A Passion to Survive: Story 1 Part III

A Passion to Survive: Story 1 Part III

By: Kerrin Winter-Churchill  Date: 11/17/2006

All modern Boxers of American breeding can trace their bloodlines back to the immortal champion,  Bang Away of Sirrah Crest.  Ask around if anyone remembers "Bang Bang" and you'll end up with enough superlatives to form your own advertising agency.   Bang Away was a departure from Boxers of his day - far ahead of his time.  Whelped in 1949 he broke  the American show dog records, being the first to win one hundred best in shows.  A watershed sire, his streamlined looks gave birth to the modern Boxer of the United States.  Alive in the fabulous fifties, his California breeders enjoyed Bang Away's sensational career and he lived the good life, in a luxurious home with plenty of visiting ladies to keep him company.  Certainly, the life and times of Bang Away were in great contrast to the ancestors that he is line bred upon.  They struggled for survival in Germany during the devastating 1930's and their breeders suffered greatly for not just their own dogs but for the existence of the breed itself.   Looking back into his pedigree, we must pay homage to Bang Away's most important ancestors,  the international champions Sigurd vom Dom of Barmere and Dorian von Marienhof of Mazelaine.  These dogs lived in an era of terror and unrest.  Remarkably,  their breeders persevered against a backdrop of Nazi infestation.  Attempting to carry on with breeding programs, scratching for food - staving off starvation - clearly, these breeders were fighting for their lives in a poverty-stricken country,  teetering on the brink of war.

The Vom Dom Boxers
In 1911, the young art student, Friederun Stockmann began breeding Boxers under the prefix Vom Dom* in a small town near Munich. Educated and groomed  for a career as an artist, Friederun fell in love with the Boxer breed while still a student and discovered that her greatest artistry would come through dog breeding.  By the time of the Great War, she and her husband had long-ago dedicated themselves to a breeding program to upgrade the physical and mental qualities of the Boxer.   Their plans were already working and they owned a dozen or so dog who were winning at the shows. Had they been almost any other dog breeder, their breeding program would have stopped when Phillipp Stockmann was given the rank of Captain and called away to the front.   But these people had true breeder's hearts and nothing - not even a world war could falter their plans. Placing his hands on his wife's shoulders he said, "I know you can do it" and with that, he and several of their prize Boxers left for war.    This was a cruel war and by its end Stockman was down to one dog - the Vom Dom foundation sire.   Rolf v. Vogelsberg had survived nerve gas and constant shelling.  Soon after his return home he went on to win his fifth Sieger.  He also resumed his stud dog career,  founding a dynasty of Boxers for the Stockmanns' Vom Dom prefix. Fast forward twenty years and another war is stirring.   By the 1930's the Stockmanns are well-established as the premier Boxer breeders of Germany.  Fanciers across the Atlantic are paying close attention to German show records, poising themselves for the importation of quality sires for their American kennels.  In 1936, the dual Seiger , Sigurd Vom Dom is brought to Illinois for Miriam Breed of Barmere Boxers. Sigurd's American show career flourishes and he wins his share of Best in Shows but it is as a stud dog, siring twenty six champions - that he leaves his true mark on the breed.  Sigurd is a watershed sire in his own right.  He is also the third great grand son of the venerable Great War canine veteran,  Rolf v. Vogelsberg 

Was it one of Sigurd's two Best in Shows that caused the Wagners to beat the Boxer drums?  Whatever the reason, they soon abandoned their Great Dane breeding program and threw their hat in the Boxer ring. The moment must have been a significant one - time stands still when greatness enters the room and if it weren't for the patronage of John Phelps Wagner of his wife Mazie, Boxers in the United States would be a very different dog altogether, today.

The Wagners’ Take Up the Cause
Between world wars, Boxer popularity grew in America.  Wealthy Milwaukee residents, Mr. and Mrs. John P. Wagner, were eager to learn about the breed.  They became Frau Stockmann’s favorite American protégé’s and in return, the wealthy Wagners were generous benefactors to Frau Stockman who struggled greatly to keep Vom Dom going despite war induced poverty.  Over the years, the Wagners imported plenty of quality Boxers from Vom Dom.  But as history’s legacy reveals, the great Dorian von Marienhof, was the Wagner’s most important sire.

Dorian Von Marienhof of Mazelane was born in 1933. He was bred by Frau Tehekla Schneider, mistress of Marienhof Kennels, in the eastern region of Germany and sold as a puppy to a butcher who's family adored him as both a companion and as a show dog.  Dorian was a sensation in his day and the Boxer world - on both sides of the Atlantic was ignited by his flame.   When he won the International Seiger title in 1936, the American Boxer enthusiast, Mazie Wagner of the Mazelaine prefix was watching.  Rushing down the bleachers she shook hands, congratulating the owner,  pleading to purchase Dorian for America.  The request was well-noted but denied.  Then, a telegram, offering the butcher four thousand dollars (approximately fifty thousand dollars in today's market) for the dog was sent on Christmas eve and soon, the Boxer ship set sail.  Imported by the Wagners in late, 1936 Dorian went straight to the top of the American dog show scene, beating all comers in the Working Dog Group of the 1937 Westminster Kennel Club.  As a sire, Dorian, like his grandsire and uncles - is an immortal.

