Dog trains man

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Faces Of Love And Growth

For this year's Pet Blogger challenge, I tried to close the door silently behind me in advance, and made a short announcement, to continue to blog about Viva after her passing.

Every effort I did to look back at blogging in 2013, and ahead at 2014, ended in me rambling about Viva in relation to the blog. Who would seriously want to know the ins and outs of that. The PBC is a blogger party, always been, and I wouldn't want to crash it.

Hopefully this scared you off.

Because if I would have joined, it would have looked something like this:


The one thing you know what is coming when you read a dog book, there's a big chance the star will die in the last chapter. There is not a dog book I can pick up and start reading, without bracing me for that end. Will it come, or not. Just as you feel you have gotten to know them, they pass. Don't even get me started about movies, in which it is almost a certainty.

With blogs it is different. A blog is many times a diary of a person behind the pet, and the blog continues after the main character, or one of them, has passed. Rarely will it continue to share more about the beloved pet that has passed, apart from the first stage, where the pain of the loss is so poignant. The beloved pet is not forgotten though, as it still is mentioned with love when we comment on other blogs that will find themselves in the same situation.

Why is it we stop blogging about them, just like a book, I wondered?

The Faces Of Love

Having lost Viva while blogging, I think, I can first now understand why it is difficult, apart from the way how we cope with our own grief. The grief is also vivid and always present with our audience. It is something we all share. Far the most of our readers have actually lost a pet before and are reminded about their own loss again. The comment, "I know how you feel", isn't fake, it is heartfelt.

When you realize that, it gets more difficult to continue writing about your beloved pet that passed. Each post will re-open wounds with your readers, and you might feel guilty about that like me. Even when you write about positive and fun memories, there will still be a tear among the smiles, as they know you wrote it, and wonder if you still grieve, just like them.

I wish we didn't, because we often start blogging for the love we have for our pets. During life it is expressed in being proud, in happiness, joy, but also guilt, embarrassment and worries. After life, it is pain and grief. They are all different faces of the same love.

We all grieve differently, but before we stop blogging about a beloved pet, we should realize we would still express ourselves from our love and not the pain, as we always did. And love is always worth reading in my book.

Really no one needs to go through grief alone. We may feel alone or that we live in our own world, but that doesn't have to be true. Our blog can be exactly that gateway to share with others.

And Growth

We don't cope with loss or get over it. We do learn to live with it and grow. I believe every loss has meaning. My heart is a vessel, housing all the dear ones I have lost, and make me a better person.

When we lost our cat, "Pjevs", four years ago, he taught me as I wrote in The Cat Behind The Dog Blog, how I could grow:
"I always regretted never to have expressed how much Pjevs meant to me. And on Pjevs' first anniversary after his passing, I vowed to him I will do better for Kenzo. I started blogging a month later."
It was around the time Viva joined our family. Naturally the promise extended to her too.

I will probably first let go of grieving publicly about Viva when she makes clear on the first anniversary of her passing, or whatever time she feels fit, what she intends to add to my heart. Then I will know that whatever I will write, Viva wrote it too.


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

I Am Watching You!

Living together with a Hovawart like Kenzo does wonders for your social life. At least, when you spent a lot of time outdoors. Receiving guests at home, not so much.

When you are new to the family, you can expect Kenzo to pay a little visit to let you know in perfect Robert de Niro style: "I Am Watching You!". If you haven't seen the movie "Meet the Fockers", it looks something like this:

In Kenzo's version, he comes in eye-height if necessary, barks, and then retreats again. It is not really harmful in itself, but Ben Stiller will agree with me, it is pretty uncomfortable when you are on the receiving end. Even when it is Kenzo, instead of Robert de Niro.

It all goes well during the whole "oh what a good doggie" greeting process coming through the door with a lot of treats. Yet as soon as the treats stop, or we settle down, Kenzo hasn't forgotten to assert himself to the guest as the man-in-the-house, and waits for the opportunity to deliver that message loud and clear, to avoid any misunderstandings.

It has been a lot of work trying to socialize a Hovawart as protective as Kenzo - his protective nature was already shown in his puppy temperament test - with new visitors from the moment they step through the door.

