Friday, September 19, 2014

The "Shitbag" Checklist

If you have been reading Jan's Chickenshit post, well, Tilde wasn't finished with us yet. And this time, she was caught on camera.

I was looking forward to the weekend, and also to meet Emil in person - as Jan mentioned in her post, we were spending a weekend with friends we know for quite a while from FB - I always followed Emil's story on Dina's FB page, and watched him grow from a shy and insecure puppy mill dog, into a happy and thriving Hovawart.

I hoped the dogs could find out of it together during the weekend, although there wasn't much to worry about I guessed. Kenzo connects well when treated politely, and Tilde ... well, she would probably be all over Emil with kisses and wiggles.

I was in for a surprise.

First we met our friends and Emil without Kenzo and Tilde, many of whom we would meet face to face for the very first time. It was such a thrill to meet them in real life, Dina, Jan, and Thomas. A little later, when we finished our initial greetings while out eating lunch, I picked up Kenzo and Tilde, and it was time for them to do the rounds, dogs first, people second. Kenzo and Emil did the kick-off.

Sniffing and peeing to the left and right, dog body language at work...

The final check sniff...

"Yup, that dude is cool, dad!"

We took the boys for a short walk. It was as uneventful as their first greeting. They did great. Last but not least, Emil impressed me, he did everything exactly right. Now it was Tilde's turn.

As expected. Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, kiss, kiss...

Meanwhile, Tilde's bodyguard experienced some anxiety, watching his little sister meet this good looking Hovie boy, with no ability to intervene if events would unfold into the wrong direction.

"Hello! Who is looking out for my little sister?! My lead is stuck on something!"

"It seems to work out. But I better keep an eye on that blond dude myself as nobody seems to care."

"That blond dude is taking her for a walk now! This is turning into a nightmare..."

My friends later baptized Kenzo with a new nickname, "the General", due to his obsessive need to oversee and monitor not just Tilde, but all interactions and events, either canine or human. And if necessary, correct any anomalies.

And finally on return from the last walk, all three, with Dina as dog whisperer

So far so good. Everybody had meet each other and all was fine, and we went into the garden of the cottage rental to let the dogs play a little. Tilde was flirting with Emil, and everything looked alright, when suddenly, it happened.

My sweet, adorable, and affectionate Tilde, dropped her angel disguise, and turned into a Gremlin within a split-second - please do enlarge the photo by clicking on it:

The photo, although blurry, catches the moment by sheer luck. Emil's sweet character must have given her enough confidence that she could get away with bullying him without getting hurt, or get a huge no-bullying-allowed lesson in return.

Later in the evening and the next morning she persisted in her attempts. She would put up her charm and come on to Emil, with the sweetest face she could muster, wiggling all-over for some kisses, and as soon as Emil made the slightest move, the Gremlin was growling right in his face. Imagine someone offering you a cookie, and slam the lid on your fingers, if you took one. Emil was at a loss. He must have wondered how to stop the Gremlin, without getting into trouble, as for each of Tilde's growls, a dark shadow started to rise from whatever corner "the General" was resting in, and he certainly didn't want to draw his attention.

Luckily, one of the advantages of being together with other - knowledgeable - dog people, Tilde's attempts were quickly recognized and nobody freaked out about it. Instead, we could all help Emil together by stopping Tilde in her tracks, although we all couldn't resist to laugh about her, for the unruly and exuberant character she is, and the perfection with which she made her Jeckell & Hyde performance act.

Jan and Thomas, famous for labeling their Hovawarts River and Cooper on FB as "Shitbags" - due to their unruly nature and long careers of mischief, of the dogs that is - were wondering if Tilde wanted to make a shot at the title too. Tilde's counter-surfing, jumping up, mouthing, etc. further supported her dubious ambitions in that direction.

During the next day, it was Emil himself to draw the final line in the sand. We went on a long beach walk and therefore left "the General" back at the cottage because of his injury, the dogs were playful, and Emil told her this time, enough is enough. Tilde, slightly surprised with this turn of events, looked like a kid caught with her hand in the cookie jar. Her respect for Emil returned, the Gremlin was tucked away, and she learned her lesson.

