Ch. Highwood's Parachute Adams (right)
photography by: Chuck Tatham
When Heinz Wack invited us for a weekend in Germany, it sounded like something of a lark. The ‘lark’ became an adventure.
Heinz breeds Norwich terriers (Norwich Vom Rittersee). We first encountered him when he came to Montgomery five years ago, saw our Ratty -- and wanted to buy him. Politely rebuffed in his overture but intrigued, he subsequently shipped us two bitches, one to go to Ratty (Ch. Highwood’s Ratfaced MacDougal) and one to Andrew (Ch. Highwood’s St. Andrew’s). His intent was then to breed the best of each litter to each other.
One bitch had four puppies, all surviving, and the other, five, with only two surviving; both mothers whelped naturally. Heinz subsequently purchased another bitch puppy -- out of an Andrew daughter bred to Ratty -- for breeding and showing. He readied the puppies for the show ring and, in the fall of 1997, started them off.
At Christmastime in 1998, we received a packet. A bulging packet. It was filled with everyone’s accomplishments, all the championships and all the ‘tickets’ and the many critiques of the Vom Rittersee Norwiches bred from our line. Heinz was elated with their performance on the German and European show circuits. He and his wife, Karin, wanted us to come to Germany in early May and stay with them in the village of Reinheim, where they lived with their triumphant little band of Norwich. Heinz asked us to bring our new special, Shooter (Ch. Highwood’s Parachute Adams) -- it seemed that there was a nearby show that weekend that we could enter, and, besides, he wanted to see the dog for possible future breeding.
Well, at the time, Lufthansa fares to Frankfort were incredibly cheap. Staying with the Wacks would involve very little incidental expense. Rink, my husband, had never been to Germany. What better way to go than to visit someone who was fluent in both English and German? Sounded innocent enough. A lark.
We left New York on April 29th and flew the seven overnight hours with an empty seat between us for Shooter. (The Lufthansa manager at JFK loved dogs.) Shooter slept like a baby on the floor in his Sherpa bag with the top open. We arrived in Frankfort late morning German time; by our circadian calculation, it was perhaps 4:00 a.m. Shooter, well rested, didn’t seem to care.
Heinz was there to pick us up and whisked us through customs. The drive to Reinheim took about 45 minutes. Leaving Frankfort, we immediately found ourselves in the countryside. All the villages were built around a castle or fortress that commanded a high point. Farmland stretched from one village to the next, each clustered around its castle.
We arrived in Reinheim to find a trim house poised at the end of a cul-de-sac. It was clearly a working environment, with dog runs and with a barn and stables. Beyond lay fields, their early crops stretching over hillsides. The Wack’s home was lovely.
We discovered that Karin had set a table. Our body clocks suggested that some scrambled eggs might be nice, perhaps a little juice and hot tea. From the kitchen emerged a typical German lunch (main meal) -- sausage loaf, slabs of pork, boiled potatoes, sauerkraut, freshly baked bread -- and, oh yes, would we like a beer? Somehow we managed to eat. Took a pass on the beer.
We had decided to stay at the local hotel to afford ourselves some flexibility. The tariff -- all of $52 a night -- had caused us some trepidation, but we were delighted to find that our room was light, airy, immaculate, and comfortably furnished with two down-filled duvet coverlets on sleigh beds. The bath provided lots of fluffy towels amid an expanse of tile, and all the fixtures worked. Off the lobby, a Greek restaurant held out promise of lamb. We unpacked and settled Shooter and stretched and realized that the Germans, for some reason, now thought it was about two in the afternoon. We returned to the Wacks’ farm, which we could see from our hotel window.
We inspected an enthusiastic tumble of puppies, all sound and happy and attractive, and discussed future breeding -- and, briefly, the local show in which Heinz had entered my dog. He indicated that, well, it was actually rather a big show. And that the entry of Norwich was also quite large.
Oh, I said
. . . . and not really all that local . . . .