And I admit, somewhere down the line, in his late adolescence, I got sloppy, thinking we were ready, because we had so many visitors as I ran my company at the 1st floor of our home, and he behaved so nicely. Maybe he was not ready, or maybe it was the fact that Viva joining the family made him even more protective, but it started with his first "I Am Watching You!" demonstration when he barked at a guest of which we assumed he had already ran the gauntlet with good results.

Since then we have tried different ways to introduce new house-guests, but he never lost his goal out of sight. The one that baffled me the most was, when I tried to greet guests outside. Away from the property, before they went into the house. It still didn't help, he even developed new strategies, by sniffing out a new guest from a group of people which he already knew, being his friendly self and receiving a shower of treats, only to quickly single that person out again for his "I Am Watching You!" warning, when we moved towards the house.

Who? Moi? Really?!
With the message delivered, he keeps one eye open to watch what the guest is doing, while I continue to reward him for all his "proper" interactions, like ignoring the guest when he or she moves, or just sniffing when we pass by. I can't define it as socializing anymore what we do, but more helping Kenzo to behave as society expects.

Our guests are always supplied with a rich supply of treats too. Kenzo might be protective, he is also practical. Although it sounds like a good idea, the treats and Viva's opposite outgoing nature, sometimes made guests overconfident towards Kenzo: "he looks sooo cute", and they approached Kenzo to give him a hug, despite my clear instructions. Only to discover, he ain't their pal yet.

More than once it were exactly the people that said to know and love dogs, who can't resist that urge to connect, and I have to bite my lip not to fire a "I told you so", when they stand there in disbelief, either questioning their own dog skills, or Kenzo's character. Instead, I run my simple script again, to explain, "Kenzo will never trust any person he never met before, in his own house, the first time you'll meet."

I realize I expect a lot from our visitors, with instructions not to initiate contact in any way with Kenzo, but do give him a treat, when he comes for a sniff. I understand it is difficult, and it is almost counter-intuitive for people not to try to touch or make contact in any way. Don't we by nature, disarm others with a smile and some attention?

The reward for the visitors that do decide to come back for a second time, is to enjoy that Kenzo will approach them with a toy, as a declaration of his acceptance. I always joke, that from now on they have to be even more careful, as Kenzo will start to protect them from their own friends.

What are your experiences with a very protective Hovawart, or any other dog that protects by nature?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Viva Sunday #2: Shark Bait

On a normal day, my wife would make herself an "ostemad" for breakfast, the Danish version of a cheese sandwich, with cheese on rye-bread. She would sit down, eat it together with a cup of coffee, and try to wake up. Both Kenzo and Viva would beg, as she occasionally would drop something "by accident". It is as uneventful as it sounds.

We also have a tornado version. When my wife wakes up to a busy schedule ahead, she hits the ground running right out of bed. While I am downstairs waiting with coffee, we can hear her dash down the stairs, already talking, and giving orders suggestions.

Viva immediately spots the upcoming opportunity and makes herself ready. I turn my chair, to ensure an unobstructed view of the spectacle to come, although I have seen it many times before, how Viva earned her nickname, the Shark.

A woman in full multitasking mode is an impressive sight. While holding the cheese sandwich in one hand, she uses her free hand to pick up bags, open cupboards, scramble with papers, you name it. In the mean time, her temper is rising, as I fall behind more and more and are unable to guess what she wants me to do next. Her arms join in on the talking, and start pointing the cheese sandwich in all kind of directions in a rapid pace.

Viva is following the movements of the cheese sandwich with every fiber in her body. Waiting for the moment in which it is being pointed in her direction. Or, when my wife bends over to reach something in a low cupboard and the sandwich is on eye height. Or, when she needs both hands and temporarily lays the sandwich down on the edge of the kitchen counter. Or, when ...

It just took a fraction of a second. Viva always wins. With two bruised fingers, my wife shouts, tramps angry on the floor, and just before I expect all hell to break loose this time, she sits down, exhales, and starts laughing.

Viva never let my wife start a day in stress.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Hovawart TV: Grey Muzzle

There is something beautiful about a grey muzzle...

Like wrinkles, it should merely indicate where the smiles have been. - (a slightly altered quote from Mark Twain).

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.

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