With order restored, Emil and Tilde could now seal their relationship with some Hovawart beach fun. Well done, Emil !

And as for Tilde, she continued with other equally harmless endeavors instead, involving a lot of chicken feathers, which makes me wonder, if she actually keeps some kind of "Shitbag" checklist. I wouldn't be surprised if she did.


Thank you for the photos, Thomas and Jan - and for your sense of humor, Dina too.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


Today I turn the blog over to Jan Wolfe about what should have been a textbook display of Tilde managing the "Leave It" command.

Note to self, never go on a weekend with a blogging friend.


It started out as a quiet Saturday afternoon walk in the woodland surrounding our rented cottage at Henne Strand – six humans and three dogs enjoying the warm September weather and each other’s company.  The dogs were sniffing in the undergrowth and reading the various scents as we would read a newspaper.  We humans were chatting about this that and the next thing and enjoying the meeting that we had looked forward to for months.  As we walked, we passed numerous cottages, each of which we admired and passed comment about, and wished that we owned or at least could live in.

All the dogs were on leads: Leo had Kenzo, who, quite frankly, didn’t want to be with anyone else, Dina had Emil, who also wanted no other, and I had Tilde whom I had fallen head over heels in love with.  She is a happy, vibrant and engaging dog, full of life and affection, and it seemed I had made a special connection with her.  All the dogs were behaving beautifully and were relaxed with us all and each other.

The tracks through the woods were many, and it would have been easy to get hopelessly lost, although I think Leo was keeping tabs on our location with his phone GPS.  Whilst walking down one track, we could see a large house further along on the left of a large open area – complete with chickens pecking around in the front garden, and pigs in the field opposite.  An idyllic picture of rural contentment!  As we got closer to the house, we came across a burial chamber of some description on the right.  I hung back wanting to have a look and to read the information board so I turned and asked Leo, who was behind me, to take Tilde whilst I went closer. 

As I was looking at the structure, an exclamation of panic erupted behind me - “F**k!!! Tilde!!!  Here! Take Kenzo!” 

As I turned, Kenzo’s lead was being thrust into my hand as Leo legged it down the track shouting “F**k! Tilde!!!” with shorts flapping and hair flying.

At the house, I could see Tilde land in among the chickens who were startled out of their gentle clucking into a panicked flapping and squawking – similar to the man who was quickly bearing down on the scene.  Tilde stopped as she looked around at the chickens – it seemed she was unsure of what to do next or which chicken to go for.  She looked like a child in a sweet shop.  I thought she might let Leo catch her.  But no!!  She had other ideas.  He was within arm’s length of catching her when she got a wicked gleam in her eye and took off again after the chickens round the lawn and down the side of the house.  Going on the amount of squawking we could hear, and the feathers that were flying, I was sure that she had caught one, and my heart sank.  Having had a “chickengate” not so long ago, I could feel exactly what Leo was going through at that moment.

Next on the scene were the owners of the house who came out to see what the commotion was – they moved with slow deliberation which, to me, translated as a serious case of “not very happy”.  Poor Leo – bad enough when your dog runs after someone’s chickens – much, much worse when the owner of the chickens appears to add to your woes.

I lost sight of Tilde, Leo and chicken-owners  at this stage, and could only see the others watching on helplessly.  But I had my own problems to deal with by now.

Kenzo had lost all signs of the calm regal character he had hitherto displayed and was leaping around on the end of the lead like a crazed jack-in-the-box.  Barking loudly, he jumped and squirmed and pulled with such a force that I momentarily wondered if I would be taking a flying leap into the chickens myself.  I think much of this was anxiety, but I suspect he also wanted a piece of the action.

It went quiet.  Oh heck, I thought, there must be a discussion about how much the chicken was worth, and how dogs should be kept under control.  Moments later, a rather sheepish looking man with recaptured dog emerged from the side of the house with the owners.  Thankfully nobody was carrying a dead chicken.

Leo was immensely apologetic to the owner, who gave it some thought what to say, and while looking around at the scattered chicken feathers, made her final comment, “Shit happens”.

Yup! Chickenshit! we must all have thought, and made it the hell out of Dodge, Tilde in front.


