Dog trains man

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Viva Sunday #1: Reflection

It's that time of the year again where we reflect and give it some thought on what to do with the blog. Usually I would have made a list of "The 10 most ...whatever... posts of 2013" and had a go at staring into the crystal ball, together with other bloggers in the "Pet Blogger Challenge" - which I just heard is going to be organized this year again by Amy and Edie.

Obviously, looking back at the blog, or 2013 for that matter, always ends at that same focal point for me. Viva. What is left, after our road-trip in her footsteps, are the memories about her. She will therefore still be a part of this blog in the time to come, as she still is a part of our life. I couldn't continue the blog otherwise. It would become a stranger to us if we didn't.

During the holidays we went through the hundreds of photo's we have of her, fueling the memories we have. And we thought it would be a good idea to share something about Viva each Sunday to remember her by. Maybe just a photo, or just a short story, I haven't given the format a lot of thought and let it allow to go where it wants to go. I promise it will be positive though.

For our #1 post, this photo which I used as our Twitter badge a long time ago, and I am sure many of you have never seen before. It is Viva, giving me that special look she had a patent on, that always melted me from day 1 - although Kenzo is doing a good job as well:

Happy New Year, may all your wishes come true, and hope to see you in 2014 !

Friday, December 20, 2013

Wizard Bernard, and his Hovawart, Boef

I am very excited to introduce you to one very active Hovawart Wizard, Bernard!

Bernard trains IPO and agility, and takes wonderful photo's to show for it as well.

Thank you for participating in the Hovawart School of Witchcraft & Wizardry!

Hovawart Wizard: We are a family from the city of Almere, Netherlands. Consisting of wife Mirjam, daughters Kim and Stacey and son Demian all around 20 years of age and me, Bernard. In daily life I sell IT equipment, Networking and security gear.

Hovawart: In August 2011 we amended the family with Boef, a sturdy blond Hovawart boy.

Boef doesn't really have a blog or webpage. He is just very photogenic and I happen to like shooting pictures a lot. As a result he has quite some pictures published on Flickr.

We got Boef from a family which took breeding Hovawart's to an almost scientific level. The father was selected carefully from far away in Germany, mum Layca and the pubs were taken great care of and meticulous attention was paid to socialization.

To our surprise we couldn't claim a preference for a pup based on the looks (I wished for a Black&Tan since I did not want our pup to look like the Golden Retrievers we had before). Instead the breeders decided which pup would go to which owner based on a behavioral test and the daily situation and prior experience with dogs of the new owners. As it turned out we got the first-born, blond and most lively and sizable blond boy pup "Bono van de Gouwestreek". We called him Boef ("villain/rascal" which turned out to be quite characteristic).

As said we previously had 2 Golden Retrievers. Our Boris passed away about a year earlier. We thought we were decent and experienced dog people. But Boef managed to surprise us. Whilst I love the initiative, intelligence and independence of him some family members really had a hard time adjusting to the complete difference in character and behavior. He is extremely kind and loving for his family. The big "but" though is that a family with kids in their late teens or early twenties gets many friends visiting. To which he turned out to be very guarding. Barking and impressing the sh*&^ out of friends visiting suddenly became a problem. By putting him in the bench when visitors come and only releasing him after 10 minutes with instructions to the guests on how to behave has overcome this problem to a large extend.

Still I would never want another breed. I love the character and the laser focus on his boss and his pack. At least twice a week we go on a bike ride, he runs 25 kilometers easily. Twice a week we train IPO. Last 2 months I dropped the man-work because we attend to a special socialization-training. He still is too bullish to some dogs in the neighborhood and some dogs he runs in to when running free on the beach.

My advise to other Wizards & Muggles is: don’t mistake size and appearance for self-esteem. Much of the defensive behavior our dog demonstrates is caused by my misconceptions that given his size and appearance he can take care of himself with other dogs and people. I learned the hard way that that's not true at all. Our Hovis have no idea of their size and appearance and submit to the same dog hierarchy as a small dog. We still have to stand up for them and take care of them when meeting new individuals.


