Thursday, May 27, 2010


My recent columns might suggest that I have become a bit of a grave-hugger but fear not dear reader, it is but chance and coincidence that this piece follows the one that went before. But here’s a letter that I just had to deliver…

To the Nobel Committee (And whoever else cares to listen)

Dear people of the Prize, greetings from the land of the dead…

I’ve been dead for long… one month and seventy four years to the day, to be precise. And yet, not a day slips by when I don’t toss and turn whatever remains of me in my grave… for I just can’t RIP.

Homes, towns, barracks and borders rest in easy peace because of me, and yet I know no peace… for here I lie, all forgotten in my grave.

I concede I was no statesman, no diplomat of name, who flew around the world, brokering war and peace. I admit I was no evangelical do-gooder trying to heal the world nor fought for the rights of those wronged, and yet I feel that the “the world’s most prestigious prize” – the Nobel Peace Prize could’ve been mine.

You sneer and snigger and wonder why I, Max Von Stephanitz, a veterinary student and a mere captain in the king’s cavalry, ought to be rewarded thus for the fact that I bred a dog… but my word, what a dog!

Rural Germany of that time had a variety of intelligent canines, some herding sheep, others protecting homes. While each had its strengths, I wondered if I could blend all these qualities to create a super dog. With my experience in veterinary sciences I set about the task of unifying these varied breeds and creating what came to be known as the Deutscher Schaferhund or The German Shepherd Dog - a task that in terms of vision and difficulty rivaled Bismarck’s attempts to unify Germany.

Once the breed had been created, it was a picture of beauty and strength, and loyalty, devotion and intelligence that was supreme amongst the canine race. The first registered GSD was a dog called Hektor (later renamed Horand) and he epitomised all these qualities. The GSD was a companion and a colleague that shepherds were glad to have by their side.

However with the Industrial Revolution, the sheep and their pastures disappeared and even this great super dog started losing relevance in the rapidly developing industrial economy of Germany. It was at that point that I realised that the GSD, with its versatile intelligence and tremendous physical capabilities, could be just as much of a trusted ally in the city. And so, I recommended the breed to the local police force. Here the breed’s ‘kampftrieb’, its desire and ability to be protective of those and that it considered its own and that acute ability to use its nose and have the steadfast courage to follow the scent to the ends of the earth made the GSD into an instant hit. Police stations around the country wanted them.

I was thrilled with the success of my dogs. But a dark cloud loomed over Europe. The First World War erupted in the summer of 1914 and yet, even this unfortunate event couldn’t blight the glory of the GSD. The dog was an able comrade for soldiers in battle, as a sentry, as a search and rescue dog who sought and saved wounded soldiers and as a brave messenger who let neither bullet nor shrapnel deter it from its mission. And before you point a finger at me for seeking a ‘Peace Prize’ for creating a war weapon, keep in mind that the GSD was committed to saving lives not taking them… a canine version of the Red-Cross.

Like Bob, for instance… Germans Shepherds won numerous gallantry awards but even amongst them, Bob was special. During the war, many wounded soldiers would’ve bled to death or of their wounds if Bob hadn’t found them in the dead of night. Red Cross volunteers would search through the night but they could never be sure that they had rescued all from amongst the corpses. That’s when Bob would be pressed into action and this big German Shepherd, regardless of the soldier’s nationality, would find the wounded that the volunteers had missed, thus saving countless lives.

The GSD won fans across nations and enemy lines. And soon it became the most popular breed in the world. I was elated and I died a happy man.

From my final resting place, I observed the rise and rise of the GSD. It has busted crime by capturing drug smugglers; become eyes for the blind and ears for the deaf and given them freedom and independence; protected homes and people from violent crime; kept our streets safe by sniffing out criminals and acting as a deterrent; rescued sleeping families from poisonous gasses and fires; saved lives and limbs of men women and children from Afghanistan to Angola by detecting bombs, explosives and landmines around the world, making our world a safer place for you and your children and rescued people buried rubble.

Tell me Committee, aren’t these achievements comparable even to an alarmist IPCC, a two week old American President, a scam riddled UN or the contributions of leaders with blood on their hands like Kissinger and Arafat. And just in case you are considering, I know that you don’t dole out posthumous prizes. But you see I’m not asking for it for myself. You could give it to the SV(Society for the GSD). It would mean a lot to the people and their dogs who took man’s best friend and made it better…

Until then I’ll haunt these halls, watching you as you anoint others and suffering silently in my grave, along with those thousands of GSDs who died violent deaths so that you may live and know peace…

From a forgotten grave in Dresden…


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