Sunday, August 31, 2014


I have a simple rule for this blog. It should be about dogs. But rules are there to be broken. And when yesterday a group of 33 pilot whales were butchered in the Faroe Islands, for the first time in this annual event the Danish Navy and Special Forces were present, and kept the Sea Shepherd activists away from the locals that were driving and killing the whales.

I had to write about it, as the role Denmark plays in the "Grind" seems to be one of Denmark's best kept secrets. And it bothers me, when I talk with my Danish friends, they are totally not aware of that role.

The Faroe Islands, part of the Kingdom of Denmark, has Home Rule, and most Danes will tell you Denmark has nothing to say in the hunting of whales by the islands. The presence of the Danish Navy did, for the first time ever, attract some Danish press to the Faroe Islands, and a small report was aired in which the responsible Minister explained the Navy's presence to prevent locals and Sea Shepherd activists from beating each others skull in. End of story.

But if you look deeper, the Danish government tries to keep their true agenda out of the public Danish eye. Preventing the situation from escalating, is also keeping it out of the press. Because if the press would just look a little deeper, they will have a frenzy with what they will find.

Denmark is very actively supporting the killing of whales behind the scenes. And not just the "Grind" in the Faroe Islands, but whaling in general. Denmark is part of international organizations and treaties like CITES and the IWC, and their position is not what the average Dane would expect. Their position is in favor of whaling.

This report from the EIA, documents how for the past 20 years Denmark has actively supported countries which practice commercial whaling, repeatedly leading to conflict with other EU member states, "Breaking Ranks: Denmark Goes It Alone on Whaling Policy". It is not just the Faroese whale hunt they support, it is a lot more:
  • Support for Japan's small type coastal whaling (yes, that is the killing of dolphins, better known as the "Cove")
  • Support for Norway's and Iceland's whaling
  • Humpback whaling quota for Greenland (another Danish territory, also under Home Rule)
  • Opposing new whale sanctuaries within the IWC
The question remains why the Danish government is risking to clash with other EU countries and why is it not taking a stand against whaling and in favor of the preservation of wildlife. What is the benefit for the Danish government? What do they gain? It isn't commercial or financial. The Faroe Islands, and Greenland for that matter, cost more than they bring in to the Danish treasury.

The gain is power. Not directly through votes, as citizens from Faroe and Greenland vote for their local political parties. The gain is indirectly, as Faroe and Greenland have 6 representatives in all, in the Danish parliament itself. These representatives don't play a role at all in Danish internal politics, but once every four years, after elections, they "sell" their votes in exchange for some benefits, which is not surprising, to ensure whaling can continue.

As most elections in Denmark end up in almost a 50/50 result for either the "blue" or the "red" block of political parties, these 6 silly votes make quite a difference if you want to form a government, and are essential for Danish politicians to gain, and stay in, power.

Power in exchange for some whales, seems something no Danish politician can refuse. They want to hide it. But clearly, Denmark is responsible too, and Danes should acknowledge, what their government is doing in their name.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

People Skills

We just hit the trail and I could see in the distance, one of our pals was on it as well.

I stepped up our pace to see if we could catch up with them and then play a little, maybe.

I noticed our friend had seen us. She waived, waiting for us to catch up.

She had a story to tell, but I had to stop her mid-sentence, "Is it ok when I let them off leash?". I know the answer, but old habits die hard, and I still ask.

"Sure! Now. Like I was saying ..."

I looked at Tilde, misjudged a little tension that was not there as she greeted appropriately, "Good girl", I said and followed up with treats, realizing that was my second interruption in the same amount of seconds.

"You were saying?", I said in an attempt to keep the conversation alive, and, hand on my heart, I did want to hear what she wanted to share.

Before I could catch up, the dogs had started playing, and this time I noticed we were actually standing quite close to an adjacent bicycle path. Not a good cocktail for Tilde, who doesn't dislike to hunt cyclists.

"... and that's where I ..."

I couldn't leave it alone, "Sorry, I hate to interrupt you, but could we move a little bit away of the bicycle path?", realizing that was my third.

"No, no, of course. Here ... I throw a ball". The ball flew into a direction away of the path, she made some first steps as well, but immediately stopped, when she got caught up in telling her story again.