Hovawart Wizards, like Bernard, try to provide real life information for Muggles - those not yet touched by the Hovawart's magic - to learn more about Hovawarts in the Hovawart School of Witchcraft & Wizardry. A place where Muggles can read how we play, what kind of training and activities we undertake. What makes Hovawarts special to us, and how they made us into Wizards. The role they came to play in our lives. And the hard times we shared. Helping Muggles to make the best choice possible if a Hovawart could be the Magical Creature for them, or at least what to expect.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Meet the Bloggers - My Name Is Dog Crazy - Blog Hop

First, all heil and credits to the creative minds behind this "Meet the Bloggers, My Name Is Dog Crazy" blog hop:

Amy from Go Pet Friendly, AJ from I Still Want More Puppies, Jodi from Kol’s Notes, Mel from No Dog About It, Julie from The Daily Dog Blog, Jennifer from My Brown Newfies, Kim from CindyLu’s Muse, Lauren from Life With Desmond, Leslie from Bringing Up Bella, Jodi from Heart Like A Dog, Kristine from Rescued Insanity, Peggy from Peggy’s Pet Place, and Dawn from NEPA Pets.


I took this selfie of Kenzo and me, Leo, for the occasion. And yes, if you have been here before, someone is missing. It would have been Viva's 9th anniversary today, December 18, but she went far too young. But please don't be sad. Give your pet a huge hug instead, and if you like, join this donation campaign in remembrance of Viva, for the good of dogs like her in Denmark, so they may find loving homes too.

Of course for us it is all still very fresh, and the photo looks odd to me without Viva, so I also added this older photo, taken while the three of us were still together.

Now, let's go to the questions!

What’s your favorite non-animal related book?
"Les Misérables", by Victor Hugo.
I read it many times since high school, and first in the original French version, but I couldn't do that anymore today. I never kept my French up to date.

What’s your favorite non-animal related movie?
"The Intouchables", starring François Cluzet and Omar Sy. The trailer on Youtube is here.
Great story of a remarkable friendship of opposites.

What’s your favorite non-animal related food?
By far, Indonesian food. It has so many flavors to discover.

Who’s your favorite actor?
Katherine Heigl.
She forced me though, as she loves Kenzo, and thinks he is a 100% gorgeous.

What’s one thing you have to do every day?
Absolutely nothing. And that is more difficult than it sounds. If I don't, the next thing takes the next, and I end up thinking, where did the week/month/year go?

What makes you feel fabulous?
Being able to help somebody else makes me feel pretty good. And I love solving problems, any kind of problem will do, just not quizzes and puzzles, and repairs.

What do you wish you were more skilled at?
Communication: expressing myself, languages, people skills. It is the finest of arts, so much to learn still.

What’s your favorite holiday?
Hiking in Norway with the dogs. We did it only once last year for a first time, and we are totally hooked.

Favorite meal?
Being an expat, I could die for "stamppot" from home - this mashed substance is best described on the "Stuff Dutch People Like" blog - trust me, you are not missing out on anything.

What do you like to do in your free time?
It will be hard to pick just a few. There are so many things I like to do, dogs, writing, museums, reading, history, traveling (with the dogs). My current vice is off-roading with the Landcruiser, very bad! And I really don't have a concept of free- and work time. I love my work. I love other things than work. I don't keep track of time I spend on either of them.

What one word would people who know you use to describe you?

If your pets could talk, what one word would THEY use to describe you?

What is one thing you’ve done that you’re most proud of?
Being able to learn and change.

How is your pet most like you?
Kenzo and me share even-tempered personalities. But do us unjust, and we will roar. With Viva I share to trust others from the start, even though we sometimes get disappointed along the way.

What can your body do for you that makes you most proud?
Do we need to ask the body? Wouldn't it ask the brain anyway?

If you could change one thing about your life what would it be?
At the moment, it is to change the life of the city for a more rural life. But that's the change ahead, to change continuously is important to me. And I wonder already, what will lay beyond that.

Other than blogging, what are three things you do that bring you joy?
Oh, how I miss chasing sunsets with Viva and not being able to feel her soft touch. It might be wrong timing for me, to answer this question.

What’s one thing you could do to be more kind to yourself?
I can do without The Guilt. It is such a useless emotion.

