Dog trains man

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Emil of The Woods

His name is Emil of The Woods. Can you remember him? He was one of Kenzo's, and is Tilde's, best friend. He will be one of the main characters of the book I am writing. Like Tilde, also Emil is an "of The Woods", and no, they are not family.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Lost Grandchild, Tilde's Roots

Family: Tilde, Eska, and Candi
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.


Thursday, June 11, 2015

My Hero

There we went, up into the spotlight. Me with Tilde, Dina with Emil, and Louise with Ronja. Three Hovawarts rescued from the puppy mill.

The host started talking, but I didn't hear what he was saying, as I tried to keep my focus on Tilde. Tilde was noticing one of the cameras was moving towards her and she sounded the infamous Hovawart alarm with a bark. The audience present in the studio laughed. More cameras zoomed in on Tilde.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Judged Guilty, Severe Neglect of 55 Hovawarts and Goldens

The Hovawart puppy miller Torben Thorsøe was judged guilty of severe animal neglect according to the Danish Animal Welfare and Protection Act by the Danish district court in Næstved today.

He was sentenced to pay a fine of 25,000 danish kroner (3,700 USD / 3,300 Euro), a conditioned jail sentence of twenty days, and lost the right to breed commercialy with animals for the next 5 years.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Nightmare That Just Won't Go Away

Despite an update in legislation it is a problem that just won't go away, as shown in this documentary from BBC Scotland, aired just a few days ago.

Friday, January 2, 2015

When A New Door Opens

We have an announcement to make.

Actually, it's a BIG one.


"Has Tilde lost her antics?"

"Kenzo became a tracking World-champion?"

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Hovawart Puppy Mill Breakdown: Change On The Way?

Many of you probably remember when the Danish Hovawart puppy mill was closed down in January last year, and the Hovawarts in the shelter welcomed an unexpected V.I.P. visitor, the Danish Minister of Agriculture & Animal Welfare, Mette Gjerskov.

She paid them a visit to learn more first-hand about the "puppy mill case" and the efforts from the shelter, "Dyrenes Beskyttelse", to re-home the survivors.


Monday, May 5, 2014

The Last Rescue From The Hovawart Puppy Mill

Tilde was one of the last Hovawarts rescued from the Danish Hovawart Puppy Mill. Here is her story, and that of her parents, Cherry and Aapo.

It is a sad story, which is why I kept it to myself and a couple of close friends for almost a year, but after adopting Tilde I felt obliged to write it, in honor of her parents Cherry and Aapo.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Puppy Buyer From Denmark? Hovawart Breeders Beware

When you are a Hovawart breeder you might want to be careful when you are contacted by a puppy buyer from Denmark. The Danish Hovawart puppy mill is out of operation but well underway with yet another relaunch attempt. As their latest relaunch attempt failed, they are trying a new tactic this time.

They are moving to a new address with new owners - still from within the same family - and try to set up a network of "satellite breeders". They have re-opened their website and added an additional website that denies everything that happened in the last twenty years in an attempt to window dress their reputation.

You might wonder why that matters to you and your puppies. Let me explain. As they have only few dogs left, they need to rebuild their stock. Like they have done in the past, when they bought Hovawart puppies from all over Europe while pretending they are just Hovawart-lovers and don't want to breed, hiding the fact they will only move them into their cages and breed for profit. Like it happened with Hovawarts as Cherry from Holland, Bamira from Poland, and many, many more.

This time they will not use their own names, or try to contact you themselves. They will let the new "satellite breeders" do that for them.

In short, if you have a buyer from Denmark, there is a risk your puppy will end up in their puppy mill. The photo on the right is showing how your puppy will spent the rest of its life. I know you don't want that to happen.

Use your Danish network to double check the buyers. If you have none, I would like to offer my help, by checking the buyer's name for you and see if it could be suspect. I count on the Danish network that fights the puppy mill, to pass me the names of people that are suspect and I can cross-check the name on both lists. I know it is not a guarantee, but at least there is something we can do, by working together across borders.

Please drop me a mail at kenzohw (at) gmail (dot) com, or send a private message on Facebook. All requests and names will be dealt with in complete discretion. I will not supply any names to protect people's privacy, but I will let you know when the name matches the name of a suspect person.

I know you will do your due diligence even sharper than usual, and put in your buyer contract your approval is needed if your puppy buyer ever would want to re-home of sell your dog.

Last but not least, let's not forget that people from Denmark are not suspects. We are dealing with just a few rotten apples we need to root out. The majority of callers from Denmark will be loving families, providing good homes for your dogs.

Thank you for helping. Let's keep one step ahead of them.


For the latest and how you can help, visit the page Stop Danish Hovawart Puppy Mill.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

How A Brave Trio Freed 5 Dogs From The Puppy Mill

There is one more story to tell about the unraveling of the Danish Hovawart puppy last February, when a group of three people took matters in their own hands and freed five dogs from the puppy mill. This is what happened.

