Starting in sighthounds living with wolfhounds

By Alex Riva

Sighthound Review  Volume8, Issue4 Winter 2017

The Beginning

Many years ago I discovered the Irish Wolfhound. This happened in Milan. My wife and I were impressed by the great size and at the same time by the sweetness of these dogs.

We got some information and we did some research on the breed. We went to a few dog shows hoping to meet them, and shortly thereafter we got our first Wolfhound, Merlino. Everything revolved around him and the world of Wolfhounds. We made new friendships, always related to the world of this breed. Thanks to these friendships we were persuaded to let Merlino mate a bitch owned by a novice breeder, and so Parsifal was born.

Everything went well until we discovered that our beloved Wolfhound was suffering from liver shunt. At this moment we understood the importance of cooperating with the experienced breeders who care about the health of the dogs.

In just one year we lost our pampered and beloved family members, Merlino from pneumonia and Parsifal of a respiratory crisis, a consequence of the liver shunt.

At first grief, which later turned into a great void, filled our days. Many friends advised us to change breeds, to choose a less sensitive breed with greater longevity, but for us Wolfhounds are unique. Their eyes are more human than those of a human being, they forgive everything, they are magical, they are unicorns that lost their horns …

A Fresh Start

We know the problems associated with this breed. We have read a lot, we have consulted people who are more experienced than we are, and we decided to once again open our home to a puppy  but this time, starting on the right foot.

We wanted to turn the page and start a new chapter and that chapter was from “Pippi Långstrump,” a book written by the famous children’s author Astrid Lindgren. The breeder we bought our puppy from usually names each new litter from the characters of a book, and all the puppies got their names from that book. So “Tommy”  who is Pippi’s friend in the book came to live with us …

We were very happy to meet our new breeders, people who really love their dogs, who care about the health of their dogs before anything else, and who have dedicated their lives to trying to improve the breed.

A few months later we also brought home Will Scarlet, a puppy from the same breeders, so the family has gotten bigger.

In the last few years I have attended more dog shows; I love them and I love this life with Wolfhounds, but I never forgot, and never will, to take care of the dogs’ health first. Almost every day my wife and I go for a long walk with our dogs, and they are regularly checked by expert veterinarians.

Let me give you some advice … If you have decided to welcome a Wolfhound into your home, you’ll have to know some fundamental information, including how much time you need to spend with him, what kind of food to feed, what rules to impose, where he will sleep, what means of transportation you will use for traveling, what compromises you will make for holidays and week-end getaways. Furthermore, money is a factor that cannot be discounted.

To welcome such a gentle giant into your family must be a deliberate choice and considered in detail beforehand in order to avoid disappointment  both for you and for the dog. Only after carefully considering and evaluating all these different factors will you be ready to receive one of these wonderful creatures. But remember: there’s no going back … you won’t be able to live without this breed.

Starting to Show

I fondly remember my debut at the dog show. It was in 2013 that Marcello Poli, my good friend as well as the breeder of my dogs, asked my wife Ottavia and me to participate at the Spring gathering organized by the Italian Sighthound Club. We accepted the invitation, so I went to the show with Tommy, who at the time was three and a half months. Already at that young age, to prove his strong temperament, our little monster rebelled, stopped and sat down instead of moving around the ring, so I grabbed him in my arms to show him to the Sighthound specialist judge, Marina Ostrovskaya from Russia. This was the only possible solution. The judge rewarded him with the award “Very Promising.”

In the following months I became involved in the world of dog shows, initially as a visitor and later as an exhibitor. The first results weren’t long in coming and Tommy soon become an Italian Junior Champion. In the following months we started to also show Will Scarlet, who was 10 months younger than Tommy.

In recent years I have handled my dogs all around Europe, often with the help of Marcello and Ottavia. We have achieved important successes which have made me really happy and proud. I would also like to thank two other important professionals and friends for the work and dedication they has lavished on us over these years, so thanks to Francesca Cassin and Hugo Quevedo, groomers and handlers who will need no introduction.

Every year I have shown my dogs to internationally renowned judges, real breed specialists, always getting excellent results. Some of them are: Frank Sabella, Graham Hill, Rafael De Santiago, Marina Ostrovskaya, Jacqueline Kubat Quiros, Göran Bodegård, David Miller, Jocelyne Gagné, Marion Marpe, Frederic Maison, Andrew Brace, Chris Amoo, Gretchen Bernardi, Knut Blütecher, Peter Friederich, Björn Fritz, Bitte Ahrens Primavera, Markku Mähönen, Veronika Chrpová, Yves-Emmanuel Vilanova, Juan Vasconsellos, Wim Wiersma, James Sillers, Ludmila Fintorová, Lisbeth Mach, Rui Oliveira, Annette Bystrup, Maggie Holder, Gunnar Nymann, Andre v.d. Broek, Benjamin Sanchez Garcia, Marie-Christine Amand, Barbara Ruth Smith, Olaf Knauber, Marie-Josée Melchior, Peter Mazura, Tapio Eerola, Christian Jouanchicot, Marie Gadolin, Eli Marie Klepp, Grzegorz Weron, Colette Muldoon, et al.