What drives you nuts about your pets? What melts your heart?
Isn't that the same? You mentioned it in one question as well, did you. Ha!

If you didn’t have your current pets, what pets would you choose to have?
Any creature with gills, fur or feathers is welcome to be loved in our home. Aren't they all amazing.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Chasing Sunsets

Three weeks of going in Viva's footsteps are coming to an end. We visited Denmark, Holland and Germany. I dread the upcoming return to daily life. In which I am sure to utterly fail, for a while to come.

A good friend popped the question, which I knew had to come one day, "Why are you doing this to yourself?". She wondered why I prolonged my grief by three weeks. Why couldn't I let go. Wasn't it better to try to move forward?

I didn't answer, although I thanked her silently for being worried about my mental state of health. And I couldn't answer because I wouldn't even know how to answer that question. I don't know what's best. I wouldn't recommend anything we did during Viva's passing to anybody, as grief is a personal process. I can only say I followed my heart, as that is where Viva is. And following it, is therefore the closest I can get to her. Grief follows no logic.

My 5-year old "grand-daughter" - it would take too long to explain our exact relationship - seems to get that. When she visited us with her family on one of the days we were at the West-coast, she brought gifts for Kenzo and Viva, even though her family explained beforehand Viva was in heaven. Not that her family is religious, but how do you explain to a 5-year old, that one of the dogs she grew up with is no more. Heaven is handy, also for the not-religious.

And while the family was busy shopping, I was anxious we couldn't make it to see the sunset. Something I always did with Viva on our trips. With only half-an-hour to go, I explained them I had to go now, to chase sunsets with Viva, and a little hand grabbed mine, saying she wanted to join.

It didn't make sense to the family and I understand that. Yet, I also know it did make sense to me and a 5-year old. We watched a beautiful sunset, and silently missed Viva together. The little girl had an awesome day visiting a swimming hall, play-ground, got presents and candy. When her mother called at the end of the evening to ask how her day has been, she never mentioned any of that: "We are missing Viva. She is in heaven now you know." Grief has no age.

Being spiritual or religious has never been me either. But I have to admit, the last three weeks have been a very spiritual voyage. It became a pilgrimage. Even though I didn't seek it. It just happened. Or?

Another good friend, although "virtual" this time, told me how her dog let her know she was alright after she passed. That was a beautiful thought to me. But me not being spiritual or religious, would I even notice? Would I miss it, when Viva would try to tell me she was alright?

A rainbow appeared out of nowhere, when we approached the very first beach of the trip. It sent chills down my spine, immediately followed by a warmth, I never felt before.

"Hello Viva", I whispered, smiling.

Maybe I was seeking it after all. Grief can adjust the image you have of yourself. At least, it was a wonderful feeling to see that rainbow, and I needed it to be Viva.


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Does The Netherlands Really Need a Third Hovawart Club?

To my suprise, a third Hovawart club, "Hovawart Rasvereniging Nederland", was born in the Netherlands.

The need for so many clubs in a country with so few Hovawart litters is difficult to see.

And what are the other Dutch clubs - here and here - doing wrong, that can only be solved by erecting a new club?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Campaign in Remembrance of Viva

If it wasn't for our local shelter "Dyreværnet", here in Copenhagen, I would never have met Viva.

And they didn't rescued her once, but twice, in the first 5 years of her life.

Until Viva came and lived with us, her final and loving home.

Forever thankful I am, for the 3½ years we got together, where Viva's touch changed me into who I am today.

I hope you want to join me in supporting her shelter with a donation as an act to remember Viva by, share her goodness, and help the shelter to take care of dogs like Viva, so they too can find a loving home.

If you decide to do so, we would love to thank you with a personal message, so please mark your donation to the shelter with "Viva". Then we can send you a postcard with Margie King's painting of beautiful Viva as a Thank You.