After the Danish Animal Welfare Organization "Dyrenes Beskyttelse" in January 16 moved in to seize the first group of 25 dogs, the story reached a wider audience through local and social media, and left many in disbelief there were 30 dogs still left behind. Apart from sharing the news, writing letters and signing the petition that was underway at that moment, many felt frustrated why not more was done, why not more could be done.

It all came to an outburst on Saturday, January 19, the day that by coincidence also was the funeral of Gitte H., one of the puppy mill owners. Two locals Michelle and Ditte had set their minds to free the dogs that day. Through Facebook they discussed it with Linse Kessler, a Danish celebrity and dog lover, and she wanted to join them in the rescue attempt.

Although they very well knew it was illegal and vigilante what they were about to do, they were willing to take the risk for the sake of the dogs. And in the morning, they turned up at the property, which was to their surprise deserted due to the ongoing funeral the trio was not aware of, and they could undisturbed enter the stables. Nothing could have prepared them for the sight that met them inside.

The dogs in need of immediate veterinarian attention were removed some days earlier by "Dyrenes Beskyttelse", but the stench of urine and feces and the sight of emaciated dogs in cages they have spent their whole life in is overwhelming nonetheless. Linse Kessler videotaped what happened when they went in, a tape just recently disclosed in one of her TV shows.

In the middle of removing the dogs, they were discovered by a mailman, who sounded the alarm, and the trio fled the puppy mill with 5 puppies under their arms, Hovawarts and Goldens. They moved them to a secure place and started to contemplate what to do next, as contacting any vet would alarm the authorities, with the risk the dogs would be returned.

Then the most unlikely thing happened, when - as we already know - later that same day four celebrities also paid the puppy mill a visit for the very same reasons as Michelle, Ditte and Linse, and bought the remaining dogs their freedom. Now all dogs could be handed over to "Dyrenes Beskyttelse".

All but one. During the rescue Linse Kessler fell in love with one of the Golden puppies, that bit her hair and stole her hat while driving them away from the puppy mill in the car. Linse was allowed later by the shelter, to adopt this puppy, "Jytte".

The story remained untold until some weeks ago, so I am happy to be able to shed some light on this trio now as well, without that I will have to be afraid to get them into trouble. It might be illegal what they did, and it sure is dangerous, but I am glad they let their heart speak, and were so brave to put themselves in harms way for the wellbeing of the dogs.


For the latest and how you can help, visit the page Stop Danish Hovawart Puppy Mill.


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Puppy Mill Relaunch Stopped, Cherry is Safe

Photo Roskilde Avis
The attempts of the puppy mill to relaunch their evil business are stopped. Last Tuesday the police went in and removed 12 puppies - 7 Hovawarts and 4 Golden's - and one of the mothers from the premises of the puppy mill.

The mother dog on the photo is Cherry, safe and sound with her 4-week old pups in the shelter. The news that she is now found and rescued, is especially delightful.

Like many other dogs used for breeding by the puppy mill, Cherry was bought by the puppy mill under false pretenses from a reputable breeder abroad. Now almost 6 years ago. When the puppy mill was exposed and the dogs were seized, Cherry was not among the rescues. The uncertainty started, if Cherry already had died, or if she still was in the claws of the puppy mill, being kept hidden somewhere.

As we now know, Cherry was kept hidden because she was expecting puppies, and was already during the first raids earmarked by the puppy mill owner to be a part of the relaunch. Now Cherry like the others is out of this hell-on-earth, let's hope she can still grab her second chance for a better life. For Cherry's breeder, all the worry, feelings of guilt and powerlessness, can now find closure.

The seizure of the dogs was a clear message to the puppy mill owner that - unlike how it went in the past - this time nobody is fooled by their claim to have stopped breeding, and they will not be lost out of sight, until they are trialed for animal abuse and neglect. A case - build up by "Dyrenes Beskyttelse" - that is well under way, but unfortunately will take to the end of the year to prepare and prosecute.

In the mean time, we still have to keep our eyes open, as this will most likely not be their last relaunch attempt. We must assume, they still have Bamira somewhere, and the next relaunch victim might therefore already be chosen.

It is good to notice that two important allies are added to the opposition of the puppy mill. First, the police. So reluctant to do anything before, they didn't hesitated this time to move in and seize the dogs. Secondly, the Minister of Agriculture & Animal Welfare, Mette Gjerskov. As we know she is working on a proposal to change the legislation for dog breeding operations. And as an indication of her focus on the case, she even had the news on her FB page before me. A prelude to some legislation that can stop this once and for all?


For the latest and how you can help, visit the page Stop Danish Hovawart Puppy Mill.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Meet-up With The Former Puppy Mill Hovawarts

Not just your average Hovawart meet-up happened yesterday. It was the dogs rescued from the former Danish puppy mill !

The event was hosted by the "Dyrenes Beskyttelse" shelter, in an attempt to keep in touch with the families and help where they can. Not all could make it, as there was a snow-storm obstructing traffic. I think in all there were still around 15 dogs and 40 people, a great turn-up.