Eastern Germany; a Loss to the Dog World
Very little has been written concerning Dorian’s kennel of origin, Marienhof.   An important prefix before WWI, Marienhof had the misfortune of being located on the eastern side of Germany.  In 1945, many great kennels were lost to the Soviets as Germany was divided. For a time, eastern breeders of all breeds were completely cut off from their parent clubs.  Most of these unfortunate eastern kennels were looted, for the “common good.”  Forced into servitude and hard labor, many breeders had to abandon their beloved dogs. Marienhof was just one of the unfortunate many. Had they kept Dorian, he would have been lost to the breed and Americans would never have known Bang Away of Sirrah Crest.

The Battle of Type
Ask an old timer and they’ll agree, “Bang Away forever changed Boxer type.”  According the late dogman, Howard Nygood, “before the war, Boxers were a robust working dog and much heavier in bone. Of Bang Away, some said he was over-refined, others said he was elegant.”  A popular quote from the day is “he’s not a Boxer but he’s going to do a lot of winning.” 

Bang Away’s career was sensational.  In 1951 he took Best in Show at the Garden followed by Best of Breed at the American Boxer Club’s national.  Both times he beat a Wagner dog, Ch. Zazarac Brandy, who’d earned both of those distinctions in previous years.  In a letter from Frau Stockman to Mrs. Wagner, dated April 11, 1951, Stockman writes a personal critique of the two dogs; “you know that I like Bang Away but I like Brandy more because of him being more Boxer.” She continues “I should like to have Bang Away’s (temperament) for my own dogs but “I think Brandy would be the better one for breeding.  I always notice that a dog being bitchy is never a good sire.”   This sounds like blasphemy until we realize that Bang Away’s type was revolutionary.  Stockman spoke prophetically.   Bang Away didn’t sire old-fashioned Boxers.  He stamped his sons and daughters with his Type.  They were American showstoppers and the world never looked back.  How exactly did Bang Away come by all this prepotent elegance?  His pedigree is the key.  An intense study reveals no less than eight crosses back to Dorian in four generations - Dorian, the grandson of Sigurd Vom Dom. 

We’ll never know how Boxerdom would be different had Marienhof survived Communist Germany. Vom Dom survived two world wars, arriving on the other side with a prolific gene pool to offer the world but the breeders' success was not without great tragedy.   A dedicated countryman, Phillip Stockman willingly served Germany during WWI and his sacrifice is evident in the six homebred Boxers that he lost on the battlefield.    But was Stockmann a Nazi supporter?  Twenty years later, when Hitler took control of the country, German citizens were forced to serve their military.   To do otherwise was to risk death in concentration camps - a favorite threat of the Nazi thugs who ruled Germany in a world turned horribly upside down.   From her writings, it is clear that Frau Stockmann - like most well-educated Germans - despised Hitler and his gang. How her husband felt, we will never know but they were very close and shared a vision in their breeding program so one can assume, they were aligned politically as well.  Ironically, at the end of WWII, the German death camps became prisons for an estimated ten thousand German soldiers - who were forced there by the victors.  The master of Vom Dom, Phillipp Stockmann was one of those who died in a concentration camp before his name could be cleared.  Now, a war-weary and heartsick Friederun  carried on without her husband.  What better solace than to surround your broken heart with dogs?  What better way to keep busy than to become a great breed mentor for a world embracing the Boxer after the war?  Frau Stockmann never recovered from the despair and devastation she had suffered because of the war.  But her pain was eased by the hundreds of fans and a handful of patrons that held the name "Vom Dom" high above the rest.   With the help of these Americans, Frau Stockmann began a new journey as "Mother of the Boxer Breed".  Invited to America to judge the national specialty,  it was she who first discovered Bang Away as a little puppy - pulling him out, awarding him first prize.  Through his veins coursed the blood his ancestors - the dogs of Vom Dom - through her knowing nod,  Frau Stockmann sent Bang Away on his way to immortality.

How dedicated are you as a breeder?  Do you have a burning passion for your breed?  What would you do if faced with starvation caused by air raids,  floods or nuclear war?    Would you abandoned your dogs or try and carry on for the sake of your breed? 

* Note:  If you are a Boxer enthusiast you will no-doubt wonder about the spelling of the word "Vom" rather than the way it usually appears as Von.  Does it disturb you to see the word spelled incorrectly?  In Frau Stockmann's book "My Life in Boxers" the American editor explains how the name, Vom Dom - translated as "Of the cathedral" is often mistyped as "Von Dom", which means "The Cathedral"  The name Vom Dom is one that Frau Stockmann chose early in her career - named for a terrible but beloved brute of a dog, "Pluto" who had a habit of picking dog fights near his favorite turf - a local church - causing Frau Stockmann no small embarrassment.   She explains that later in life, after becoming a successful breeder, rivals considered this name pretentious, interpreting it to mean that the Stockmann dogs were on high with God.  In reality, Pluto was "Pluto Vom Dom" because that is where he was most likely to be found.  Picking fights at the gates of the cathedral.  Sometime ago, America writers began using Von rather than Vom when penning stories about the famous German dogs. The incorrect spelling of the word persists to this day. But to say the name, Pluto Von Dom translates to "Pluto the cathedral" - knowing the translation, the use of the word Vom - "Of the catherdral" makes much more sense.

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