Happy end of 2020, everyone! All hail a new year, one which I hope is filled with good health for you all as well as laughter, joy, financial security, love, and peace.
I have a little news which I’ll tell you as soon as I apologize profoundly for delays in a review that I’ve promised for a while, at least on Twitter, namely Chanel‘s new Le Lion de Chanel, the newest entry into its high-end Exclusifs Collection. Long story short, I love it and so does everyone I know, and I’ll be splitting the massive 6.8 oz bottle with my mother.
I had planned to post my highly enthusiastic review of Le Lion right at the start of the new year with subsequent reviews scheduled for: three new Serge Lutens, including a rose-oud; the new Dusita; a new Ensar Oud parfum; two additional Amouage releases in the new Renaissance Collection; a Killian; and more.
Then the news hit about something which takes precedence above all else in my life: the German Overlords! Specifically, it was absolutely confirmed that I would jump to No. 1 on the wait list (finally! it’s been eons!), that I would get my choice of boys from the November 12th litter, and that I’d get my pup sometime in early-mid January.
There were two, known only as “Blue collar boy” and “Blue Camo collar boy.” (Official names on the papers are a different matter; breeders don’t want to pups to associate or respond to any name until the future owner chooses the final name.)
Each boy was a chonk, but Blue seemed like a Super Chonk to me and he gave a glorious, quizzical side-eye, just like my late Emile Zola. A Twitter friend summed it up well when he asked: “why does he look like a small, all-knowing God??” (Because GSDS *are* small, all-knowing gods, my friend.)
Blue Camo seemed daintier and possibly even more philosophical, but less quizzical and questioning, and with far less chunky paws. One thing you must know about me: I’m a sucker for big, fat, chunky paws, be they on a dog, a lion, a tiger, or even a cat. Blue Camo seemed like a daintier proposition to me. Plus, he didn’t give side-eye but aloof detachment.
GSDS, GSD SUB-TYPES, GSD COLOURINGS, WEST GERMAN GSDS, & MY GSDS:
One thing about German Shepherd newborns and pups for those of you who may be unfamiliar with the breed: they’re born all or mostly all black, but their colour slowly changes over the course of 18 months, the black recedes and their saddle, colour, and markings slowly creep up. When I got the “Hairy German,” he was heavily black in colour, then slowly turned to black and gold, before finally turning into black and red.
Since many of you love puppy photos, let me contrast Emile Zola’s photos with that of the late, great Kafka, a red sable great-grandson of one of the most famous GSDS to ever live in the 20th century: Troll.
Like rockstars Sting, Prince, and Cher, Troll was known only by one name, but his full, history-making official name was Troll von der bösen Nachbarschaft.
This is the point where I’m going to give you all an unwanted lesson on German Shepherds, They Who Must Be Obeyed and Worshipped. 🙂 What few outsiders realize is that there are really five (arguably 6, in my opinion) different German Shepherds, not one. Or to put it another way, there are six sub-types, and each one has a different general look, personality type, drive, health and breeding focus, and physical structure. A number of sites argue that the truest modern representation of the German Shepherd ideal intended by Baron Max von Stephanitz when he created the breed in the late 1800s is actually the West German working line shepherd. I personally agree.
My breeder, Alta-Tollhaus German Shepherds, specializes in the pretty stunning and rare “red and blacks,” which are primarily from West German blood lines (mixed with some East German).
Alta-Tollhaus GSDs come from West German working/IPO/KKL/SchH lines, which are subject to even more stringent rules than say, show lines. West Germans do not look like East Germans, Czechs, Belgian Malinois, Dutch Shepherds, American Shepherds, or the working and show variations on each group. My late Hairy German was a red-and-black from W. German working and show lines, but I previously had German Shepherds from STASI East German/DDR working lines, Czech & East German military/working lines, and a mix of both with European show lines.
In Germany and in most places other than America, GSDs can only be bred if they first qualify for a stringent set of examinations that measure every aspect of a dog and its health in multi-pronged tests: Schutzhund. Dogs that fail to conform in temperament, health, hips, elbows, ability, agility, protection, obedience, attack, and other things cannot be bred.
In America, the rules are… different. Health and genetic tests aren’t required, for one thing. Looks are the focus, not health, temperament, working ability, or breed behavioral standards. (This is one of many reasons why the German oversight GSD committee wants the American Shepherd to be an entirely separate, unrelated breed without the word “German” associated. But that is a story for another day.)
