My name is Ruth Stolzewski, I was born 1983 in Germany (Bavaria) and moved to Sweden in 2020. I own Great Danes since 2007 and breed them since 2017.
My love for Great Danes started already when I was a child, but unfortunately my parents didn’t allow me to have my own dog. So I had foster dogs and walked the dogs in the neighbourhood and the local animal shelter for many years. I started to collect everything about Great Danes, books, posters, articles, etc. and subscribed the magazine of the German Great Dane Club (DDC – Deutscher Doggen Club) starting from the middle of the 90ies. This is a picture I drew when I was about 12 years old and it shows how I imagined my future:
Only when I was 24 years old I could finally fulfill my dream and got my first own Great Dane – Ludwig. With him I became member of the DDC (Deutscher Doggen Club) and started to train every weekend in the Berlin division of the club. I took part in several obedience seminars and competitions with him and was an active member of the club.
In this time I got a lot of background information about the Great Dane and had to find out, that it suffers from a lot of health issues and reaches an average age of only around 6,5 years. And unfortunately many breeders but also officials of the kennel clubs try to rather hide those problems instead of solving them. Also the appearence of the Great Dane has changed significantly in the last decades, especially in continental Europe, even though the written standard hasn’t actually changed. The “continental dane” or “hypertype dane” ressembles much more a Mastino than the noble and elegant Apollo of dogs described in the standard. I started to get very interested in all issues connected with dog breeding and gathered a lot of information via books, movies, seminars etc. Since I have a Bachelor’s degree in “Nature Conservation/Wildlife Management” I already knew a lot about biology, zoology, genetics and population genetics. I used the abilities I achieved in my second degree “Film- and TV-design” to produce several information films about the health issues of the Great Dane – especially the heart disease DCM. I was then also tasked with making several films about the heart problems of the Doberman Pinscher. Furthermore I started to get engaged into the private pedigree database “www.danesworld.info” in which hundreds of thousands of pedigrees of Great Danes worldwide, but also many other informations like health tests, datas of death and statistics are gathered. I wrote several analysis and articles about the breeding situation of the Great Dane which have been published online, but also in magazines, such as the one of the Swiss Great Dane Club. For them I also produced a video about the comprehensive temperament test and even lived for a while in Switzerland and worked as a kennel girl for the “Perasperaadastra” kennel, which is active for 50 years now. I raised altogether 3 litters there and gathered a lot of practical experience in Great Dane breeding.
In 2014 I picked up my second great dane, Gaia, from the Finnish kennel “Jättiläisen”. She was supposed to become my first breeding bitch and matriarch of my own kennel. I registered the kennel name “vom Irschener Winkel” in Germany and had my first own litter in 2017, in which Alma was born, my little harlequin planned child. Already as a young girl I dreamt about breeding great danes and this dream had now been fulfilled. I guess I have inherited this “dog gene” from my grandmother on father’s side, who herself was breeding Airedale Terriers.
In the meantime I continued my educational work about dogs, breeding and Great Danes and in 2016 I produced my first long documentary (100 minutes) “Freund oder Feind” (“Friend or Enemy”) about the ambiguous relationship of humans and dogs. It was shown in several cinemas and on seminars in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and a shorter version was even broadcasted in Swiss Television SRF. I also wrote many articles for different dog magazines in the German-speaking countries, such as Breeder Special, Partner Hund, SitzplatzFuss, Schweizer Hundemagazin, Wuff, Hundewelt Sport, Yourdog etc.
Since the situation of the Great Dane has not improved, because the German breed clubs opposed any changes to a betterment, I started the initiative “Association for Healthy Great Danes” together with other breed enthusiasts in 2018. It included an educational website, a magazine, a quality seal for responsible breeders, a research project for DCM and bone cancer and many other ideas.
My yearslong educational work for a healthier Great Dane was already unwelcomed by the German breed clubs before, but this effort of mine led to the withdrawal of my membership in the DDC – without naming any reasons – after more than 10 years and the honoring with a silver needle. In Germany a breeder has to be a member of a breed club, because the pedigrees are issued directly by them. In all other countries the pedigrees are issued by the national kennel clubs. The breed clubs in Germany can refuse and cancel a membership without reasoning. This leads to an almost dictatory system and a code of silence amongst breeders. Because every breeder who opposes the system risks to loose the opportunity to breed dogs with FCI pedigrees (The FCI is the international dog federation). And this happened to me. After two litters, owning two health- and temperament tested females with breeding license and not having violated any rules, I was not able to breed Great Danes with FCI pedigrees anymore in Germany. I could have changed to another breed. Or breed without pedigrees – or pedigrees of one of the small dissidence clubs outside the FCI. But this was not my intention.