How to join
You donate directly to the shelter. Their donation page is here:

The page is in Danish, but it shouldn't be too difficult to fill it out with this explanation:
  1. On the top, in the grey box, you can chose an amount in Danish currency- a quick currency converter: 100 Danish kroner is approximately 13,50 Euro.
  2. "Vælg betalingsmetode", chose payment method, her you pick "Dankort/kreditkort", to pay with your credit-card.
  3. "Navn", your full name
  4. "Att", attention, here you fill out "Viva", this is important, to get the postcard.
  5. "Gade", street.
  6. "Husnr.", house number.
  7. "Postnummer & By", postal code and city.
  8. "Land", country.
  9. "Telefonnummer", telephone number.
  10. "E-mailadrese", email.
  11. Check the last checkbox, "Ja, jeg accepter betingelserne", meaning you accept the conditions.
  12. Press "Send", and the payment dialog starts.
Alternatively, you can also transfer money directly to the shelter's bank account, account number 5329-0242143, "Arbejdernes Landsbank". Remember to pass your address information and "Viva" along in your transfer.

Thank you so much for your donation, and we are looking forward to send you the postcard with Viva's painting. Bless you!


"Dyreværnet" relies solely on donations from the public. They are the only no-kill shelter in Denmark and re-home all animals, either furred or feathered.

Graphic artwork by MissyRedBoots.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tour de Viva with a Clumsy Casanova

This Tour is for me, now Kenzo is doing good so soon - more about him later - and I would really want to return to the places Viva enjoyed so much on our travels, and remember some of the best memories we have of her.

She was never a fan of driving in a car, but the destinations we chose always made it up to her in tenfold. She loved to dash on the beaches of the North-Sea and dip her toes in the water while harassing Kenzo. She could hike the West-Danish heath fields and the Norwegian tundra's endlessly, while scanning the horizon on the hunt for game, and enjoying the simple fact she was on an adventure, alone with her family. And at the end of the day, enjoy a quiet sunset with us.

We are packing, and leave for a 3-week road-trip in Viva's footsteps. Except Norway, that's too cold this time of the year, even for us. I think it would be great to do now, and not wait, as it still feels like she is with us every moment of our daily life. There is not a walk we have, or a cup of coffee we can drink for that matter, where we not think about, what Viva would have done at that moment. Memories are good, at least for me, I cherish them, and try to write down as many as I can. She still makes me laugh, like she always has.

It is not very well-planned, thought-through, and a spur of the moment thing. But that's me. And now Kenzo is doing so much better, I am allowed to be myself.

Yes, Kenzo. He bounced back remarkably soon, and I can only be happy for that. I like to think that some of the additional things I did might have helped him a lot. One of them was to take him with me everywhere, I haven't left him a minute alone since Viva passed. The other thing was to stake-out the trails of all his former sweethearts.

What can I say, he loved it, and so did the girls. He immediately started to "protect" them as well, in typical Kenzo-style. Sometimes I wonder if the vet actually forgot something while neutering him, or Kenzo hasn't got the memo. Of course, all that showing off and impressing the ladies can backfire, which it also did, when he tripped on a bottle hiding under the leaves in a ditch, underlining his well-deserved nickname of Clumsy Casanova, and finished the trail with a limp.

If Viva would have been with him, she would have never allowed it! Always the clever one.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Wizards Gary and Jacque, and their Hovawart Amber

I am very excited to introduce you to our youngest ever - 8 weeks - Hovawart Wizards, Gary and Jacque!

Gary and Jacque had a Hovawart before, without them knowing it!

Thank you for participating in the Hovawart School of Witchcraft & Wizardry!

Hovawart Wizards: We are Gary and Jacque. We live in the U.K., 30 miles north of London. Both of us are designers and run our own business,

Hovawart: Our latest addition to our family is Amber, an 8 weeks Hovawart puppy and growing fast! We hope to start a blog or website about Amber soon. She was bred by Val Shone from Surrey.

We had many rescue Golden Retrievers so far, and the one we loved best we called our "huge" Golden. He sadly passed away in July due to a heart attack. Later we found out, he was not a Golden at all, but a Hovawart.

Our daily life so far consists of poo & wee chasing and constantly being nibbled upon. In other words, fantastic fun. We are looking forward to puppy class that will start in a couple of weeks. Other than that we do a lot of reading and getting good suggestions and advice from Val Shone, the breeder.

What I love about Amber is her intelligence and fun loving nature, which is already shining through. She looks great too.

