AKC Gazette Columns

AKC Gazette - July 2001

The Show Prospect Who Didn't Work Out - or Did He?

The long-awaited litter of high hopes and dreams was everything one could ask for on paper and on observation of the parents. Among the Berner babies would surely be that special male which the breeder and her mother were seeking from this combination. As things turned out, though, there really wasn't much choice, and hearts overruled heads. The two settled on one male that showed some merit as a possible show prospect. The elderly mother, in failing health, doted on the puppy, and the little guy stayed.

Nameless for weeks, the youngster was frequently asked, as he cocked his head from side to side, "What are we going to name you, little guy?" Uninspired, nothing seemed suitable, until one day his breeder, in posing her usual query to the pup, suddenly answered it herself. "That's it, little guy - we'll call you Gyver."

With time, Gyver developed into a big fellow with an impressive coat and a handsome head, framing dark eyes. Closer inspection revealed an undershot bite and an "east-west" front that would be the envy of a ballerina attempting the first position. Hope no longer lingered for him as a show prospect. As a house-dog, Gyver was not demanding and, despite his size, more of a wimp than the "self-confident" Berner described in the breed's standard. His self-styled approach was to deal with strangers by quietly disappearing somewhere in the house until they were gone.

Over the years, Gyver remained the particular favorite of the now bedridden mother of his breeder. His gentle, unassuming ways were valued assets. When the mother's health dictated the need for a hospice nurse to visit during the day while her daughter was at work, it was decided to leave the door of the rural home unlocked so that the nurse could come and go when necessary. The nurse who would be coming was well aware of the Bernese Mountain Dogs at the property. Gyver would be certain to make himself scarce during visitation. Indeed, all went as anticipated until the nurse reached the bedroom door. There Gyver stood, bristling with self-confidence, growling, and defying admittance, until the mother called from her bed that it was all right. Willingly, he went to her bedside, permitting the nurse to enter and proceed with her ministrations. This became Gyver's routine.

The days and weeks ahead would be difficult for the patient. Her expressions of discomfort during catheterization brought forth growls of concern from Gyver as he stood nearby. Reassurances to him from his mistress were as helpful to her as they were to him in managing the ordeal.

Word of Gyver soon spread. Nurses were eager to come see the big dog that was always bedside. One day, when a periodic phone call to check on her mother went unanswered, the daughter immediately notified hospice care and rushed homeward. Arriving first, the nurse was met at the door by Gyver who ran back and forth from the bedroom urging her to hurry to his unconscious mistress. For seven weeks Gyver maintained his vigilant post until Sept. 23, 2000, when the person he loved most passed away of kidney failure at age 83.

Gyver, the show prospect who didn't turn out, is number-one dog at his home with breeder-owner Debbie Mulvey, who feels privileged to have witnessed the emergence of Gyver's true inner character. Deepest sympathy is extended to her in the loss of her mother, Jerretta Mulvey, with whom she shared the love of Bernese Mountain Dogs for more than 30 years.

- Julie Crawford, 26391 May Twilley Rd., Delmar, MD 21875,- breed Web site: www.akc.org