“Black and red” is a rare colouring for German Shepherds when they’re taken as a whole. German Overlords can range from black to white (not accepted as a breed norm) to shades of sable, heavy white and blonde hues (American Shepherds), blacks, black-browns with little saddling or blonde/gold (DDR and Czech lines), to the West German red.
What I love about Alta-Tollhaus and Julie Richards, the kind, warm, passionate, caring woman behind the line (whom I’ve known for 8 years now) is how much she cares about the dog’s health, temperament, and its treatment by its future owners more than absolutely anything else. I have never experienced a situation where I’m literally begging another person, repeatedly, for how I can pay them, but with Julie, she’s more interested in sending me five emails, EACH with 5 separate, long PDF files, on how to raise, feed, train, vaccinate, and take care of every possible facet of the pup’s life. (Did you know that tennis balls can remove a dog’s tooth enamel? I’ve had dogs for 30+ years and I never knew that, but that was just one little tidbit on page 26 of just one lengthy PDF on how to raise the best puppy you can, along with tips, tricks, and how to overcome problems.)
When I told many of you last month that the Hairy German, my soul dog, died in April, what I never told you was that I had to put him down due to Degenerative Myelopathy. I wouldn’t wish that on any dog owner. It was a ghastly, ghastly experience, even if it wasn’t so painful for him. Basically, DM is like Muscular Sclerosis, or MS, in humans combined with neurological loss. Death by slow paralysis, in other words.
Testing for Degenerative Myelopathy is a relatively new thing for most GSD breeders, but Alta-Tollhaus has done genetic testing to avoid it in all their lines for almost 20 years now. Zola’s breeder, in contrast, the man written up in magazines as being the “Rolls Royce of German Shepherd breeders” never once tested for it. Nor for anything else it seems.
In fact, it seems he didn’t do much of anything else except threaten to sue me when I stated on a GSD board that my new 4-month old puppy had just been diagnosed by a second vet and specialist as having bilateral hip dysplasia. The bloody man never once cared about his dogs or their health; he would have killed Zola had I ever sent him back, and he was more concerned with silencing people with threats of lawsuits than in making sure his dogs were healthy. (As it turns out, I’m not the only one he threatened with a defamation lawsuit for stating a medical diagnosis and medical fact. I may have been the only one to tell him to bring it on because I’d sue him back and to beyond, in addition to asking for damages and attorneys’ fes for a frivolous lawsuit that was legally unsubstantiated by the very definition of libel or defamation.)
I’ve taken this long segue to make a point: this will be one amazing, different puppy from a truly conscientious breeder, and I have to admit, part of me is slightly terrified that I won’t measure up! Sure, I’ve had GSD for decades, but training and socializing them during a pandemic when socialization is ill-advised and where much-needed (indoor-held) 6-week puppy courses on heeling and obedience walking (my one terrible blind spot, training wise) will be impossible in the age of COVID is quite a different thing entirely. Scientific studies show that puppy brain development is heightened and critically formed during the 8 week to 14 week stage — do I have the stamina at this point to train and socialize a German Shepherd each and every day for the next 8 months straight?
I’ll have to find that stamina — not just to train him in extensive obedience, not just to socialize him daily so that he’s not a loaded gun, but also to desensitize him to everything from other dogs to crowds, strangers knocking at the door, vacuum cleaners, hair dryers, pots, pans, cars, food removal, physical inspections, nail clippings, and tooth cleanings.
This means that my planned schedule for reviews will not be what I had anticipated back in the end of 2021. I honestly thought I’d be on the waitlist for months more to come, if not an additional year. (Last time on my Alta-Tollhaus wait-list, it was 18 months, and this was after she’d already known me for years, approved me, I’d filled out an extensive interview and questionnaire form, and been graciously spared the usual requirement of an in-person interview up in Michigan before she decided I knew enough about GSDs to be placed on the wait list to begin with! In other words, you have to prove yourself worthy of her dogs, and that’s only the first step! I think that’s fantastic. The sign of a truly serious, dedicated, conscientious breeder whose first concern are the pups, not the money. I wouldn’t want anything else! But what if I screw up this poor pup because I’m not capable of doing what I might have daily done 10 years ago and without a pandemic?)
