AKC Gazette Columns

AKC Gazette - September 2001

A Bernese at My Side

As I waited for the flight from Seattle to settle onto the runway at Maryland's Friendship Airport (now Baltimore-Washington International) on that bright April afternoon in 1968, I wondered if I had made the right decision. Buying a puppy, sight unseen, from a breeder known to me solely through an exchange of coast-to-coast letters and phone calls was risky in itself, but never having even seen the breed in the flesh made it seem foolhardy. I reasoned that a lifetime of involvement with dogs including more than 20 years of showing and breeding as a hobby should have endowed me with the ability to make intelligent decisions. Yet it was my mother who settled the debate over whether to purchase the puppy when she said, "I would hate to die without seeing a Bernese Mountain Dog." My sister and I agreed. Forget about logic; that was reason enough.

Over the years, a multiplicity of breeds had romped through our three lives, no doubt the result of satisfying the diversity of our interests. There were wonderful dogs of marvelous breeds that were memorable for both their incredible breed-specific abilities and their unique individual traits offering just what was needed at the time. Settling on one particular breed as a lifetime commitment was an elusive luxury that was yet to be fulfilled.

The identification of self with a particular breed is an awesome discovery. I was certain I had found my canine alter ego, reminding me of Robert Frost's words: "...knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back."

I drove to the air-cargo area to greet the arrival of one more attempt to end the search for the perfect breed. The attendant carried the crate to the edge of the loading dock and watched eagerly as I opened the door. With all the self-confidence described in the standard, my first Bernese stepped into my life and into my heart. Oh, it was more than puppy love or novelty; it was total captivation that would continue, Berner after Berner. Indeed it was not always an easy road. In the 33 years since that day there would be tough situations to deal with: concern over C-sections that had to be done because of uterine inertia, the heartbreak of hip dysplasia and the devastation of cancer. Despite those obstacles for lovers of the breed, the majestically beautiful Bernese Mountain Dog, with its innate desire to please and to serve as a companion, has made me so very glad that I chose a Bernese to be at my side, and glad that I followed Frost's "Road Not Taken" those many years ago when "I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."

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