Our old teachers.
That we are now literally and figuratively building our dream is partly due to earlier beautiful dogs from our past; Our teachers.
They made us feel what our true passion is, working with dogs! Through them we were allowed to learn about the language they speak through behavior, attitudes and many more beautiful subtle forms of communication. They showed us the way patiently.
We are grateful to them to this day and they will forever speak through our hearts, for what we are now allowed to bear has been taught to us by our past and present teachers.
Thor, Baldr, Mjollnir, Catja, Loki and Vidar* (and Thor, Floris and Freya living at home) what has Gwen been able to teach you and she. Lex, Elco, Branko, Hugo and Trip what did you learn Mario a lot and he did you. Roy, Njordi and Laoghaire we learn and enjoy every day from you and hope to be able to do this for many years to come!
In Memoriam: Vidar my Dancing Hunter (May 23, 2013 - May 25, 2023)
10 years ago, on May 23, 2013, a little red angel was born. A tiny Duck Tolling Retriever from Nova Scotia, who was born to do great things with me. His name: Rhineferry's Chips Ahoy, but for me it's already Vidar!
Vidar was the first Toller in my life after and at the beginning of his life next to very good otherwise and kind teachers. These were often Labradors and Jack Russells. It was a very conscious choice to also know this beautiful, red and versatile race and I have never regretted it for a second.
Together as one
From the moment he opened his beautiful, soft, loving eyes and literally showed up with his nose under my glasses, I knew he was my dog. Especially after a savvy woman told me not only use my professionalism to choose but also have confidence in my sence of feelings. Luckily the breeder (Chris Eelman) and dog Olav (Ootje) owner and now friend (Elsbeth Boertjes) saw this too and I was allowed to make my choice very early in the litter for "yellow collar" which later became one of the few Tollers that got the yellow belt, the famous Nimrod* line, and was proud to wear it.
With Chris, he got off to the best start he could wish for. A beginning full of love and enrichment. Twice a week I was allowed to visit him on from day one, the breeder lived wonderfully nearby and we knew each other well now. With Elsbeth we have spent a lot of time in the nest since day one with the two brothers Svennie and Vidar. Later, these two beautiful souls stayed friends and went through life as AA Brothers because they both managed to get that beautiful and coveted A hunting degree. Fortunately, we knew nothing of the fact that life would be intensely happy for both of them, but unfairly much too short. Vidar and I got to know each other very well at a very young age. As if it were yesterday I still remember the beautiful visits where he was already sleeping on his back on my knees. The little trips with all his brothers and sisters in a cart along the river Lek. The kind other future owners we got to know and who are still our group of (Toller)friends. The first encounter with my Baldr and Mjőllnir. And then the day came when he was finally allowed to come with me.
Everything was ready for him and the garden was a real puppy playground with a ball pool and all, balls that became his million in life. He did everything to play with me and his ball! Visited first puppy course and from day one only uninterrupted attention for me. As a trainer and behavioral therapist, it was wonderful to be a student again and to be able to work on an intense love collaboration. I loved to write again, which will later turn out to be a very beautiful book, starting with the first blank page. I had my own ideas of the paths I wanted to walk with this special dog. The sports I wanted to see if we could both enjoy and how to train for them. Purely out of love and drive and respect I wanted to work together, purely out of a sense of being together I wanted to achieve goals, goals that had to be fun and achievable for Vidar and me. Not because they had to, but because we wanted it both! Already there our statement "together as one" was born and how true it turned out!
Of course, for socializing and an important tradition, several terraces were visited with my two friends Hilda and Arianne. We immediately did everything together, dining, going to work, partying, walking, canoeing, train riding, skating, snowboarding and even horseback riding together!
During my time with my labradors, I did and gave hunting courses from the age of 16. So also with Vidar, I wanted to see if he would like it. From 8 weeks, we started working with his little feeding dummy, dumbbell and the clicker. The clicker method was, in the then often somewhat backward hunting world, still a completely new and unknown concept. But we just figured out how we could also use this nice learning method, which I already knew from other sports, for hunting training and in England they were already a bit more advanced, so I could l study further there. At the time, I would never have thought that all of this would lead to a very wide range of teachings in this form of training within the hunting training that I was going to develop. I also couldn't have believed in my wildest dreams that this would eventually lead us to the famous Nimrod. The 3rd Toller in Nimrod's 50 year history who's done this, so you're writing a piece of history! The fact that two great huntsmen told me one day "take a Toller now, we'll never see you again at the highest level A" of course planted a seed in the head of this sister of Pipi Longstocking 😉. But, as said, never because we had to but because we could and we wanted it together.