I was not going to give up my childhood dream of breeding Great Danes, and since I want to improve the breed with my efforts – and not only produce puppies – I need to breed in the worldwide population, which is only possible with FCI pedigrees. I was anyway already for a longer time thinking about leaving Germany – because I had not a lot to loose there and was always a traveler who has lived in many other countries such as Great Britain, France, Romania and Switzerland. I love to get to know other cultures and learn new languages! In the last years I travelled every summer for several weeks through Scandinavia, from the very south until the Nordkap and got to love this wonderful part of the world with its beautiful nature, relaxed people and just a lot of space for being who you are.
During my journeys I also visited several Great Dane shows and breeders and was even invited to judge the Color Show of the Finnish Great Dane Club in 2019. Finland has in my opinion the best Great Danes worldwide right now and the strictest breeding rules. Generally the quality of Danes is much better in Scandinavia then in Continental Europe, because most breeders still adhere to the standard and don’t follow the hypertype trend. They also put a lot of effort in importing dogs and semen from all around the world. I was also supposed to judge the Color Show of the Swedish Great Dane Club in 2020…
Sweden has always been my favorite of the Scandinavian countries and I dreamt about moving there already for a while, into a red wooden house by the water. The whole Astrid Lindgren cliché please. Yeah we Germans have a special connection to Sweden due to this famous child book author, because we have all grown up with the adventures of Pippi Långstrump, Emil i Lönneberga (he is called Michl in Germany) and the children in Bullerby 🙂 I have looked for a house and learned the language already for 2 years when I found my dream home in summer 2020. A red wooden house by the sea and in the forest. On an island not far away from Stockholm. This is the kind of accommodation you just cannot find in Germany, only when you are extremely rich. Because Germany is totally overcrowded and the traffic hotspot of Europe. And of course, there aren’t thousands of lakes and fjords in Germany 😉
So in the end of August 2020 I moved together with my dogs and cats to Sweden and in beginning of October my precious girl Alma got her first litter, named after Astrid Lindgren characters to honour my new home country 🙂 From this litter I kept Ronja Rövardotter. In Sweden the FCI pedigrees are issued by the National Kennel Club SKK (in which I am a member of course) and the breeders are not forced to join the breed club. Furthermore the breeding rules give me much more opportunities to do systematic color crossings and use males from all over the world – which is inevitable to widen the gene pool and thus improving the health of the dogs. And so in my first Swedish litter I used a black male with fawn father from the kennel “Perasperaadastra” where I have worked as a kennel girl. And in my second litter I used a male from Denmark with American ancestry. Out of this “Viking” litter I kept Leni-Lagertha.
Sweden has welcomed me with open arms and I feel like I have always lived here. I adapted quickly and speak Swedish fluently. Right now I live with three generations of Great Danes and it is fantastic to be part of a naturally grown pack of four dogs. We enjoy the beauty of the Swedish nature every day on our walks through the forest or on the beach. My dogs accompany me almost everywhere and are of course full members of the family who live in the house and sleep on the sofa. With my youngsters I always visit the dog school – I am member of Svenska Brukshundklubben – and socialize them in the nearby town and in dog parks. Because around our house we only meet deers and moose 😉 For me it is of utmost importance that my dogs are well trained because I want them to enjoy as much freedom as possible and to follow me wherever they are allowed to. We rarely visit shows and if then mainly for a meet and greet. Champion titles mean nothing to us, we don’t collect ribbons but life years 😉
Since I wanted a more international kennel name which can be pronounced by everyone I changed it to “GaiAlmas” which is a combination of my foundation bitches Gaia and Alma. I want to honor their legacy with this name. Right now I am planning the 4th generation of “GaiAlmas” danes and have many ideas for the future.
This website is written in English, because I want to adress an international audience and didn’t want to translate it into three languages. But I talk English, German and Swedish. Ich spreche Englisch, Deutsch und Schwedisch. Jag pratar Engelska, Tyska och Svenska.