The dogs, now ranging from 4 months and up, were first allowed to burn off some energy and play with each other, and mingle with all the people. It surprised me how easy they initiated contact and I don't think there wasn't a pup that didn't rushed up to me to say hello. Not something I would have expected from former puppy mill dogs, and an impressive example of a dog's resilience and how great these dogs are actually already doing.

As the group swelled, I noticed the late-comer - blond Bob - was slightly impressed by the sight of such a large group of dogs and people clustered together, before he jumped head first into the melee of arms, legs and paws. I think that took him a whole second to think about, brave little fellow, just 4 months old now.

And you could already see all their different personalities shine, and yes, they were all rumping and playing and gave everybody a little prelude of some rough play to come, when they get older. Once they all burned some energy, we went inside - yes, the dogs too -, where I was given the opportunity to tell the Hovawart tale.

We talked about the breed's characteristics, behavior, socializing, training, meeting other dogs, every day care, and more. The new dog parents were very curious and asked many questions. Some about the practical things they deal with now, but also what lays ahead, being an owner of a Hovawart and a former puppy mill dog at the same time.

My impression was that "Dyrenes Beskyttelse" has found some awesome families for the dogs. Each one of them displayed a lot of committment. A couple of them were actually former Hovawart owners, that had a puppy from the puppy mill before - although they didn't know at that time it was a puppy mill -, how awesome is that and what a leap of faith.

During the inside session the dogs still behaved nicely, and that made today a great socialization event for them as well. And they were a great help for me too. When we reached to the subject of "bullying", a pup decided to start humping the house-labrador of the shelter. I could rest my case. Next subject.

Meeting all those wonderful people with their wonderful dogs today, was without a doubt, exhilarating to be a part of. I still wish I could be a fly on the wall with them all. I furiously wish them all the best going forward.


For the latest and how you can help, visit the page Stop Danish Hovawart Puppy Mill.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Something Is Different This Time

What many already feared, is becoming reality. The Danish Hovawart puppy mill is attempting to get back in business, like they did so many times before in the past.

The family tried to disappear below the radar, by closing down their main website and leaving a comment they have no desire to continue to breed Hovawarts. In the meantime rumors flourished about dogs that were kept hidden from the original two raids on the puppy mill. Also, the family was allowed to keep some dogs, under the condition they would re-home the dogs themselves. Of course that never happened.

Rikke Christensen-Lee, the Danish vet from "Dyrenes Beskyttelse" doing so much to help the rescued dogs and put the puppy mill out of business is convinced they already started under a new name - Goldies - and a new owner. Rikke tells to "Roskilde" local paper:
"In January it was Christina Thiim that was not allowed to run the operation anymore. It was her that took over in 2008 from her stepfather Torben Weiss when they came in to similar problems. Now they continue again, with Christina's partner as the new owner. The last dogs they promised to hand over we never received. We have to face that we have been fooled."

I had a hope that this time it would be the final end of them. You probably did as well, and although it was disheartening to hear the news, it was expected by some, especially the people that are already fighting the puppy mill for more than twenty years. At least we know what we are up against, a family so cold and without remorse, they can relaunch in the blink of an eye and once more parasite on the next generation of innocent dogs. Hard-core animal abusers for own profits, only a sentence and jail-time can stop people like this.

"Dyrenes Beskyttelse" is working on an animal neglect case, Rikke Christensen-Lee has already reported the new breeding operation to the police. Many of you reading this are still making an effort I know, by finding purchase papers of dogs they sold after August 2012, which will send them behind bars as well. We updated the Facebook campaign and you can help by sharing this page and we are also running google adds to find buyers - see the Danish version on the right. The Danish Kennel Club has now also joined the fight, and are investigating the role of the Police's vet, which role is dubious to say the least. The club is also more actively bringing news out towards their members. Papers are still writing and journalists still listening.

And that is also what is different this time. We are all still here, committed to make this stop. They can't fool us this time. Stay tuned.


For the latest and how you can help, visit the page Stop Danish Hovawart Puppy Mill.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Hovie Hugs For a V.I.P

Photo: Kim Rasmussen,
The Hovawarts in the shelter welcomed an unexpected V.I.P. visitor, the Danish Minister of Agriculture & Animal Welfare. Mette Gjerskov paid them a visit to learn more first-hand about the "puppy mill case" and the efforts from "Dyrenes Beskyttelse" to re-home the survivors.

On the photo you see Mette Gjerskov - on the right - probably getting her first ever Hovie Hug in life. The puppy in the photo is Barney - the staff nicknamed him "Barney Police Officer" - a 2 months old Hovawart pup. How appropriate, it was "Barney Police Officer" to be the spokesman for "our" Hovawarts. And before you get your hopes up, Barney is adopted, and is moving to his new forever home soon.

Would the puppy mill meltdown have attracted massive attention from national media, I probably wouldn't have given the visit a lot of thought. But as it didn't, and coverage of the events so far was restricted to local papers, radio and TV, this visit was not meant as yet another attempt of a politician doing some window-dressing in front of flashing camera's.