As a fast, curious but potentially vegetarian Toller, Vidar and I grow steadily with great care to work in peace, respect and love and great care which include play. We enjoyed participating in various forms of hunting competitions together. Club Graduation Days, SJP Field Trials, Map ( Multiple Apport test) and Tolling test and reached the highest levels with excellent marks. When he was 5 years old and managed to obtain three A results, we received the beautiful unique invitation to give the Toller the beautiful podium of the Nimrod between the best hunting dogs of each other hunting breed. It was a beautiful, unforgettable day where we really couldn't solve everything together, but where we could show what working together means. There followed 3 other invitations and participations in the Champions Trophy where he was again the only Toller to shine among the best Retrievers and even managed to solve all apports except 1! And then you emigrate to France where the contest form is only International Working Test and Field Trial and he also managed to qualify for the open class final. On the day of the final, however, our wedding was planned, so we'll never know how it would have turned out, but then again, never has a Toller managed to reach this level... Vidar never stopped to amaze me! With the points obtained, he was also allowed to participate in open class Field Trial competition, unfortunately fate decided otherwise.
We also had the chance offered by our friend and hunting trainer Marcel van Rooijen to help as picker up in some beautiful and well organized shootings in Belgium. They had never seen such a red fox there and if Marcel hadn't invited us, they probably wouldn't have taken us seriously in my purple outdoor pants. Because purple was also our hunting color. Purple meant united together. But soon the green gentlemen realized that such a small red fox should not be laughed at and we were immediately asked to come and help more often. What we liked to do to in the Netherlands and Belgium until our emigration. We then pursued this path in France where Mario himself obtained his hunting license, but also in Sologne he became a welcome hunting assistant in the big organized shootings. And we still did it our way 💪.
Even before Vidar came into my life, I met, now my friend, Brigitte van Gestel at the Animal Event. She gave a dogdance demonstration there and I gave a hunting training demonstration. I thought: I'm going to watch this strange sport. She danced a Passao Doble with her then, also so special, Toller Ruby. I was moved to tears and I knew immediately: I would like to achieve such an intense collaboration one day. Heelwork to music = moving together as one.....that feeling had to be magical, right? ! And so I was already on her waiting list even before Vidar was born and so I took my first steps on the Dogdance floor with him from 8 weeks. Totally out of my comfort zone, because boots and clay are just more my thing, we discovered this new world. The oh so loving and friendly Dogdance world, where there is such an unprecedented high good luck factor. The world of dog training that shows you can teach dogs endlessly without coercion or fear, where you can compete without being begrudged, where you learn and feel what real teamwork is all about. Where I've experienced that teaching your dog things that aren't necessarily already in his DNA package makes you a much better dog handler and trainer. That you can even learn outside of your comfort zone and can even go from a rhythmic wooden puppet to a pretty soulful Heelwork champion. Everything that this sport has taught us and brought to us, including many special international friendships. Hunting training and dog dancing have proven to be wonderfully complementary in all their differences and have taken us to great heights in both sports. We were allowed to become Dutch champion in heelwork to music together. We have been selected several times to represent the Netherlands at European and World championchips. We ended several times 11th out of more than 50 best heelworkers in the world. Were then 3rd best heelworkers in France and were therefore also allowed to represent France at the World Cup in Paris. Here we even became Heelwork To Music World Champion with the French team! No dog, to our knowledge, has been allowed to represent two countries before in its lifetime. Once again, my dancing hunter and I have written a piece of history.
