This is a tribute to Gazze von der kleinen Birke, who passed away on February 3rd 2021.
In ancient Chinese philosophy yin and yang is a concept of dualism, describing how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected and interdependent in the natural world, and how they give rise to each other or they interrelate to one another. -expert from Wikipedia
Start of Obedience phase at the 2018 WUSV World Championship in Randers, Denmark.
Gazze and Mike Diehl made a formidable team. Together they won two national championships and placed third at the WUSV world championship, achievements that easily place them in rarified company of the elite in the sport. What really caught my attentions was the way that they performed.
Mike has dogsport at the core of his life. He trains daily, is a Police K9 handler and operates one of the best known IGP clubs in the country called OG Indy. Mike has won seven national championships (1 AWDF, 5 WDC, 1 USCA GSD National), placed third at the WUSV and competed in a hand full of world championships. Mike is also a two time DPO National Champion and has competed at two DPO World Championships. In all, Mike has more than 30 years of dogsport experience.
3rd Place 2017 WUSV IP World Championship in Tilburg, Netherlands with Team Captain Mike Sweeney.
Mike first saw Gazze in July 2015 when a friend brought him to OG Indy . Gazze had recently been imported from Germany. He was 18-months old and had only a basic obedience BH title. Mike was impressed with the young dog. Less than a year later, Mike learned that the handler was not getting the results she expected from Gazze’s early audition and the dog was a handful. Mike was interested, a deal was stuck and from that moment Mike and Gazze were a team. Gazze would spend the rest of his life with Mike. It had been close to a year since Mike had seen him. Upon reuniting, Mike thought Gazze seemed smaller than how he had remembered. He weighed in around 80 lbs and his helper Mike Sweeney sarcastically joked “Where’s the rest of him?” The kidding quickly turned to silence when Gazze hit the field. Gazze did everything with shocking raw power. Like anything that is super powerful, he was not easy to handle. He leaked and was noisy, even in the long down. Mike’s apatite to train and intense dedication was exactly what Gazze needed to achieve this dog’s potential. With Mike Diehl as his partner, Gazze thrived and within a year was competing at world level.
Mike Diehl is reserved and calm. He has a sureness about him that is confidence inspiring. On the field, his handling exudes an air of competence, clarity and experience. One does not need to be trained in a discipline to recognize expertise. It usually isn’t the loud and dramatic that are the best in their field. Instead, at the highest level of any endeavor, less is more. When the performance is of the highest quality, there is no need for fanfare. A performance speaks for itself. The purity of efficiency, power in absolute control, and precision of execution are universally apparent.
2019 USCA GSD National Championship in Pittsburg, PA.
Gazze was the perfect balance for Mike. This dog is the embodiment of lightning in a jar. Like a loaded spring, cocked and ready to unleash it's massive kinetic energy. His eyes are a little on the wild side. Mike guided this natural phenomenon in such calm and harmonious way as to make a perfect balance. Like in yin & yang, Gazze and Mike were seemingly opposites but fit each other and in their relationship they became symbiotic.
I know I risk sounding overly dramatic, but I don’t believe I am. I have witnessed many fine working teams around the world. I would place this team in the company of the very top of the sport.
Mike endearingly referred to Gazze as ‘G Money’. What attracted Mike to Gazze was his “motor” as he put it, this insatiable appetite to work. He, like everyone that saw him, was blown away by the power, barking and grips. Together they raised the bar in the USA. I am grateful to have been there to see this team. They made an impression on me. One I will not forget.
Rest in peace Gazze.
You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean, in a drop. -Rumi
2019 USCA Working Dog Championship in Sturbridge, MA.
Gaurding Weston Kester in back-half protection at the 2017 USCA Working Dog Championship in Buffalo, New York.
Back-half work with Weston Kester, earning 4th place at the 2017 USCA Working Dog Championship, in Buffalo, New York.
Long Bite with Dominic Scarberry at the 2019 USCA GSD National Championship in Pittsburgh, PA.
Gazze's signature stance in prep for The Escape at the 2019 USCAA GSD Nationals, in Pittsburgh, PA.
Long Bite with Dominic Scarberry at the 2018 USCA Working Dog Championship in Grove City, Ohio.
The Escape with Adriel Linyear at the 2018 USCA Working Dog Championship in Grove City, Ohio.
1st Place 2019 USCA Working Dog Championship in Sturbridge, MA
Obedience phase at the 2018 USCA GSD National Championship in Pittsburgh, PA.
Obedience phase at the 2017 WUSV World Championship in Tilburg, NL
Completion of obedience phase with Judge Jari Kokkenen at the 2018 WUSV IGP World Championship in Randers, Denmark.
Back-half protection with Dominic Scarberry at the 2018 USCA Working Dog Championship in Grove City, Ohio.
Retrieve over the 6ft A-Frame at 2019 USCA Working Dog Championship in Sturbridge, MA.
Retrieve over the 1M Hurdle, obedience phase at the 2018 USCA GSD National Championship in Pittsburgh, PA.
Send Out, obedience phase at the 2017 USCA Working Dog Championship in Buffalo, New York.
Back-half side transport with Jannik Dybvad Grube to Judge Toine Jonkers at the 2018 WUSV IGP World Championship in Randers, Denmark.
Full stride in the Long Bite, protection phase at the 2017 WUSV IPO World Championship in Randers, Denmark.
Retrieve over the 1M Hurdle at the 2018 WUSV IGP World Championship in Randers, Denmark.
Retrieve during obedience phase at the 2018 USCA GSD National Championship in Pittsburgh, PA.
Search for the Helper at 2019 USCA GSD National Championship in Pittsburgh, PA.
No pressure to great for Gazze. Front half work with Jeff Davis at the 2018 USCA GSD National Championship in Pittsburg, PA.
Attack on Handler out of Back Transport with Adriel Linyear at the 2018 USCA Working Dog Championship in Grove City, Ohio.
2018 WUSV IGP World Championship in Randers, Denmark.
Long Bite with Jeff Davis at the 2019 USCA GSD National Championship in Pittsburgh, PA.
Gazze, you gave every once of your heart. Rest in peace. You brought inspiration and grace in your time on this earth.
We will always remember you.
Brian Aghajani is a freelance photographer based in Houston. He began his fascination with dog sport in 2000, has titled three dogs to IPO3 and competed in a handful of national IPO championships. He is an official photographer for most National IGP/Mondioring competition including the USCA, GSDCA, AWDF, AWMA and USMRA as well as the WUSV World Championship. Follow him on facebook