Undoubtedly, the many mails and signed petitions you send to Mette Gjerskov voicing your concerns, have played their part in making this happen. And Mette's interest therefore seems genuine to me. I am confident that "our" Hovawarts and "Dyrenes Beskyttelse" planted a little seed for the longer term aspects of this case - to make sure this never can happen again - and send Mette Gjerskov back to Copenhagen with some food for thought.

Aapo, almost 6 yrs, oldest of the "ready" dogs
so far, seeking a foster home
Back to the dogs. All the puppies are adopted, which is fantastic news. Three of the older dogs are in foster families for additional individual care. The remaining eighteen dogs are doing well, and more and more are ready for adoption. It is very hopeful, the dogs are so resilient, and already seem to recuperate in such a short time. Rikke Christensen-Lee - to the left in photo on top - commented today to
"Their spirit is not damaged beyond repair. They are seeking human contact already, and want to hug and play, as soon as somebody enters the kennel."
The dogs spend a lot of time outdoors, and are outside the whole morning on the large seven-hectare ground that surrounds the shelter. They also spend time out in the afternoon and evening. 

Rikke Christensen-Lee informed me concerning possible adoptions abroad, that the shelter prefers families from Denmark. They think travel could stress the dogs more than they can handle at the moment, and they will have to be held an additional 4 weeks in the shelter due to the required rabbis vaccinations for travel. But the shelter welcomes everybody to apply. Note that they will require you to meet with them face to face, in Denmark, as well.


For the latest and how you can help, visit the page Stop Danish Hovawart Puppy Mill.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

First Dogs Adopted: Now What?

Bella - first of the "grown up" Hovies up for adoption
Earlier than expected the first dogs from the former puppy mill already went up for adoption, and ... were also adopted. So far 8 dogs are adopted. Earlier during the week the first of the puppies started appearing on the adoption site, and yesterday the first grown-up Hovawart, Bella, almost 4 years old, was put up for adoption; a milestone.

Bella is still shy, but the shelter noticed she already made big steps forward on a daily basis, so they were confident Bella was ready to make the next step. Amazing, as it is only a week after they were seized. Dogs are so resilient.

They are all carefully evaluated by the shelter's behavioral expert, and of course some requirements are put forward to the future families. In shy Bella's case that was: a family experienced with dogs, a calm environment, and no small kids. Of course, the future family is briefed in more detail, but...

What does that mean? Can you summarize instructions for the rest of Bella's life in one or two short sentences? What does it require to take care of a shy, anxious or fearful dog which had a life so far confined to the inside of a cage in dark stables, deprived of daylight and social interaction with humans?

I asked Debbie Jacobs, CPDT-KA, and author of the book "A Guide To Living With & Training A Fearful Dog", what would be her main piece of advice to the people that are about to adopt a dog from the former puppy mill:
"The most important point at this time for these dogs is that they feel safe, have their choices for distance respected and receive LOTS of good food treats and if they want, playtime with the people or other dogs in the house."
When I adopted fearful Viva some years ago I felt a lot like how some of you might feel today, when you are about to adopt one of the puppy mill dogs. It was mostly a leap of faith from my side. Debbie's book and blog was a tremendous help in understanding Viva better, and helping her to be the happy and not so fearful dog she is today. According to Debbie that is very well possible for the puppy mill dogs as well:
"If these dogs are going to be successful it's going to be because their owners are able to respond appropriately to behaviors they are seeing. Thankfully even many of these dogs who have suffered so much or been deprived, can become successful pets."
When you are not a natural like me, and you consider to adopt one of the dogs, you might find Debbie's blog very helpfull. A great place to start exploring all the resources available is Getting Started, and just take it from there. Or if you like it better, consider the book.

You are on a mission. It will not happen overnight. Some of the things you do today and cherish, you might have to find alternatives for. But the reward of success for you and your dog will be a bond that goes so deep, you not have thought possible. It will have its ups and downs, but it will definitely be worth it. At least, that is how I feel now, looking back at the journey of Viva and me so far.

Back to the dogs. The shelter mentioned the interest for the Hovawarts is a lot less than for the Golden's. Maybe understandable, as the Golden's are a lot more well-know to most families. On the other hand you will read with most Hovawarts in the accompanying requirements-text that a family with Hovawart experience would be preferable. That makes me wonder. There are not that many Hovawart families in Denmark. Most of them are torn beforehand by the 20 year's existence of this puppy mill and having advocated not to buy from the puppy mill.

Therefore I hope that the shelter will soon accept adoption requests from experienced Hovawart parents from surrounding countries as well. Or maybe even, overseas, although the shelter rightfully worries the long travel might be too stressful for the dogs.

And to keep the best news to the end: I just learned that the first Hovawart puppy was adopted by a family. Her name is Stella, only 5 months old. She is a careful little girl and her new family will provide her with a calm environment just to her liking. Wishing Stella and her family all the best. I am delighted.

I almost can't believe this is happening now. Stella will soon make her first new steps in life, into the light and with her freedom regained. More will follow. I wish I could be a fly on the wall with them all.


You can find the adoption page here. Inquiries can be send to internat (at) mail (dot) dk.