Changing topics, Heinz suggested that we could get a wonderful sense of the countryside if we drove through some of the villages. He had remarked to us that he had horses, but I hadn’t realized that they were driving horses! We went down to one of the barns, and there were Mandy and Sam, two large coach ponies, matched chestnuts with flaxen manes and tails. We all climbed into the ‘runabout’ and plunged into the array of fields above Reinheim. We spent two delightful hours winding through vineyards and towns and ruins, through fields of bright yellow flowers and winter wheat. The changing light of late afternoon was breathtaking, and the fresh smell of grasses and tree blossoms filled the air. I didn't feel that I was far away from home.
That evening, Heinz and Karin took us to a restaurant owned by a good friend, and again the meal was typically German, with an emphasis on pork dishes and potatoes, stews -- and apples. In fact, you could have an entire apple meal, starting with apple soup, proceeding to pork stuffed with apple accompanied by apple pancakes, and finishing with apple strudel. There was also an apple wine! (By the way would you like a beer?) I don’t know how we did it, but we ate again!
During dinner, Heinz casually inquired if Shooter had all his teeth. Of course, I said -- six on top and six on the bottom. What about his pre-molars? Heinz inquired. Does he have three before his molars on the top and bottom, both sides? I looked at Rink. Make this long trip with my dog to tooth-happy Germany and not bother to count all the teeth in the dog’s head so I can answer Heinz’ question? Of course, I said, and asked if they had any Jack Daniels at the bar.
And, by the way, Heinz, just what exactly is this show we’re going to this weekend -- this little local show you described that now isn’t so local and seems to have so many dogs?
Heinz had been waiting. He smiled. Actually, he said, it’s the 1999 European Championships. Three-day show. Over 9000 dogs. Wasn’t sure you’d come if you thought I had high expectations and that you might disappoint me. But terriers are on Sunday, and I just wanted you to show the American stock behind so much of my breeding. And to see our dogs. And to have a nice visit. And, oh yes, the show is in Dortmund. We have a three-hour drive Sunday morning.
Sandbagged. The lark had warbled its last. An adventure had begun. Fortunately, the Jack Daniels arrived.
When we got back to the hotel that evening, poor Shooter had a very serious examination. Upside down, sideways, mouth wide open -- wod-I-doooo?, asked Shooter -- and all the teeth were there. I know, said Shooter. Can I go out now?
The morning of next day, Saturday, we spent sightseeing. Scenic prospects, the restored medieval town of Michelstadt, the Ivory Museum at Erbach. All fascinating. And me all the while wondering how I got us into this.
We returned to the farm to prepare the dogs for the show the next day. (In Germany, grooming is not allowed at the show site, except comb and brush. If you need to wash your dog or pull coat, apply kolesterol or spray the coat, you must do it beforehand.) Shooter was basically done, because he had shown the previous weekend in the States. And frankly, I wasn’t thinking that it mattered much anyway, with all the competition. Even though Shooter was a U.S. Champion, in Europe I had to show him in Open Dog. There were eight in the class, and most had already earned tickets toward their championships. Even if we won that, we would still have to defeat the winners of the other classes -- including the Champion class. Heinz and Karin were entering three dogs, two in Puppy and one in Open Dog. As we washed our dogs, we swapped ideas and comments on preparation.
Afterward, Rink and I took the Wacks to the little Greek restaurant adjacent to our hotel. Ate lamb. Sleep came easily; we had a 5:30 a.m. wake-up call.
The autobahn, we noticed, has no speed limit.
Dortmund is an industrial city with a very large expo center -- on this day, full of dogs. When I opened the catalogue and counted 43 Norwiches from France, Switzerland, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Germany, I was ready to throw in the towel. I don’t speak the language, and we were the only American entry. I was unfamiliar with the judging process. And no way to make those last, finishing touches on my dog’s coat -- usually some spray and a tad bit of ‘foreign’ substance.
Nobody offered me a beer.