Halfway through Vidar's good life, we met Mario. He too fell in love with Vidar and later also with me 😉. At this time in his life, Mario experienced great sadness and great emptiness. Vidar and I were allowed to be there for him and were allowed to stay there for him. Mario's dream was to live and work in a beautiful, spacious and quiet France and finally it also became my dream. Without Vidar by my side, I would never have dared to do this, but with Vidar I dared to say "I've never done it, but I think I can do it". Notably thanks to Vidar, "Les Chiens Sportives, our dream, your holiday" has become a success. His name recognition and his engaging and connecting character made us happy to be found and visited during so many great weeks of training holidays. In beautiful France in all its peace and space, I was able to transmit our knowledge and our passion with him. He was also allowed to be the great teacher with us for Njordi the working lab and Laoghaire the border collie who were allowed into our lives. They couldn't have asked for a better teacher. And there, in our new home country, he quickly managed to stand out with me and we were interviewed several times by the Charente Libre (a departemental French newspaper) about our special bond and our particular way to work together. Not because we had asked for it ourselves, but because others who had seen us had alerted them to us. We were also allowed to give an interview together for French radio during the dogdance world championships in Paris, I never thought I could or dared to do it, but with my Vidar by my side, I dared so much. He was good at it, being the center of attention and brilliant and also taught me to dare more, to have confidence in myself and to dare to spread and defend what I stand for. With this media attention and with it our nomination as the most special sports combination, he ensured that we as a company also gained name recognition in France and we were also allowed to show that working together by love and respect, by wanting instead of having to, leads to very beautiful thing.
In the same France, we quickly made ourselves known in the region with our beautiful and sweet collaborations. Through the grapevine we were asked if we would like to play in some retirement homes from time to time. I thought it would be wonderful to be able to make other people happy with our passion. Schools and benefit shows on live played music followed later. The smile he brought to so many faces is etched in my memory and those wonderful memories are priceless. With me, nothing was too crazy for him and he gave so much and with so much fun!
There are more than 80 trophies in his gallery of honor, which means that together we have been on the podium that many times either hunting or dogdancing. All of them makes me proud, but above all, of the way in which we were able to achieve this together. Besides all these exceptionally numerous and so beautiful achievements, Vidar was above all just my Vidar. my support and rock, my adorable teddy bear lying on his back in my arms, buddy in everything. Even our best man on our marriage. Every day with him was a party. His always endearing smile, his eyes that always looked into my soul, his always wanting to do fun things together, his always sensible character and his feelings made him the best friend I could wish for. Stand Up Paddling together, learning the most difficult puzzles together (he was incredibly persistent and intelligent in this area), enjoying nature together, skating together, doing mac drive together, playing pétanque together, snowboarding together, hanging out on the sofa together, going to the terraces together, swimming together, para veterinary together, doing behavioral therapy together, in short BE ONE in everything together. In good times and bad, everywhere he was there for me and we always did everything together!
And then Vidar fell ill last August, very ill. Cancer of the lymph nodes, he would only live 6 weeks maximum. My world has stopped spinning. But he also created miracles and amazed many oncologists. Among other things, he taught me the healing power that nature itself offers us and also how to live here and now and enjoy the moment. During this difficult but at the same time immensely precious period, I kept a diary. For myself, but also maybe to help and support other people when they have to go through similar grief, with the same doubts and facing similar impossible choices. This journal will be available for reading on our website in due course. However, I would also like to describe here the wonderful support in many forms that we received during this time (also internationally). The most beautiful charities were put in place so we could give him the best care and many beautiful sweet and wise words were shared. This and the fact that he and us as one proved to be an inspiration to many meant an incredible amount to us. For more than nine months, we managed to stay together in love and in dignity and happiness. The 10 anniversary that Vidar managed to give me as a gift and so we very consciously celebrated 1 more day of his intense beautiful life. Once as an early co-host of the oh-so-nice Pink Working Test **, "giving up is not an option" was imprinted on many dummy’s and how he finally got there. Stand so literally and figuratively to this sentence! So too short in age but in LIVE time we lived and lived together so intensely. I hope to stick to it, so that even with Vidar no longer by my side, but in my heart, I can still conquer the world.
He prepared Njordi to help me because I cannot do it alone. Love doesn't end where life ends, but Together as one also feels like alone as half and that hurts. Yet, I will proudly continue to share our story, Vidar's teachings with me, starting with this in memoriam.
Vidar my dancing hunter, you will never be forgotten... thank you for everything and much more.
For all the memorial images see Dutch version (Les Chiens Sportives - Onze oude leermeesters)
*Nimrod = the highest hunting competition in the Netherlands where from each hunting breed only the dog with the best results (and a minimum amount of winning points) is invited.
**Pink Working Test = Charity working test for research against cancer
Just a few highlights from my YouTube channel full of our beautiful memories 💜