For the latest and how you can help, visit the page Stop Danish Hovawart Puppy Mill.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I Worked In A Danish Hovawart Puppy Mill

"Gill" with two Hovawart puppies
Recently I had a talk with "Gill", a summer worker in the dreaded Danish Hovawart puppy mill we all have learned so much about in the past week. And she very much want to share what she experienced on the inside.

"Gill" worked in the Hovawart puppy mill back in 2001, long before the recent developments where all dogs ended into such a severe state of neglect and maltreatment. But already in 2001, their life was confined to a cage.

"Gill" was not happy with what she saw on arrival, but decided to make the best of it:

"I was a teenage girl and had to earn money for my college. I didn't knew a lot about puppy farms. At first I was shocked to see 100 dogs that had to live in a stable like horses. Not seeing a blue sky at all. Later, when I noticed the inbreeding that was going on, it became even more frustrating to me. I had to close my eyes for this and do the best I could for the dogs instead. But it was too frustrating, I had to leave."

Already then, conditions for the dogs were poor, to say the least, although they were fed:
"The house looked just as normal house, but it was very messy at the same time, as there was puppies in every possible corner. Of course when people came to take a look for a pup the living room/kitchen was cleaned and coffee was made. But the stables where the dogs were held was made of metal crates with wooden partitions. each box was approx 1.5*2.5 meters. With two dogs in each. They lived on wood shavings, and I had to muck out every morning. The stables were clean at that stage. And the mums with newborn pups (there was about 1 to 2 litters each month) lived in another side of the stable which I hated to clean as there was no air at all. It smelled like hell. "Helle" [note Kenzo: pseudonym for the owner] took care of them mostly herself together with her daughter. Food once a day, muck out, water twice a day. That's all attention the dogs got."
 "Gill" decides to at least take care of the dogs as good as she could:
"I took some of the dogs for a walk, as they were badly socialized. only sitting in their cages. I went out for walks to the nearest forest. They had a beautiful girl imported from Germany, she was very shy, so I tried to socialize her as much as I could. She was lovely. They all were. They wanted to be loved as every dog does. "Helle" was shocked if I went out with some dogs for a walk of an hour or two. She said they are not used to such long walks."

 And there were more signs it was just a business: 
"We mostly only went to the clinic to chip, vaccinate and do x-rays for dysplasia. "Helle" didn't want to euthanize unhealthy puppies. One day I asked why she didn't bring one pup from a littler, which had no joints on its front paws. She didn't want me to mention it. But I asked the vet behind her back what I should do. He then called up and euthanized him himself. "Helle" was angry and said it was too expensive. Some puppies were very small and weak with big bellies, they looked like they had rickets. If I asked "Helle" why they look like this and if they will grow healthy, she explained to me that Hovawart have very bad milk to feed puppies and I'm too young to understand. But my parents always had high quality Schnauzers, with a littler every few years, so I know how healthy puppies should look like. As soon as the puppies looked more or less good they were sold."

"Gill" continues about the inbreeding she noticed:
"Only few dogs were imported or bred from other dogs and I remember some dogs were bred from only one generation in between. "Helle"'s daughter told me who is who and also I saw some of the dogs didn't look for me as they would produce good offspring. As a result, a lot of the puppies had abnormalities, such as no joints, very weak, etc."
 Not only the dogs were taken advantage of:
"When I came some other girls from my country already worked there before me. They were both professional FCI handlers and also came there just for extra money. "Helle" paid less than we should earn. Only 200 dollars a month. I didn't understand why "Helle" was so stressed all the time, we had to hide in the kennel if the police was passing by or the mailman was coming. As I found out later, we were not officially registered workers. But pups were sold for 1000 or more dollars abroad."

Two months later, "Gill" left.


For the latest and how you can help, visit the page Stop Danish Hovawart Puppy Mill.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Hamlet's Cautionary Tale

Today I turn the blog over to Elizabeth, who has a very heart-felt and impressive tale to tell, how she got Hamlet from the Danish puppy mill.

When I adopted my first Hovawart and named him Hamlet, one of my friends wanted to know if I remembered that Hamlet was, in fact, a tragedy. This story is a cautionary tale, but, for us and for our Hovawart, it ends with “happily ever after. “

I have wanted a Hovawart since I spotted the rare breed in a “What’s the Right Breed For You and Your Family?” sort of book back in the late 1990’s. An early irony in this story is that I felt conflicted about paying for a pure bred dog when there are so many in need of homes or that have been victims of puppy mills. However, I loved the description of Hovis as intensely loyal, protective, yet good with the family.

I contacted the closest breeder to me, a gentleman from Canada, and he and his very kind wife allowed my then fiancé and I to visit them and to pick out a blonde male Hovawart puppy. The puppies were too small to leave their mother, so we returned home to wait for them to grow a bit; this was during 2002-2003. Meanwhile, I was traveling to school, taking many classes to complete my degree while teaching full time, and I developed mononucleosis with complications—after much heartache and debate, we decided against collecting the puppy.

The Canadian breeders were especially kind to us in the circumstances. From this experience, I developed the romantic notion that Hovawart owners, like their dogs, were a special breed: kindred spirits, if you will. I am still saddened to think of that lovely blonde puppy and those kind neighbors to the north.