Winning Titles

Tommy has gained several titles, including Italian Junior Champion, Club Champion, International Champion, Italian Champion, Stud Dog Champion, Slovenian Champion, Croatian Champion, VDH German Champion, DWZRV German Champion, Austrian Champion, Swiss Show Champion, Swiss Beauty Champion, and he’s also registered by the Italian Kennel Club in the list of selected stud dogs.

Among the most significant of Tommy’s victories I remember with pride August 2016, when he was BOS at the Donaueschingen Sighthound Festival under judge Mrs. Jocelyne Gagné. In May 2016 he was BEST IN GROUP at the international dog show in Saarbrücken (Germany) under judge Mrs. Marie-Josée Melchior. On 17 September 2016 he got BEST IN SHOW at the Autumn Championship Club Show in Italy under judge Mr. Wim Wiersma (Netherlands), and the next day he did it again, winning BEST IN SHOW under judge Mr. Juan Carlos Vasconsellos (Paraguay). In November 2016 Tommy won BEST IN GROUP at the international dog show in Geneva under judge Dr. Göran Bodegård (Sweden), and in August of 2017 he was again BOS at the Donaueschingen Sighthound Festival under judge Mrs. Annette Bystrup (Denmark).

Will Scarlet has also gained several titles, including Slovenian Junior Champion, Italian Junior Champion, Club Champion, International Champion, Italian Champion, Slovenian Champion, Croatian Champion, VDH German Champion, DWZRV German Champion, Austrian Champion, Swiss Show Champion and Swiss Beauty Champion, and he’s also registered by the Italian Kennel Club in the list of selected stud dogs.

Will Scarlet’s relevant wins are: In January 2015 he won BEST IN SHOW JUNIOR at the international dog show in Ljubljana under judge Mr. Tapio Eerola (Finland). In September 2015 he got BEST IN SHOW at the Sighthound Specialty in Lostallo, Switzerland, under judge Mr. Peter Mazura (Austria); in April 2017 he was Best in Show 2nd at the show in Greppin, Germany, under judge Mrs. Marion Marpe (Germany) and Mr. Andre v. d. Broek (Netherlands). In July 2017 he was BOS at the FCI Euro Sighthound show in Czech Republic under judge Mr. Benjamin Sanchez Garcia (Spain) and become Eurosighthound Winner; the following day he was BOB under judge Mrs. Marie-Christine Amand (Belgium), and in August he got BOB at the FCI Central European Sighthound show in Slovakia and was BIS 3rd under Sighthound specialist judges Jocelyne Gagné and Barbara Ruth Smith.

There is another gratifying thing that my dogs have given me that makes me feel really proud. Both my Wolfhounds have sired several litters in Europe. So far, Tommy has had two litters in Italy and three in France. Will Scarlet has had two litters in France and one each in Latvia, Czech Republic and Austria. For both, there will be other surprises in the coming months both inside and outside of Europe.

Two Great Events

I love this breed more than my life; as I have already said, I spend most of my time with them and with Wolfhound people. I’m interested in all events that concern this breed. In the last two years I have participated in several. I particularly remember two. The first was the European Irish Wolfhound Congress in May 2016 in Nörten-Hardenberg, Germany. On that occasion the veteran dam of my Tommy won BEST IN SHOW out of more 250 Wolfhounds. OMG, what a magic moment that was! The second was the Irish Wolfhound Club of America’s 88th National Specialty that took place last May in Geneva, New York. I’m thrilled to have had the opportunity to take part in these extraordinary events!

The Congress in 2016 was held in a really friendly atmosphere. I appreciated very much the contributions of Prof. Dr. Martin Fisher, Mrs. Pernille Monberg and Edita Beresova, Per Arne Flatberg and Dr. Maura Lyons, Prof. Dr. Peter Friedrich, Mrs. Outi Piisi-Putta, the IW Health Group UK and Dr. Frederic Maison for the French EIWC Congress 2018. All the topics were really interesting.

Last May the IWCA 88th National Specialty in Geneva was like a dream come true. There was a five-day program organized from Monday through Friday. In Europe the shows are totally different, as we have a maximum of two show days. There were five days full of of activities, including obedience, rally, straight-line racing for Irish Wolfhounds (LGRA), Sweepstakes and the Specialty show.

The presentation by Gretchen Bernardi, entitled “Judging the Irish Wolfhound - how a historical perspective informs your judging,” was also very interesting, a learning session for aspiring judges of the breed. This session was also open for breeders and regular breed fanciers. I want especially to thank Marcello, Daniela, Jocelyne, Larisa, Barbara and Joanne for this unforgettable trip. I would like to repeat this wonderful experience — soon, I hope.

Let me conclude by saying that everyone — owners, breeders, Wolfhound lovers, judges — should participate in these events. Learning, reading, studying, helping with research and working together to realize shared goals — these are the really important things!

Personally, I also spent a lot of time with old and new friends. I met the most important breeders in the world, and I was able to talk to them! Not bad for any enthusiast of the breed …

Sighthound Review  Volume8,

Issue4 Winter 2017