AKC Gazette Columns

AKC Gazette - April 1996

National Specialty to Honor Working Ability

Come to the Dunfey Hotel in San Mateo, Calif., April 25 through 28 for the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America (BMDCA) national. With turrets, brick walls and 10 spacious acres of red and white flowers, the hotel looks like a Swiss chalet. Our gracious host is the Sierra West BMDC.

This year's unique theme is the breed's working ability, which will be officially saluted at Friday's welcome ceremony demonstrations, including freestyle obedience (dancing with dogs), that showcase the BMD as a Working Dog. In recognition of its multifaceted talents the BMDCA is inaugurating an annual Versatility Award to be presented to members whose Bernese is a champion, has earned a BMDCA Novice Draft Dog title and has a C.D., T.D. or Novice Agility.

Denmark's Jens Utke Ramsing will judge the breed. He's bred BMDs since 1969 and was a founder of the Danish club, which has 700 members. He has judged specialties in Switzerland, Germany, Holland, Austria, Belgium, Sweden, Norway and Finland and at the prestigious 1989 World Show in Denmark. Our other judges are Patricia Smith, futurity; Sylvia Howison, puppy and veteran sweeps and junior handling; V.Z. Alvarez and Stephanie Gomez, obedience; Shirley Hammond and Carole Blanz, tracking; David Denis and Christine Mann, draft; and Karen PenEych, agility.

Tracy Semchison, a highly talented Canadian member, will create trophies of Bernese painted on woods naturally or commonly used in California. Her beautiful work has graced other Berner specialties as well as all-breed shows and trials in the United States and Canada.

California is very special to the BMDCA. In 1968 the club that became the BMDCA began there in 1970 the first club fun match, Bernerfest I, took place there. Over the years, there were several more Bernerfests in the San Francisco area. The second national was held in Fresno in 1977 with 57 BMDs. The fifth national at Santa Rosa attracted 87 Berners. The last to be held there was in 1986, when 146 Berners competed in San Francisco. How exciting it is to have the state's fourth occasion to welcome Berners and Bernerfolk to the largest yearly gathering of the breed! In the shade of the giant redwoods of nearby Muir Woods National Monument, those assembled will dedicate themselves to what naturalist John Muir (1838-1914) sought in preserving the best that nature has given us by doing the same in their commitment the beneficent dogs that give so much and ask so little.

Another Strange Encounter of the Berner Kind

I occasionally include unusual or unexpected encounters with the BMD or Berner memorabilia under this heading. This time it was in China.

While on a sea-and-land tour, my stepmother and I kept a watch for animals, which always helps me endure being away from the crew at home. We quickly perceived the affection shown to dogs on lead or carried by proud owners. I delighted in shaking the paw of a precious Peke cradled in the arms of a shopper who smiled and nodded approval as we crossed the language barrier with a mutual love for dogs. Several of the many houseboat-work barges plying the Grand Canal as it meanders through Wuxi .from Beijing to Hangzhou had dogs of various sizes. Most of them were purebred.

We saw few dogs, considering how far we traveled; shuddered at the thought of eating dog, especially in winter, for its claimed body-warming ability; and marveled at the omnipresence of animals in various forms of art, both ancient and modern,

The Nanjing Municipal Museum has a collection of artifacts spanning 5,000 years of Chinese history. We were awestruck as we worked our way through to a surprisingly capitalistic ending --- a museum shop. As I was eagerly scanning for that perfect souvenir, my stepmother said, "Bernese Mountain Dog!" in that excited, breathless tone we use when we unexpectedly see one. It was a magnificent double-sided silk embroidery between glass of a head, shoulders and front paws in a Chinese- motif swivel frame mounted on a beautiful base, The clerk called it a Western Dog and said it was $600; $500 was the bottom line. Pressured by time as part of a tour group and being unsure of its value or my willingness to pay so much, I could only capture this modern sample of Chinese craftsmanship on film. I looked everywhere for another, determined by then to buy it, but it was just one more strange encounter of the Berner kind.

- Julie Crawford, 26391 May Twilley Road, Delmar, MD 21875.