I waited the eight or nine years until my husband and I had purchased a home of our own, near the school where we worked. I saved money, about $1500, and then I tried to contact the gentleman from Canada, but I didn’t hear back. I was never sure if it was because his contact numbers were different, or if my earlier situation had made them feel as though they could not do business with us, but I never heard back from them. It wasn’t easy to save that money; we have four kids, three in college and I am also in college, working on my doctorate in education.

So, I began to search for a different breeder. I saw Hovawarts from Great Britain, and Hovawarts from many other countries. I emailed a couple of the contacts listed on the sites that were in English and did not hear back. I knew that the Canadians had brought Hovawarts from Europe—was it possible that I had been somehow “blacklisted” after my involvement with the Canadian puppy? Then a different site, caught my attention. It was in English, and it invited email or telephone contact. I emailed sometime in the third week of April, and received an immediate response. A litter had been born April 8, just a week or two prior to my inquiry and there was a little black and tan boy available.

"Helle" [note Kenzo: pseudonym], whom I understood to be the owner of the mother of my puppy, but not the breeder, was a very prolific emailer. I sought clarification on Hamlet’s parentage, and I should have realized that something was amiss, for the responses to those inquiries were somewhat vague, but I was so excited to be in contact with another Hovawart owner. We talked on the phone, finally, and she assured me that these were purebred Hovawart puppies. I was foolishly satisfied, for she sent me many emails about the litter and the particulars of the breed. She appeared to be a very responsible owner who cared deeply for these dogs. I do not know now, exactly, what her connection was to what appears to have been a puppy mill. After what had happened with the Canadians, which I disclosed to her, I offered to send her references, but she also seemed ready to trust me. I realize now that I was so worried that I might have been “blacklisted” in what I thought was the small Hovawart community, that I was not as direct as I should have been about Hamlet’s parents and situation. I was just grateful that "Helle" would trust me with a puppy from this lovely breed.

At one point "Helle" sent me a Google Earth link to her home, and what I understood to be Hamlet’s home as well. Imagine how I feel to see the same house, from a slightly different angle, on Leo’s blog, looking rather more decrepit than it did on Google Earth. I ran the cursor on street view past that house many times, imagining myself visiting Hamlet and picturing him curled up on their floor or couch. Little did I know that he was probably living with his siblings and mother in a very different kind of situation.

On the telephone, "Helle" promised that Hamlet’s papers would be with his shot records and the other papers necessary for him to enter the US. On the appointed day, I traveled to Newark, NJ. I was so excited. "Helle" emailed and phoned me, and I emailed and called her each step of the way, from my cell phone.

Hamlet came in a crate that was very large and very well apportioned. Every care had been taken for his comfort, even to the point of sending me a CD with sounds that would be familiar to him and extra food of his exact brand. There were care instructions down to the minutia of the exact times he was being fed, seven thirty am and noon and four pm, and suggestions for healthy snacks. There was a laminated, 8x10 card taped to the crate with a picture of Hamlet that read:
My name is Hamlet, and I am going on my very first trip out of Copenhagen to my final destination Newark/USA. I am traveling with SAS on flight SK909. Please handle me with lots of careness (sic) and please take me out for bathroom when needed. Tell Mister Pilot that he have a very special Hovawart puppy onboard his flight who is loved by many people.

I have this card next to me right now, and I wonder how so much effort could have been put into this one puppy if this, was, as it seems now, somewhat of a hoax and he was just one more puppy from an active puppy mill. Taped to Hamlet’s crate, there was a doggie “passport,” a very official looking booklet with his shot records and worming records, and I did get a laminated book called “Owner’s Certificate and Book of Health.” Beneath it read, “Hovawart Hamlet.” On the back, it read: “ Continental Kennel Club, CKC International Official Seal. “.

I was so enamored of my puppy that I only glanced quickly at the paperwork. When I went to the vet, however, to have Hamlet checked over, he indicated that there wasn’t a lot of information about Hamlet’s genealogy, and that I would need a lot more documentation. He also agreed that Hamlet had some skin issues, but he prescribed a careful diet, special shampoo and fish oil to help him. To this day, that is how we maintain Hamlet’s itching, although he always has some issues with his skin and an extremely sensitive tummy.

What I realize now is that there were no such papers. I called, I emailed, and I felt as though I kind of alienated "Helle" with my persistence regarding the “papers” and Hamlet’s parents. She seemed surprised that I wanted more than the little book and she didn’t seem to understand that I wanted some sort of proof of registration with the Danish “Hovawart people.”

As soon as Hamlet arrived, "Helle" used me as a reference for a caller from South America, either Brazil or Columbia and for someone from Japan, each inquiring about her puppies. However, after I asked again for registration papers, there were no more referrals. I did wonder how there were more puppies already, but I chose not to think about that.

Hamlet is an integral part of our family now. On Facebook, again due to having become friends with "Helle" and then reaching out myself, I realized how many countries have happy Hovawart owners. When I saw Leo’s posts and I realized that we had a part in supporting what appears to be a puppy mill, I was devastated. The skin problem, we dealt with. The concern regarding registration papers, I had decided to put behind me.

