilac bush. We have a replica in our garden today. Gunther, Arek’s owner, was so pleased that he was on the phone to Volker whilst holding Arek and Chelsea together!

Arek and Chelsea
Arek and Chelsea

The resulting litter of ten black and gold puppies was perhaps the most happy we have experienced. Somehow, the joy of their conception filtered down to the babies, and they have all been cited as happy and well adjusted by their owners. As we had travelled a long way, cars were the theme for this litter, so Elaine at last had her Mercedes! This litter, being one of the first to be born under the new scheme, aroused an amount of media interest, and we had visits from the local daily paper, local radio and TV, the puppies featuring on the local news section of the BBC news, and causing the reporter to jump about, as they nipped his ankles, pulled his shoelaces and tried to grab hold of the big fluffy microphone. For us, however, the best bit was the visit of the Grabow family (Arek’s people) from Germany. It was, I think, their first visit to the west. We are very proud of these puppies. Apart from our Mercedes, of whom more later, Dor-Dor (Lotus), sent to our friend Agnes in Hong Kong, was best in show for her age group at the Hong Kong equivalent of Crufts, Nettle (Porsche) with Elinor Anderson represented Wales in the Crufts inter-regional obedience competition, Solas (Riley) trained as a search and rescue dog in Scotland with Anne Stewart, and Chloe (Lagonda) has represented hovawarts at “Discover Dogs” and “All about Dogs” on many occasions, again showing the versatility of the breed.

Chelsea and the Car litter
Chelsea with her first litter

However, life has its downs as well as ups, and 2000 was also the year in which we lost our first Hovawart, dear old Tegan, who was fourteen and a half years old when she finally ran out of steam. It is a great comfort that, as owners, we have the ability to end our pets’ lives before they suffer too much, and we have found that, certainly when they get very old, we know when it is time, and we can arrange a vet’s home visit so that there is as much normality and little stress as possible, and we can be there with them. Tegan introduced us to the wonderful world of hovawarts, and for that we will always remember her with the greatest fondness and gratitude.

There are few greater honours in the dog showing world than being invited to judge your breed at the world-famous Crufts Show, and John had that privilege at the 2001 show, having judged the Hovawart Club of Great Britain annual show a few years previously. Neither Elaine nor John judge Hovawarts very often because the rules preclude anyone showing a dog under its breeder, and of course it is important both for the breed and the show societies putting on the shows to maximise entries. Thus, the number of litters we have proportionately reduces our desirability as judges! Funny world, isn’t it?