The reason why this is suddenly so pressing is that my pup may be here as soon as Saturday or Sunday night! In the end, I got the “Blue Camo” boy who, to my surprise, it turns out is even BIGGER than the Blue Chonk and will be a much larger adult! Here he is at roughly 46 days of age, or 5.5 weeks of age:
“Blue Camo” boy’s name has been up in the air for weeks now and I think I will only be able to decide finally once I spend time with him in person. “Romeo” was always at the top of the list, even if it’s a bit cheesy, because this litter is supposed to be less high prey or super high prey drive than the others and filled with extra chill, extra mellow, sociable snuggle bunnies. (Well, relative to the Schutzhund/IPO norm, that is, not relative to regular dogs.)
With GSDs, names should ideally be one or two syllables in length, maximum, for training purposes. But “Blue Camo Boy”‘s deep thinker photos makes me wonder if I should give him a more philosophical name. Now, mind you, my family is positively HOWLING at everything I have mentioned for the last two months. My father insists that the only possible name is Wagnerian, preferably Siegfried or Wotan. My mom, siblings, and I just grimace and ignore him. But when I bring up Sci-fi names like Quark, Odo, Teal’q, they throw figurative, metaphoric tomatoes at me and moan. (Even my dad, a fellow Trekkie and Stargater! Shocking!)
Thus far, we’re on tap for Romeo, Gaius, Galileo, and Aristotle (shut up, I get enough grief already from my family!)(just be happy that I’ve given up Sophocles!), or whatever else he seems like when he arrives.
Speaking of arrivals, I joking say that the puppy will have his own chauffeur, but it isn’t really that far off the truth. I’ve been worried about all the dog deaths in the cargo holds of airlines like American, Delta, and United, and it’s especially cold now in Michigan which will be the city of departure. Sticking a tiny, young 8-9 week old pup in a gigantic, freezing cargo hold of an airplane seems incredibly traumatic. I’m not capable of driving 21+ hours to Michigan, nor do I want to fly in the midst of Covid. What my breeder suggested: a doggy chauffeur frequently used by American government agencies (FBI, DEA, CPB, prisons, FEMA) and regular human beings, not to mention a number of her clients. For roughly the same price (now that airlines have increased shipping/transport costs) as a ticket for a dangerous, “your pup may end up dying” cargo hold, this chap will drive your pup in his van (with heavy insurance) all across the country and bring your dog to your doorstep. No risk of airplane death at all and it’s more or less the same cost now, post-COVID ticketing prices. As I said, numerous federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, use him to transport their valuable, $20,000-$50,000-worth working professional K9s, so I think my little snausage-schnookums will be safe in his hands. No brutal airplane or cargo trauma for the same price, this is a glorious idea to me. (FYI, if you’re interested, his name is Raymond Wells and you can find him on FB with a large group he runs and that includes his many clients.
Long story short, perfume must fall to the wayside before the Holy German Emperors and my newest master will be here as soon as Sunday! So, yeah, don’t wait for my detailed breakdown of Chanel‘s Le Lion to order a sample off eBay or even a full bottle if you love labdanum, vintage Shalimar, old Mitzah, and vintage Coromandel!
And, yes, I actually am highly recommending a Chanel fragrance despit,e being someone whose entire brain gets scrambled upon the very mention of that Nazi she-devil. But Le Lion is glorious — as I will, hopefully, explain very soon, in-between puppy proofing the house, buying new collars and toys, removing all shoes and wires to a safe distance, and getting as much sleep as possible in advance of my future “potty every 20 minutes on the 20 minutes for 3 days straight” crate-pee-training. Also, the key thing to remember regarding that Nazi witch is that her intended Jewish victims now own the company, despite her attempts to use the Nazi legal and bureaucratic apparatus against them, in addition to turning to Nazi Aryan race laws, so don’t feel badly about buying Chanel!
I promise, I will get to Dusita, Ensar Oud, Serge Lutens, and the other Amouages as soon as I can manage. But I must tell you all bluntly that NONE of you matter as much as the floofy, snuggly German Overlords before whom I do abject obeisance. 🙂
PS — I will do my best not to spam you on this site with puppy paws, puppy tummy, puppy tongue, puppy ears, and more. But….. oh boy, on Twitter…. you’re all fair game. Also, as soon as HRH gets a name, he’s getting a Twitter account where I won’t be polite with just a photo or two a day.
You are all warned. THE GERMANS ARE COMING! 😉