My heart breaks, because the "Helle" I know loved Hamlet. She told me she cried when she sent him to me. He did come to me a well-behaved, socialized little fellow. He did immediately seem to understand that he was to love and obey me, and I felt that he had transferred his affections from one lady to another lady who was now his owner. My heart breaks because now I feel as though I might be betraying "Helle", and I am truly saddened by that.

I saw "Helle" in my mind’s eye as an extension of that home that we visited in Canada, so clean, with the responsible owners who shared our excitement for this breed. This, unfortunately, seems not to have been the case with Hamlet, and that’s why I am writing this letter. It’s hard for me to accept that I contributed to the support of a puppy mill. I didn’t do enough “homework,” despite the calls, the emails, the questions and the references. I hope my story helps others to be more careful, and I offer my apologies to the Hovawart community for being careless. I am so sorry for that, and my heart breaks for the dogs who were euthanized and for the dogs who were traumatized—I’m a part of that, like it or not, by virtue of purchasing Hamlet. My husband and I would like to do what we can to make amends; perhaps sharing our story (not as a tragedy, for we love our amazing dog) but as a cautionary tale is a good first step.

Before I finish, however, I want to emphasize that Hamlet is a beautiful, even tempered, well-behaved dog. He is loyal to a fault, protective, absolutely everything that I dreamed a Hovawart would be. He’s definitely my dog and sees me as the top dog in the house, which makes my husband laugh. He’s smart and gets along well with our cat. He isn’t just attached to me, however; he watches our youngest son like a hawk and snuggles at night with whomever will allow him onto their bed. He’s not perfect; he does not always come when he’s called, and he hates busses. When the school bus comes, we must be careful that he is inside or he will stand in its way! He is a character and beloved by our neighbors as well for his beauty and his friendly nature. We are lucky and thankful to have him, and I hope that it makes up a little for the decision we made more blindly than we should have.


I can't thank you enough, Elizabeth and Hamlet, for sharing your cautionary tale. I have nothing to add, other than that you are very much part of the Hovawart family. We are sorry too, we couldn't have helped you earlier. We all rejoice, that Hamlet is loved and cared for, no matter where he comes from.

For the latest and how you can help, visit the page Stop Danish Hovawart Puppy Mill.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Fantastic Four: All Dogs Are Safe

Four Danish celebrities decided enough is enough. They paid a visit to the puppy mill and sat down with the owner's daughter and son-in-law, and convinced them the dogs should leave now. They then called in police and "Dyrenes Beskyttelse", who moved all the dogs over to the shelter in Roskilde, where they were reunited with the dogs already rescued last Tuesday.

What a finale. Heroes came to the rescue. Who are those amazing people? Meet The Fantastic Four: Sanne Salomonsen, Lise Steinhausen, Anne Campbell and Mikael Tzunami. We can't thank you enough for what you did, I am deeply touched by your actions, making such a heroic act to wait not a minute longer, and save the last remaining dogs from that hell on earth.

The news came out on Facebook first, and while I write this, rumors and facts are added to the story. The story doesn't seem - almost 24 hours later - to have hit the press yet. We have to wait for more news on how the health of the dogs is and how they are doing. Apparently it was when The Fantastic Four read the interview from the vet of "Dyrenes Beskyttelse", in which she made a huge shout out, that it is incomprehensible this has been going on in Denmark for 10 years - what triggered them to act.

The puppy mill owner tried earlier on the day to move five dogs to another address, but that was discovered, and The Fantastic Four made sure that those dogs were seized too. Both Anne Campbell on Facebook and Mikael Tzunami on youtube, confirmed that all dogs are rescued, and Mikael explicitly mentions the five. The police must be glad to hear this, because trying to hide the dogs in another properties is, again, a criminal act. The list is getting longer and longer now for the puppy mill owner.

So here the first chapter of this story ends. The dogs are rescued, and also before the feared date of February 1. In just over a week, it touched people like you and me. In Denmark and all over the world. And not just touched, but made us act as well. Yesterday I called it a grassroots movement, growing its own legs and out of control. Today when we finish the first chapter, it is more like a revolution of the people. Where authorities and police didn't act, and (inter)national media was silent, people took over and did what they know was right. With the result that all dogs are safe today.

It is time to celebrate, and I will make a toast for all of you, and to The Fantastic Four. Earlier today I took a walk with Kenzo & Viva - picture on the left. Seeing them romping around fills me with so much more joy and happiness today than usual, knowing all their rescued friends are doing exactly the same today, for the first time in their lives. I am sure you have similar feelings when you look at your own dog today.

When we finished celebrating, we can open the next chapter, to make sure the puppy mill is closed down once and for all, and cannot make a come-back as they did in the past. Or that another one could fill their void. We'll open that next chapter soon, first, let's celebrate.