When she meets other dogs, she wants to be friendly, and even at such a young age, she can already be overwhelming to other dogs like only a Hovawart can. Thankfully, she has a great playing nanny, our 13-year old Golden Retriever.

We don't have a lot of advice to Muggles and other Wizards yet. We are still learning the spells, potions and are absorbing all the magic.


Hovawart Wizards, like Gary and Jacque, try to provide real life information for Muggles - those not yet touched by the Hovawart's magic - to learn more about Hovawarts in the Hovawart School of Witchcraft & Wizardry. A place where Muggles can read how we play, what kind of training and activities we undertake. What makes Hovawarts special to us, and how they made us into Wizards. The role they came to play in our lives. And the hard times we shared. Helping Muggles to make the best choice possible if a Hovawart could be the Magical Creature for them, or at least what to expect.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Kenzo's Grief

Kenzo is grieving. Also for him, time is needed, to heal.

On the day of Viva's passing, I took her body home with me for Kenzo to understand what happened.

It had rained the whole week, but on that day the sun was shining abundantly.

So instead of taking Viva inside, I laid her down in the sun at the start of the driveway to our house. The sun warmed her body and gave her that beautiful golden glow.

Kenzo frantically sniffed the air around Viva, with his nose slightly up. He only came close to her paws, which he touched gently with his nose, still sniffing.

He remained restless and acted like he wanted to go for a walk, so I let him. I followed him down the driveway. At the end of it, just before the point where we usually would have turned left into the forest, Kenzo stopped.

He went straight back to Viva and sniffed the air around her one more time, and then retreated a couple of yards, where he laid down, with his side to Viva and his face upright, pointing towards the road. People and dogs passed by in the distance, but Kenzo didn't move, neither did he made a sound.

I think - I hope - he understood Viva was no more.

After I returned Viva and said the last farewell, we tried to follow our usual routine for the rest of the day and the days to come as much as we could for Kenzo's sake. He seemed himself. We made sure he didn't experienced we were sad. We haven't changed anything in the house, and Viva's things are still where they used to be.

But he is not his bubbly self, because of one tiny difference. For each walk, training session, play or cuddle, I have to invite him. Usually it is Kenzo that invites me. Therefore I know, that first on the day where Kenzo will seek contact once more, he has had the time he needed to give Viva a new place in his life.

Next to the family, Viva was the center focal point of Kenzo's life and purpose, always trying to keep his "big sister" safe. Although I have never before helped a dog through mourning a companion, if I listen good enough and let him "talk", I know we can make it through Viva's loss together.

It is still early, Kenzo just needs more time, like the rest of us. It is only natural. He will be alright again one day, and all I can do is support him getting there. Finding this purpose, gives me strength too.


Monday, November 11, 2013

A Deep Breath

After taking a very deep breath, Operation Spoil Viva was launched.

We sticked to our daily routine and our usual places, while showering Viva in special treats, play, cuddles, and undivided attention - alright, Kenzo got his part as well.

Avoiding anything that could add stress, like anything new, we went for all things she knows and loves, just a lot of it, cramped together in a few days.

We invited some of Viva's favorite people to stop by for a last hug, if they, for Viva's sake, could make it passed the "sobbing not allowed" sign by the door. At one point Viva was being cuddled by three of her favorite persons at once. I could swear I heard her purr like a cat.

Each morning we took another deep breath to kick-start the new day, got charged by the fun Viva was having, send her positive vibes and more fun in return, until the upward spiral crashed the entire family exhausted on the couch to see a bad movie to fall asleep on.

It was good, these last few days. Viva was happy despite her nose, and I feel blessed to be given the opportunity to say goodbye to Viva while she was still feeling good, with fun, instead of tears. They will be allowed to flow later.

While I write this, she is sleeping peacefully beside my desk. She is dreaming, and talking in her sleep, and by the sound of it, she might very well be on an epic squirrel hunt.

Tomorrow - today when you read this - Viva will fall into one more sleep, and will rest in our hearts.

Then we will take one more very deep breath, and embark on Operation Support Kenzo, to help him through his grief first.

Thank you all, for the love you send to Viva and the family. Your kind words, poems, comforting messages, prayers and support, are all deeply cherished. It warms me tremendously to know Viva touched so many.

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