Of course, the dogs were returning with the ball, Kenzo in front, and I had to reward him for making a retrieve, making my fourth official interruption. We hadn't moved away from the path. This didn't help.

I made some steps forward, expecting she would follow, but she didn't, caught up in the fire of her story. Which I, by now, had a hard time trying to follow.

Trying to catch up what the story was about, I noticed in the corner of my eye, it was her dog's turn to have the ball and she was moving in the direction of the bycicle path. Just a few feet away from it, she caught a scent, dropped the ball, and started an investigation.

Feeling uncomfortable we hadn't added any distance to the bicycle path, with the ball laying awfully close, I recalled Tilde and Kenzo, and put a leash on Tilde. She considerately paused the story-telling while I was busy with it. A second later, my eyes followed a cyclist rushing by.

With Tilde leashed, Kenzo beside me, I did worry about her dog, and started to point at the ball while waiting for a little pause so I could mention it.

She looked into the direction of where I was pointing, "... and that's it.". The story had ended. It was a blur to me still.

"Nice to talk with you again. Well. We better get on our way", she picked up the ball, and off they went.

Now, before you judge me. I can listen. Let's say, just not when I have my dogs with me. I swear.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Tired Dog, Good Dog

You have heard the cliche before, "a tired dog is a good dog", or, "... a happy dog". Although it takes a lot more than that, I like it enough to say, it is one of my favorite motto's.

Tilde clearly never got the memo though, and she challenged us in this department in a way we could never have imagined. From almost day one she was like an energy bomb bouncing around.

We went on long hikes, we trained, exercised, learned new tricks, played mind- and nose games, all on a daily basis, but still, Tilde had plenty of surplus energy.

Even Kenzo sometimes had enough of it, and started to "play dead", to avoid her endless appetite for play and action.

The shelter warned us she was under stimulated. They were definitely not kidding.

First I tried to spend more time with her on all our activities, even to a level where it started to worry me. If this really was her energy level, was I be able to give it to her, on the long run? That scared the hell out of me. The whole family crashed in the evening after another day with our new energy bomb, and we were all clearly more tired than Tilde was.

Spending more time with her still, almost to the level of exhaustion for us as well as for Tilde, she continued to be hyper-active. Even when we could see how exhausted she sometimes actually was. She must have been. For a while we worried if she could have some kind of Obsessive Compulsive Behavior. Either way, hiking longer, training more and longer, wasn't helping.

And no matter how active we were, she would still be barking excessively, jumping up, mouth, bite, counter-surf, bite furniture, steal clothes and shoes, dig holes, scratch doors and some other things that don't come to mind right now.

Then it started to change. We could see, some months after her adoption, Tilde did know how to relax. She didn't feel it was necessary anymore to wrap up a two-hour hike with some rough play with Kenzo, and thereafter find some shoes to chew on. She did seem to be able to take her rest now as well.

And while we stuck to our daily schedule providing her with exercise and stimulation we could see her improve more and more. She was relaxing and resting more. Some bad habits started to disappear by itself, like the shoe stealing, biting in furniture and scratching doors. We train her on others, like mouthing and jumping up on people, and that has improved a lot too.

Though she is still the bouncing energy bomb, it is good to see she re-discovered her own quieter side as well. Overall she makes a lot more balanced impression now.

What I learned from all of this is that when a dog is as under stimulated like Tilde, you don't need to hike further, or train longer, almost to a level of exhaustion. A regular and varied schedule of exercise and stimulation is a lot more effective. It just takes a while, it will not happen over night, but it will do the job on the long run.

In Tilde's case, it was probably a long period of inactivity, as her former family suffered from a severe illness, as well as the re-homing process itself, which would have added a lot of stress, preparing a cocktail that could only do one thing, to explode.

I do hope we haven't diffused our little bomb, but instead migrated to a phase in which we can enjoy it more like "controlled explosions". Looking into Tilde's eyes, I can see all the mischief is still there, so I wouldn't have to worry about that.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Beauty and The Beast

I can see most dogs think twice before they approach.

On one leash I have the Beauty, wriggling like a worm, bouncing as much as the leash allows, while the smiles on her face work like a magnet, "I want to lick you up!".