For the latest and how you can help, visit the page Stop Danish Hovawart Puppy Mill.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Stop The Danish Puppy Farm Facebook Campaign

There is no news of the dogs I could share with you today. Like me I know you are crossing your fingers for news to break that the last dogs are seized before February 1. No news isn't always good news in our case, knowing they will spent another day and night in that hellhole.

Maybe today the papers are not writing, and the TV is not broadcasting, but social media is bobbling with activity. This is the second week, of what is starting to evolve into a grassroots campaign to save the thirty-three dogs left inside the puppy mill and to put the Danish puppy mill out of business once and for all.

With a hat tip to Jan Wolfe and Judith Broug, masterminds behind a social media effort launched today, in an attempt to try and track down who bought a Hovawart or Golden Retriever puppy from the puppy mill since August, 2012. As the puppy mills license was revoked  by that time, any selling of puppies after that date by the puppy mill can be prosecuted under criminal law in Denmark. A great opportunity to shut them done once and for all.

Jan and Judith created this "wanted" poster, which you can "share" on your Facebook wall to get the word out. Please use the "share" option of Facebook, as that will include the accompanying text who to contact as well. Before I could finish writing this, it has already been shared more than 90 times, so it looks very promising.

Another hat tip to bloggers Lana Fortuna and Agnieszka Bieńko, for blogging in Slovenian and Polish respectively, to spread the word about the Danish puppy mill. There is a lot of attention from Polish readers lately, no doubt because you are worried in Poland what happened with Bamira, not knowing if she is safe, or still inside the puppy mill. I am glad Agnieszka Bieńko - and Heban - are bringing you updates in Polish. We all hope and pray with you.

And then there is all of you that are helping in every other way you can. Your engagement in this, what now is turning into a grassroots campaign, is amazing. I am glad to be a part of such a great group of people, that have their heart in the right place, want to make a difference, and would do almost anything to save these dogs.

Join me in a prayer tonight for the dogs.


There is a Stop Danish Hovawart Puppy Mill page you can bookmark. It will have the latest news, how you can help and a chronological order of events, in the hope to make it easier for you to find the information you need, without that you have to sift through the blog pages.

Friday, January 18, 2013

A 1000 Hovawarts

How would you feel if you were a Police Chief of a small, peaceful and quiet town in Denmark, and the eyes of the world are suddenly upon you? When the press is lined up for your next statement? When management complains about all the mails and letters they get? Niels Denny Sørensen, from the local police in Næstved, Denmark, now knows exactly how that feels.

Niels knows every move he makes since the story came out, is under a magnifying glass, and today confirmed that once more. We met with Niels to handover the petition with a 1000 signatures and we talked for an hour in which we tried to voice our/your concerns as best we could. I do believe your voice has been heard, and Niels - the decision maker that can get the dogs out - has became very aware of his responsibility, if he was not already.


The police will not get the dogs out before February 1, despite the pressure. But I am confident the next time the vet says to him the dogs can "survive" until February 1, Niels will ask the question "last time you said that, 6 dogs died". We got promised the 33 dogs that remain in the puppy mill are checked up with more regularly so it will not repeat itself that dogs have to be euthanized when seized on February 1.

Another promise was, that the owner is not allowed to keep the last 10 dogs, when the whole group of the 33 dogs that are still in harms way is not sound and healthy on February 1.

It was one of our major concerns, if the puppy mill owner would still be allowed to have 10 dogs after February 1. That is now of the table. The vet of the animal welfare organization of Dyrenes Beskyttelse will also be part of this evaluation, so it is very unlikely, listening to what she said in the press today, there will be a single dog left in the puppy mill after February 1.


Remarkable was that Niels, very well aware of the attention from a 1000 "Hovawarts", made this request:
"if any one could can come forward that bought a dog from the puppy mill after august 2012, it would close them down once and for all, as their license is revoked and it is punishable by criminal law when they would still be selling.".
Let's shake our Hovie network for this one, it must be possible to find one of the many sells they made after august. It will not only secure all dogs, it will simply close them down forever. Did you buy a puppy at, not knowing all of this? Please contact Niels at or send it to me, if you would like me to mediate.


How are the ones rescued doing? It turned out one of them was expecting. So we can soon add between 6 or 10 to the ones rescued. Those pups will fly out of the adoption door for sure, the first generation of the puppy mill that will get the start in life they truly deserve, has already begun. Change is a fact already. How awesome is that.


The vets of "Dyrenes Beskyttelse" were also in the news today, and made a huge shout out, that it is incomprehensible this has been going on in Denmark for 10 years.

So many people tried to focus the public eye on the puppy mill before. Their blogs were closed, their Facebook pages closed, people where threatened by mail and nasty laywers sewed left and right. The power of money does ugly things. They tried to silence Pia Skovmose, tried to put yours truly's blog out of service. But they cannot escape the top guns and your loud voice. A big leap was made today, as finally an "official" and powerful organization dared to say what many in Denmark have said before but were silenced by the puppy mill.

We chose the right time to stop this puppy mill once and for all. We are a 1000 "Hovawarts", and we are not alone.


For the latest and how you can help, visit the page Stop Danish Hovawart Puppy Mill.
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