With Winter officially ending, so does our Winter adventure on the West-coast.
It is isolated on the West-coast this time of year. Shops and restaurants close. Tourists leave. Roads even close. Most locals close off their cottages too, as they are not build to withstand the cold of Winter when the relentless forces of nature reveal themselves and storms and freezing rain-showers batter the West-coast to change it into a barren wasteland.
Spending some time for work and visiting friends and family in Kijkduin, Holland, I was already looking forward to take Tilde to the beach later during the day. Dogs are allowed off the lead throughout the year on this particular beach and I know the place well. Tilde has been there a couple of times before and enjoyed it too. A lot of locals visit the beach. The familiar city weekend-warriors. No doubt Tilde could have some fun and embarrass me along the way.
The windchill of a strong breeze instantly dropped the temperature even further below zero. The sun composed a scenery worthy of a beautiful day in Summer and only the freezing cold reminded me we were in the heart of Winter.
The three of us reached a clearing in the forest we were hiking. Tilde, Dok-dek, and me. Dok-dek was our guest on the West-coast for the week, to escape the noise of the New Year's celebratory fireworks of the city. It was freezing cold, -5 C with a sturdy breeze. The clearing we entered offered no refuge for the sudden drop in temperature caused by the wind chill. I put my hat back on, looked down in an attempt to keep the wind out of my face and stepped up the pace to reach the other side of the clearing.
While we walked past some bushes along the trail it was as if a fish hook had caught Tilde's nose. In a split-second she made a sharp, almost cat-like turn. Her head positioned perfectly aligned with her body. Her intense facial expression and the focus in her eyes left no doubt. She was on a hunt, but what? and where? I looked around me but couldn't see anything, until a dark shadow jumped out of the small bush right in front of me and made me look down.
When Tilde and me were driving on our way to meet Baxter the Hovawart I was filled with anticipation. Baxter would be one of the few 13½ year aged Hovawarts I would have the privilege of meeting face to face.
Standing in front of the gate I thought it was just how I imagined the place would look like. A painting of rural contentment, with a lot of land, animals, and patrolled by two Hovawarts. In many ways, it embodied the Hovawart dream, the medieval tale of the "Hofwart" alive in modern times.
"Tilde!" A handful of sand hit me on the back of my head, and I felt it seeping down my neck where it changed the inside of my jacket's color into a piece of sandpaper. I reached out for Tilde, who was digging a sandpit behind me, when the next salvo hit my outreached hand and the sand continued its path up my sleeve.
My heart skipped a beat when I realized what Tilde was sniffing. We just got out the door for a walk and hadn't even reached the end of the driveway when she noticed something and rushed over for a sniff. It was a viper - the common European viper, or adder - the only venomous snake living in Denmark.
After two busy weeks in which an army of workers, inspectors, real-estate agents and curious neighbors visited our house, I am now one hundred percent sure. Tilde will never display any behavior of a guarding dog. She officially now is the Hovawart, that won't "wart".
For a Hovawart, Tilde is ridiculously happy for people. When we meet new people, you would expect at least some reservation while her Hovawart mind is balancing the "friend or foe" scale. Alright, I admit, she does bark a little at people she sees on the road, but as soon as they enter our driveway her tail starts to wag. I am not sure if she actually thinks the barking helps to invite people inside.