Near the "beautiful waters" of the Gulf of Mexico, 
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      Schonwasser Shepherds                                 (850) 478-3725
                                                                                                                      German Shepherds from West German Imports & Offspring                                        
                               
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My Story


clockwise from upper left: Camo, me, sisters Ameika and Annalise from our "A" litter (dam is Fannie), and Isabella (front left) Photo Credit: Abigail Rodgers

My "Real" German Shepherd Story

     In 1970, when I was 13 years old, my father brought home a nine-month old male German Shepherd, Field Marshal Rommel IV, a direct descendant from the famous movie dog, Rin Tin Tin! I was put off by his size, and our elderly collie, the only dog I had ever owned, was (like me) less than enthusiastic about our new family member. Rommel was highly intelligent, very intimidating in size, but a complete clown. Within days, I was absolutely charmed. I trained him in obedience, won a trophy, and I was hooked for life. I had always been a dog lover, but now, as far as I was concerned, there were now only two breeds: German Shepherds, and "everything else"! When my beloved Rommel was killed in an accident, my heart was broken. I determined to someday have a dog as fine as he. It was due to all my childhood stories of him that my children insisted on calling 2002 puppy by his name and in his honor, "Rommel."

      Imagine my dismay when I married the love of my life in 1977 and he confided to me two things: (1) he didn’t really like dogs (um....WHAT?!), and (2) if he ever did have a dog, there was one breed he would never own…you guessed it! I had some work to do. As I began to spin my dog tales, he softened. When I was sure he was finally won over, I gave him a wonderful gift for his birthday in 1982: "Chad". He proved to be the dog that won over my husband totally to the breed. I trained Chad in obedience, but when I took him to an AKC show, I was disappointed to find that his very German style was "not what they were looking for." He had a solid build, a wide distinctly male head, a broad chest and hips, a steady temperament and a quick intellect. At my first show, one of competitors bid me farewell by saying, "I guess we won’t be seeing you again…" I felt as though we were playing a game of musical chairs, and I had been left without a seat. Had I missed something?

     We purchased an expensive AKC female, "Darcy", had a beautiful litter. Darcy had been purchased from a reputable kennel, but she was very different from Chad. With a deeply angled rear, she had the popular low-slung gait. She looked great, but from a training standpoint? She was worthless. Thankfully, her son, "Cody", was more like his sire, Chad, who at nearly 100 lbs was a formidable dog. One dark night, Chad saved me from an attacker without any formal protection training and without laying a tooth on the man who was after me. He was an amazing dog. Chad passed away at age 11; his son, Cody, lived to be nearly 12. Neither of these dogs has contributed any progeny to Schonwasser Shepherds, but their spirit, beauty and intelligence continue to inspire me.

     In 1993, when it was apparent that Chad would be soon leaving us, I began shopping for his sucessor. Our children were young (under age 5), and I selected a female, again from a reputable kennel. Although "Giselle" came with a great pedigree, immediately attached herself to our children and was a wonderful "nanny" to them all her 9 years of life, I again noticed that her trainability and her natural instincts seemed dull. I began to question my breed choice: WHAT WAS GOING ON??  When Giselle passed away in 2001, my husband asked that we take a "dog break" and I agreed. I researched and read, trying to find out what was going on with the breed I loved. When I compared my first dog (born in 1969), my second dog, Chad (born in 1982) to my other dogs, Darcy and Giselle, I had noticed a difference. Was it my imagination? Was it their gender? Then I came upon an amazing article by Fred Lanting, "Quo Vadis, Pastor Canen Germanus?" (German Shepherd Dog, Where are you Going?)  http://siriusdog.com/german-shepherd-dog-von-stephanitz.htm

At last, I was enlightened. 
     It wasn’t my imagination: there had been differences in my German Shepherd dogs. In fact, they were NEARLY a separate breed. Both my females had been "Americanized" German Shepherds. What I was longing for was a dog with a solid body, a strong back and legs, a steady temperament, and a sharp intellect with the ability to train for multiple purposes. I had heard about the sport of Schutzhund and began going on various websites to learn all I could about the "real" German Shepherd. I loved the AKC Obedience competition for CD, CDX and UD, but the SchH title was more difficult to attain and included a carefully proscribed protection aspect. I was amazed to learn that no police department in America will buy anything other than a German Shepherd from German lines.   I began calling various kennels and sending out email inquiries, but everyone was trying to sell me something. I had learned my lesson: I was going to be very picky and I was going to get a "real" German Shepherd this time.

     My search led me to the Working Dog of America website
and then to the Carolina German Shepherd Working Dog Club. 
 The president of the club spent a long time with me on the phone. One of the many things he explained was that that there were breeders who were hobbyists who loved the breed and lived with their dogs, and then there were kennels. There was a difference.  After an hour of conversation, he finally let me know that he knew of a "pick of the litter" male pup for sale. Although I had been unaware that I was being interviewed, I had "passed" the first test. The next day, I drove six hours to Charlotte, North Carolina, and as soon as I saw him, I knew he was mine. At long last, 32 years after falling in love with the breed, I had found my REAL German Shepherd. "Buddy vom Friebele" came home with me and became our "Rommel". **

      Epilogue: In the spring of 2008, we purchased the German import, Meika, in the hope of having one litter of puppies in 2009. Sadly, Meika lost two litters in 2009 and had to be spayed. A wonderful family contacted us looking for an older female as a family pet, and with many tears, I finally agreed to the adoption. I guess sometimes dogs come "to" you and sometimes they just pass "through" you.

In 2009, we arranged for Fannie vom Haus Kirschental to fly to Atlanta from Germany when we purchased her from the world famous Kirschental kennel in Germany. ** Sadly, our beloved Rommel passed away in February of 2011 before he was able to produce any offspring with Fannie. He has contributed no progeny to Schonwasser Shepherds.

But Fannie did produce our first litter with Camo vom Windmill II in February of 2013; and Fannie's brother, Fritz, had produced a wonderful litter of puppies in 2010 at the See Stadt Kennel in Lake City Florida. From See Stadt, we purchased "Isabella" who completed her Search & Rescue training in March of 2013. Although we have no access to Schutzhund training in our area, we remain firmly committed to producing German dogs from the very best lines with the ability to work, to serve, and to become lifetime family companions.


 
 

        Schonwasser means "beautiful water." Many people don't realize just how much Shepherds LOVE the water! When we had to choose a kennel name, we wanted something that reflected our geographic location as well as the playful spirit of our dogs, all of whom love to swim (video of Camo in our swimming pool coming soon to a theatre near you!) We googled kennel names and ours is the only one in the world with this name (although there is a town in Germany named for its proximity to a lake).

 

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