A+, AD, BH, SchH 3, Kkl. 1 for Life, V (NBS)

A dog’s tale !

Harto von der Weidenstrasse came into my life as a visitor during the absence of its original owners who appointed me as the ‘puppy-sitter’ while they enjoyed the snow covered Alps during their regular holidays.

There was an instant deep connection between puppy Harto and myself.

He immediately fell into my shadow and followed my every step. As most puppies are, he too was extremely playful and I had no clue about training dogs except to teach him how to sit which I got right somehow.  I then went to the local dog-club and introduced this puppy to its first lesson at the age of 1 year. It was also my first lesson and I decided to fill my weekends with this activity.

Harto’s owners returned home from their skiing-trip and I declared my desire to take him for weekend training. It was agreed that I could keep Harto on weekends and bring him back on Mondays. To my delight the family soon saw the benefit of this arrangement and there was an increased tendency to leave Harto in my care from one weekend to the next.

When Harto was 18months, the change of ownership paper was signed and I was finally Harto’s official new owner. Now that he was mine, I took an unstoppable approach to training. I visited as many clubs as possible and I absorbed all the different training methods. I listened intently to every piece of advice and I entered Harto into his first National Breed Show. He was placed in the middle of the first group and I proudly took home his first small trophy. This was a milestone for me and we continued our club training and I completed the AD (endurance test) and BH (companion dog test). I decided to step up my knowledge and attended a seminar. The course presenter had a high opinion of my dog and also of my capabilities. He suggested the idea of taking extra-special training in Germany with a well known trainer whose services I could not afford but I was agreeable to pay for it on labor terms.

I found a cheap airline and packed my suitcase, loaned a flight-box with my dog inside, then aged 2,5yrs, and off we flew! 

We landed safely in Germany where dogs are greatly respected and also enjoy the privilege of travelling on public transport alongside their owners.  We got off the plane, onto a train and took a nice trip alongside the river Rhein . We arrived at our destination and at the train station were greeted by a friendly ranger. He whisked us off in his station wagon and we arrived at our new home for the following 3 months. 

I was the kennel supervisor and had the first class suite alongside 20 howling dogs.  My job description ranged from garden maintenance, pool cleaning, kennel cleaning to dog-food deliveries  and general Man Friday jobs in return for which my dog and I underwent very unique and effective training which up until today remains classified information. I am very grateful to this trainer for sharing such valuable methods with me.

Although I appreciated everything he did for me, I felt rather confined and needed to escape that feeling. So, one evening I packed my suitcase and in the morning I announced my departure. We got to the train station and took the next available train out of there.   I had no plans of where to head for, so I chose the quaint little village of Manderscheid nearby. For the first few days I had enough money to tie us over in a B+B but soon my funds ran out and I was forced to make alternative arrangements. I discovered a resort-hotel in the local forest and identified a need for general hotel maintenance. I approached the owner and he gladly accepted my offer of low cost manual labor. 

Harto and I were accommodated in a standard hotel-room with windows opening up to the sound of birds. I negotiated a daily payment which was ample for the basic requirements. We completed our chores during the day, which weren’t much different to the ones I had been doing in the training camp previously and in the evening we had a good few hours to walk in the forest and swim in the lake. We found a dog training club in the area and attended lessons there too. We stayed at this hotel for the remainder of summer 2006, which was an extremely long, hot, beautiful season. 

By the end of summer we decided to come back home. 

We waved good bye and caught the next available train out of there and headed for Frankfurt airport. 

With all papers in place, the check-in procedure is fast and easy, yet I had a swell of tears in my eyes as was put onto the conveyor belt, inside his box and taken to beyond my eye-sight for loading into the cargo-hold of the airplane. During the entire long flight home I had the constant fear that might not even be on the same flight as I, perhaps he had been incorrectly loaded onto a wrong plane heading for China. Help!

My worries  ended when the plane landed in Cape Town and I walked across to the Import Department Buildings where animals are kept until they are claimed and there sitting in his box waiting for me was my dear friend. We spent some time relaxing by the seaside for a month or two and then entered our first Schutzhund trials. We quickly achieved Schutzhund 1/2/3 and then competed on National level. Harto scored a healthy V at the National Breed Show and a high score of 90% at the National Schutzhund 3 trial of 2007. He was announced Universalsieger 2008. Harto von der Weidenstrasse was the second dog having achieved this prestigious title since the beginning of the German Shepherd Dog Federation of South Africa in the 80’s.  Since then we have retired from dog-sport but I do keep up Harto’s daily obedience training at leisure time.

Christian Menzel

August 2008