We proceeded to ringside, where our area was roped off; all the competing Norwiches were set up there. Docking is no longer allowed in Germany -- nor in much of Europe; we found it strange to see these dogs with all sorts and configurations of tails. And I was amazed at the casual attire. Some exhibitors were dressed in jeans and sweaters, others in high heels and short skirts. I was the only owner/handler in a skirt and jacket. (Although I did notice later on, when Norwich began, that my judge was dressed in a skirt, jacket, and formal blouse.) I tried to focus on the ring. The Norfolkwere in. They look very different from those here in the States -- shorter of back and with more bone. They seem much larger, with wide, blocky heads and blunt muzzles. Their fronts are straight, and they have nice rear angulation. I was very impressed with their solid appearance.
But I couldn’t quite follow ring procedure.
Then Norwich were in the ring. Our judge, Ms. Irmentraut Reichelt from Berlin, started with Puppy Dog. First she moved the entire class. The ring was quite large. She stood in the middle and motioned the puppies around her at least six times. She was listening to the dogs breathe. I was then amazed at the length of time of each examination. The judge took each puppy in catalogue order and did the following: She asked that the dog be put on the table. She went directly to the head, opened the mouth, and counted the puppy’s teeth. Next to the examination table was a work table, at which a secretary sat transcribing the judge’s ongoing verbal critique.
Then the puppy was given a thorough physical exam -- eye shape, ear set, expression, length of neck, shoulder layback, front, top line, tail set, rear angulation, checking paws for shape and color, all the time dictating her observations to the secretary. The puppy was then returned to the ground for a down-and-back. More comments to the scribe on movement and way of going. Then the puppy was asked to free bait in front of the work table while the judge sat down next to the secretary, reread her critique and further commented on the dog’s ring presence and show attitude.
The examination for each animal ran about eight minutes. This seemed a far cry from the U.S., with our three minutes maximum, preferably two. (Teeth, time, and testicles is the common verbiage.)
There were eight dogs in the Open class. Shooter and I were second in the ring. The judge moved us around that ring eight times! Shooter was breezing along, moving beautifully, but you could sure hear me at about the sixth go-around. The judge was clearly going to rule out some dogs at that point for way of going or breathing.
Suddenly it seemed to be our turn on the table. (I was counting my blessings that the dogs are preadventureingermany_parachutesented right to left, as they are in the States.) Hers was a very deliberate examination. After counting his teeth (all of them), she looked into his right ear -- and back at me. Heinz had told me that all European dogs are tattooed in their right ear, and I should just explain that this was an American dog. As soon as I started to speak English, she smiled, excused herself to check with the steward and returned saying “O.K.”
The judge put her thumb at the corner of his right eye and traced the shape of the lower lid, looking into the eye for color and size. She then moved to the side and placed her right hand, thumb and forefinger, behind the ears and began to work down the neck to the shoulders. Her left hand went under the neck and moved down to the chest between the front legs. She was checking width of front and shoulder layback. The left hand stayed at the chest while the right hand moved down the back, measuring spring of rib and length of loin. She stopped, palm down, in front of his tail and exerted some downward pressure. Shooter pushed back under her hand, tail wagging. And she smiled.
We had no common language, but I could tell at that point that she liked him. She went up under to check for testicles and then moved to the rear of the dog, all the time dictating to the secretary. From behind, she cupped both hands high up on the rear legs and slid them down, running her thumbs over the hocks and down the lower legs to the toes, checking bone. It was a very surgical examination. adventureingermany_parachute
Now the judge motioned me to place Shooter on the floor and asked us to move down and back. She walked around the dog. She asked me to go down and back again, motioning me to stop about ten feet from her. She then indicated that I should free bait him in front of the work table while she sat down and refined her critique. After Shooter had been duly attentive for what seemed an interminable length of time, she asked me to return to the end of the line.
This was going to be a long class. There were six more dogs. Each was examined in a similar fashion. After the last dog, the judge walked once down the line and pointed to us, sending us, for some reason, to the opposite side of the ring. She put the dog from the Netherlands behind us.
