By Rosemary Bridgman
(From the first & last Victorian Pomeranian to the German Spitz)
In the spring of 1977 I went looking for a small spitz to be the more controllable companion of my retirement from 21 years playing the dog game with large, wilful and much-loved Elkhounds and Buhunds. Little did I think that my April Fool's Day puppy was to start an 8-year long and, unfortunately, often acrimonious campaign for the reinstatement of the large 'Victorian' Pomeranian. It all started innocently enough. I had seen so-called 'brood bitches' on visits to Pomeranian kennels - lovely big girls, usually 8 or 9 lbs, and over, which whelped large healthy litters at least some of which would be smaller, show-quality dogs. This, I thought, would be the ideal spitz for me: not so large as to require long exercising in the slush and snow of the English winter, but not so small as to be nothing of a lap dog, Buying one, though was not easy. Not unnaturally, an easy-whelping bitch In a breed not famous for this trait was more valuable than gold dust; and equally hard to find, But eventually I found a single bitch puppy from the last litter of a couple of pet-quality (because they were big) but very well-bred Poms, Previous litters had produced show winners and although this pup was going to end up about 12lbs, rather than the desirable 4 to 5, she was a lovely shape. (There is no doubt that, once a dog breeder and exhibitor, always a d. b. & e. - whatever your reason for buying a dog, you have to have one that pleases the eye as well as the heart!)
So, in June 1977 I became the proud owner of an orange Pomeranian bitch puppy APRlL FOLLY AT TORDOWN, who celebrated her change of ownership by being comprehensively sick for the 2 hours odd of the car journey home. In spite of this snag, a few weeks after I got her I was judging the Nordic show and, with nobody at home to look after my new treasure, she had to come with me. And THAT was where I made my biggest mistake! At lunch I got her out of the car to have a walk and she rapidly ended up in the judge's tent being fussed over and, finally, being paraded gloriously by herself in the big ring after the serious business of the day was over. So many other spitz owners who were also used to hurtling around at the end of a lead-full of stubborn spitz busy going places thought that this potential 12" and 12 lb. extrovert was the answer to their prayers!
And so, it all started off, ..."Why don't we ask the Kennel Club to reinstate the classes for the larger, over 7lbs Poms ... after all, they are the same breed, the ones that are on the K.C.'s first register in 1871, the ones that Queen Victoria bred and showed ... they still exist in 5 sizes, from Wolfspitz (Keeshond) to Dwarf Spitz (Pomeranian) on the continent and in Germany, the land of their birth - It's only the U.K. the larger sizes have been disposed as the size was miniaturised ... they could hardly be a more 'English' breed, In spite of their name; the first of them came from Pomeranian a district of Germany, with, the Hanoverian Kings in the 16th Century ... surely, two hundred years of history in this country should not end with the Poms being completely ousted by the modern, 20th Century toy version of the breed..." and so on and so on.
Unfortunately, although the arguments for the larger Pom's right to existence in this country were unassailable, there was a great deal of resistance from one quarter - the toy Pomeranian breeders themselves. Our dogs were dismissed as anachronisms, a long past historical 'dodo' of an animal - and all this while they were being freely used to breed from! It was just in the show ring they were not wanted, apparently.
So we plugged the breed and it's rights for 8 long years, showing whenever we could find suitable classes. Any Variety Spitz was a favourite because the judges were usually spitz rather than toy breed experts who appreciated a good dog even if it WAS double the breed standard in weight and, just occasionally, were prepared to indicate their support for our campaign by putting our dogs 'in the cards'. Probably our best win was with the striking black and white particolour LIREVA's HARLEQUIN AT TORDOWN, bred from two Dutch imports, TUM TUM VAN HET VLINDERHOF and VENESTEINS MAURICIA. He delighted me, and caused a right royal rumpus, by being made Best puppy In Show at very large Open Show, by a judge who had just run the rule over the breed on the Continent and said he had nothing there to remotely challenge 'Brock'. I have been lucky in making up Champions in my other spitz breeds, but I don't think I've even enjoyed a win quite so much as that one!
Folly did well in the ring too, as the first 'Victorian Pom' to be shown her extrovert personality and 'playing up to the ringside' temperament did a great deal to maintain the Impetus of the campaign in its early days. But probably her main contribution to the history of the German Spitz was as a result of her love affair with Tum Tum (the name of a small, coloured sweet very popular with Dutch children, I gather!). I was lucky enough to be able to buy Tum Tum, an 11" Dutch-bred white kleine Keeshond as they are known in Holland, from his importer.
From their first litter, born in 1978, Folly and Tum Tum produced consistently-sized (around 12") cream-coloured dogs and bitches of excellent quality, the most famous of which was undoubtedly Audrey Harris' much-loved and recently-lost TORDOWN THE BUNDLE OF JOY AT TOUVERE. At the same time I made another fortunate purchase, that of the last remaining bitch of a family, never miniaturised, descended from the very popular blue Poms of Victorian times. Registered as BOOGIE BLUE FROM TORDOWN, from her are descended as well as the blues, the blacks, chocolates and now silver spitz which grace the ring today's show rings. So in spite of the fact that re-registration and the change of name did not apply to Folly and Bluebell, and they remain registered as Pomeranians, these two are the undoubted 'grandams' of the German Spitz (with a little bit of help from Tum Tum!). And I think its fair to say that the excellent, extrovert temperaments and the profusion of fascinating colours which make the German Spitz such an exciting breed to own are due in no small part to them - both somewhat grey around the muzzle now but still with an eye for the boys and all the wilful charm of their youth!
All this at the same time as we were conducting our campaign for reinstatement with the Kennel Club which even got on to television just before Crufts in, I think 1982 or 1983. This seems to have proved the turning point and the Kennel Club (not exactly famous for an imaginative and non-beauracratic approach) finally realised the larger Poms were not going to go away and that they would really have to start talking to their owners. The variety's growing popularity, the formation of the German Spitz Club in 1982 (of which I was proud to be elected the first President), more and more litters being bred, imports from the continent of Europe and classes for 'over 7lb Pomeranians' being scheduled at shows made it more and more difficult to sustain the myth that the breed no longer existed! SO, to cut a long story short, as a result of a final meeting early in 1985, the breed was reborn under its proper name of German Spitz and in the two -sizes, Kleine and Mittel, to fit neatly between the toy Pomeranian and the Keeshond, as the Wolfspitz is known in the U.K.
And so I come to the end of my story. Some eight years later Folly, the first and last Victorian Pomeranian, and I finally retired from the dog world. But the delay was worth while; the German Spitz's future was assured and its popularity would grow and grow.