And on the other leash I have the Beast, sizing you up, to determine if you are worthy of approaching his awesomeness. And not in the last place, approaching his Beauty too.

Kenzo doesn't surprise me. It was to be expected, he would do that, like he did for Viva. Although the dynamics between Kenzo and Tilde, are totally different from the dynamics between Kenzo and Viva.

Viva was only a few years older than Kenzo, they were both adults, and Viva was not in need of social contact with other dogs. She quickly enlisted the younger Kenzo as her private body-guard army. Also, Kenzo's job description was easy. Herd any dog away from Viva, no exceptions.

This time Kenzo is the senior. And he clearly again feels a responsibility for Tilde, but he doesn't just herd every dog away like he did for Viva. Neither is that necessary for outgoing Tilde. She is younger - barely an adolescent - and no doubt a lot of what I am seeing Kenzo do is more like coaching or mentoring, maybe even parenting, and not so much protecting.

What happens in short is, if a dog wants to greet Tilde, he will receive a short and clear message to behave by Kenzo, her private approval committee, but after that, the dog is basically good to go - if approved of course.

It didn't take long, before I recognized Tilde started to copy this way to greet (among others). Her first attempt to copy was so clumsy it made us all laugh, "now we got the formalities over with, let's play!", she seemed to think.

For the record, the first approval committee, is of course, still yours truly.

Hovawart TV: The Herd-Wart

Bard wants to be a Herd-Wart. And he is not doing bad at all for a Hovawart!

Keep up the good work Bard!

Watch more Hovawart TV.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Run, Kenzo, Run!

It is such a beautiful sight. To see Kenzo run. After last month's failed attempt, we made some great progress. There is still a small limp sometimes, but he can correct it himself now, by choosing another pace, or with my help through some stretching. And we don't leave the door before we have done our warning-up.

I also saw him do his special prancing pony imitation again. A wonderful sight.

He needs to pick up a whole lot more power and endurance to become his old self completely. But that's the easy part, it just means exercise, exercise and exercise. It will not be long now, before he can give Tilde a run for her money.

The last couple of months we went through hell and back again. I totally underestimated what it meant, to recover from a tendon injury like this, both physically as well as mentally. But I can write about that later, first we are going to run some more !

Saturday, August 2, 2014

About Blue Flag Emergencies and Feeling Naked Around Nudists

Right after hitting the beach, we went down to the water's edge. The weather was so hot, Kenzo and Tilde needed to be cooled down, as soon as possible. I noticed a lot of people still took their dogs down to the beach, even though a week earlier the news came out, all dogs should be banned from Blue Flag beaches.

The Blue Flag indicates the beach and water is clean enough for tourists to enjoy, but some bureaucrat somewhere dug up a WHO report, that dogs foul the beaches, and they weren't allowed on Blue Flag beaches anymore. Just like that.

I could see at least, I wasn't the only one, with no intention what-so-ever to follow this new rule. Get rid of the flag, in my humble opinion, is a much better solution.

A woman with her dog walking along the water's edge approached us and she quickly leashed her dog, when she noticed Kenzo and Tilde were leashed as well. I don't let them off leash, when the beach is that busy, after all, a lot of people don't like dogs. I would first let them off leash, as soon as we arrived at a much queiter part of the beach, which is where the nudists are.

If the beach is quieter because of the nudists, or if it is the other way around, I don't know. Most likely the nudists do seem to try, like me with my dogs, to seek some seclusion not to offend other people. But we were still in the busy part of the beach and we had to walk further. And then, the inevitable happened.

The approaching dog took a huge dump in the water's edge and the lady immediately became very uncomfortable. People's stares were not to be mistaken of, and I noticed an elbow or two, that raised multiple sunbathers into an upright position.

We passed by, but I was too curious not to look over my shoulder, to see if the lady would pick up her dog's delivery, after all we don't want any Blue Flag emergencies that would spoil the fun for all of us. I wondered, why she was not picking it up though.

The lady started waving. To someone, obviously, that was in the possession of a doggy bag. Picking it up later, would have been an option, but with so many eyes on her, I am sure she didn't dare to move, fearing a Blue Flag lynch mob.