Since that was the dog that I had liked best, I thought she might be cutting down the entry and that the process would continue. But then she came over to me, smiled, and shook my hand. The man handling the Reserve dog laughed and said in English, “Congratulations, you’ve won.”
Rink and Heinz were so pleased for us. I was beginning to feel a bit more confident, and by now Shooter was into it big time. I was asked to remain in the ring while the Puppy Dog winner returned. We traveled the ring three times and the judge came over and shook my hand again. This time, I knew what it meant.
Now Heinz, Karin, Rink -- and the handler from the Netherlands -- were getting very excited. I was having a hard time catching my breath. The Champion Dog class was next. It had an entry of seven and took about 45 minutes. The judge was extremely methodical. Once again I was asked to return to the ring, and we traveled it three times, working against the winner of the Champion class. Again the judge came to me and shook my hand. At this point, we had beaten all the dogs.
Next came the judging of all the bitches, in the same order. Puppies to 18 months, the Open class, that winner against the winner of the puppy class, and that winner against the winner of the Champion class. Shooter and I were called back -- almost two hours later -- to compete for Best of Breed against the open bitch that had herself beaten the winner of the Champion class. She was a lovely animal and was handled by the same Dutch gentleman who had been so outgoing and sportsmanlike in the dog classes.
This took a bit more time. But we all were smiling. Everyone in the ring, judge and fellow competitor, realized that I was totally blown away. And, once again, the judge held out her hand. To us. Then we were all shaking hands. What a moment! No words, German or English, could express my astonishment or my joy and gratitude.
Shooter was the European Champion Norwich!
Heinz was laughing outside the ring and came in to try to translate for the judge the circumstance of our trip to Germany for a weekend visit -- and an outing at a small, ‘local’ show -- and our genuine surprise at the dimension of the win. The judge was extremely complimentary and asked Heinz to translate her critique on “Shooter” for us. It is as follows:
Very nice specimen of the breed. Excellent topline, well-balanced head, ears correctly situated and well carried. Beautiful neck line, short and solid back, well angulated. Coat in excellent condition. Good showman, very good mover.
The Terrier Group started two hours later. Many breeds in the European Terrier Group -- which comprises 38 breeds in all -- are not recognized by the AKC, and several other breeds, such as Tibetan, Boston, and Yorkshire terriers, are assigned to the Group. Although the Group judge looked, he didn’t have Norwich on his agenda that day. The Norfolk was lovely and went on to get a group placement. Upon leaving the ring, each breed winner received a bottle of Moet Chandon and two bags of -- you guessed it -- Pedigree dog food.
We were tired, but so elated.
On the way back to Reinhiem, we stopped to visit a friend of the Wacks who had purchased an Andrew daughter from Heinz. The daughter had been bred and had produced a litter of four, only one of which had survived. (The bitch had trouble whelping naturally, and the puppies had faded.) But I must say this surviving puppy was the best I had seen so far, and I hope he will make his way to the States.
Alerted to our arrival, Gundred had champagne ready. Then we were off to a celebratory meal at a wonderful Italian restaurant. Veal.
Then back on the autobahn, back to Reinheim and to our hotel, for packing and to bed. (We had a 6:30 a.m. call to meet Heinz downstairs and head for the Frankfort airport to make a 9:30 a.m. flight to New York.) Heinz had somehow arranged to keep the middle seat open for our new European Champion on our flight home. (I could have sworn it was a full flight.)
By this point, poor Shooter could hardly keep his eyes open. But I was amazed at how this dog had adapted so readily to the food and water, to the time change and general stress of a whirlwind trip of this nature. He maintained his energy levels, traveled, ate, and slept on cue.
Our appreciation and affection to the Wacks -- despite Heinz’ devious enveiglement. They provided an adventure we shall not soon forget.
We are so very proud of our new European Champion.
Good dog, Shooter!
Knowlton A. Reynders
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