When nobody was coming to the rescue, and the deposit started to take the first hits from the surf, in danger of becoming afloat, I decided to come to the rescue. I think I never met somebody before, that was so thrilled to see a doggy bag, at the end of my outstretched arm.

While we continued our walk down to the quieter part, and laughed a little about what happened, I could see the first nudists appear. We had to be close now, to some off leash fun. I said to my wife, "I feel naked". She didn't understand, as I never before seem to have been bothered to be surrounded by nudists, even I keep my clothes on my body myself.

When I was growing up, a long time ago in Holland, dogs were only allowed off leash in the summer on the nudist beach. I had gotten used to the arrangement. Although a young Kenzo embarrassed me once, during one of our visits, he mistakenly took a running man for an invitation to play chase, who quickly started protecting his private parts, just in case. He swore, it was all intentional from our side.

But this time I did feel naked and it didn't had anything to do with my clothing. Kenzo and Tilde did their business earlier on the parking lot in front of the beach. I always leave the house with three bags, and I realized my earlier heroism left me with no more bags. What if...? But not to worry, why would Kenzo or Tilde go twice on the same trip? That never happened before.

Of course, this time, it did. And although Tilde made a beautiful poo, my happiness was short-lived, as now it was my turn to be studied, by the nudists this time. I looked around, like the lady did earlier, with some hope of karma coming to the rescue, but none of the sunbathers moved. "Don't stare", my wife said, misunderstanding my looks for help. I couldn't spot any nude people with a dog. Typical.

I dug a deep hole for Tilde's deposit, and left in shame.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Coffee Please

"Tilde? Tilde!", I shouted, to no avail. Tilde disappeared around the corner at the end of the driveway, barking at whatever it was she had laid her eyes on. Beyond that corner, only miles and miles of heath-fields and dunes followed. My stomach knotted up when I started running down the driveway.

I woke up early that morning for Tilde to do her morning potty - no sleeping late allowed, even on holiday. She was very persistent in trying to wake me up as well, and that could only mean one thing. Sleepwalking into the living-room I decided to open the curtains first, to see what weather was awaiting us. The sound of flowing liquids behind me, reminded me harshly of my original priority, and I quickly grabbed Tilde by her collar, dragged her to the front-door, and let her out.

For just a second I thought she would just finish her potty and get back inside so I could make some coffee to wake up, but the mischievous look she gave me while standing absolutely still made me realize she had other plans.

I only made one step out of the door, to find Tilde already in full-fledged morning-zoomie mode. This day was now definitely not starting the way I intended it. And it got worse, when she heard or saw something, and bolted. Tilde was gone.

When I reached the end of the drive-way I could see what had caught her eye. A man and his daughter were standing at the start of the hiking trail, looking at a spot in the heath-fields, where their dog was playing chase with Tilde.

"Uh. Oh. Good morning", I said when I caught up with them. They first noticed me now, and the shy look they gave me reminded me of the fact I was still in my underwear, topped off with a matching bewildered morning-hair look. To no avail I made a couple of futile attempts to grab Tilde by her collar. The man and his daughter quickly continued their walk. Tilde followed them, playing with her friend and leaving me behind while calling her name.

Finally. I could see Tilde stopped and looked back at me. She started running back, when something else caught her eye and she disappeared in the bushes.

"Great", I said, and raised my arms to the sky in resignation. Waiting would probably be the best thing to do I thought, and after a minute that felt like a century, Tilde finally re-appeared. Now I had my chance. She was dashing towards me, and I went down on my knees in an attempt to remind her she was coming for me. When she came closer, I noticed the angle in which she approached me was not perfectly straight towards me. I looked over my shoulder.

"You got to be kidding me", I thought, when I saw another man with his dog approaching on my rear, while Tilde passed me by in full-speed, to make yet another friend for the day.

The man looked at me, studying my appearance and with no doubt noticing my unusual clothing items again. How many more people do we need to meet, I thought, now Tilde showed no mercy. A smear appeared on the man's face, I smiled back sheepishly. "It seems you forgot to dress with a leash", he observed sharply.

I had no witty reply. Coffee. Please.

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