Wow, thank you all for the great comments about my adventures with Berners! While I’m trying out a new recipe that involves steak, port, and dried cherries (if it works out I’ll post it after a taste test), I thought you might like a quick moment of zen with Lola. Every Berner I’ve ever met does what’s called the Berner Bump which is probably a throwback to when they worked the dairy farms and needed to poke a few cows into the barn. Although not technically a herding dog, some, like Lola do have some herding instincts. When Moe the Terrorist Cat escaped the house Lola chased his fuzzy butt right back into the house. In Lola’s case she uses the Berner Bump more for attention. As you can see, it usually works.
I’ve been getting requests to post some Berner stories, especially Lola stories. We’ve owned 3 Bernese Mountain Dogs and I’ve loved every one of them. If you’ve never met a Berner, a little background… they are a large working class dog, great family companions, dump bundles of fur all over the house, clear coffee tables with one swoop of their fan tails, and are absolutely shameless about food – they’ll eat their food, the cat’s food, your food & anything you’re foolish enough to leave on the counter. (See my post for Artichoke Dip to see just how shameless they are.) They’re also known to eat plenty of things that have no nutritional value. (See my post about my kitchen re-do and how my kitchen floor was eaten by a certain Berner.) They’re also one of the happiest dogs you’ll ever meet but I think of them as the class clown who will do anything for a laugh, so you don’t want to laugh when they do something you’d rather they not repeat. As puppies, Berners look a lot like little chunky plush toy dogs. But if you think you might want one, do your research. They’re a dog that you can’t help but love, but as my vet & I have discussed, they can also be known as the ‘heartbreak dog’ because of their short life span and medical problems.
Our first, Clancy, was a very mis-marked guy who died way too young at the age of 3 from what’s known as Berner cancer. Clancy loved to twirl and used to play a twirling game with gray squirrels that he managed to catch by the tail. Unfortunately for the squirrels, they didn’t hold up very well to the twirling game. His best prank was at 6:00 am. I used to drive Niki to skating lessons before school and in the winter would make her a to-go mug of hot chocolate. My day didn’t start very well when I came downstairs to find Clancy playing his twirling game with Niki’s mug of hot chocolate spraying all over the kitchen.
Our second Berner, Spirit died at 5 years from an autoimmune disorder. He was our biggest guy at 120 lbs. although that never stopped him from thinking that he was a lap dog.
His best trick was helping John to clean out the gutters. I heard a lot of yelling outside and I have to be honest. I wasn’t sure whether to call 911, go out & help or grab the camera because my husband was up 2 stories clinging to the gutter. He hadn’t tied off the rope on the ladder. So, Spirit grabbed the rope & was using the ladder, with John on it, as a giant pull toy. Spirit was also fearful of a lot of things – the woodpecker who used to pound on the side of the house, having his picture taken, and most of all… thunderstorms! He could hear a storm coming an hour before it got over us and he would either try to dig a bunker in the mattress or more often, hide under the bed.
Bernese Mountain dogs can flatten themselves out like bearskin rugs & Spirit could get himself under Niki’s bed but for some reason couldn’t get himself back out. We’d have to lift the bed after the storm passed so he could crawl back out.
And then Lola arrived from upstate New York at 8 weeks old. Cute as all Berners are, it was pretty obvious from the start that this girl was different from the other 2 guys. To say willful is an understatement.
She is by far the most clever yet challenging Berner to date. By the end of the her first week with us, I was so frustrated with her chewing on me that I called the breeder who said “well give her something else to chew on – give her some stuffed toys, cardboard boxes, bones that aren’t yours”. I did that and yes, all those things got chewed to bits, but it never stopped her insatiable desire to chew everything in sight and when she ate the kitchen floor, I started singing “I Looove New York” to her & threatened to put her on a bus right back up there.
She does find the sound of ripping cardboard & paper really satisfying. If John makes the mistake of letting Lola out in the morning before grabbing the newspaper, Lola retrieves it for him. That doesn’t usually go so well, but then again most of the news is pretty depressing.
I woke up one summer morning to hear John out on the front lawn… “WHAT are you doing?!?” Well, what Lola was doing was shredding. We live on a cul de sac which has a bank of 6 mailboxes on the edge of our yard. And once a year, some phantom arrives in the early morning hours & drops a pile of yellow pages under the mailboxes. Lola took a walk down to the mailboxes & hauled 6 big fat Yellow Page books into the front yard & shredded all of them. And I guess it made her thirsty because she decided to get a drink from the birdbath (a sentimental favorite of John’s from his parent’s house) and well, unfortunately the top of the birdbath kind of got knocked over & sort of cracked in half.
Now since we’re going into burn season I have to tell you about Lola’s most spectacular escapade. When she was a pup, I was trying to clear brush from our back hill. Of course she was underfoot and I was afraid she’d get smacked with the hatchet. As I cleared, I’d give her the brush which she’d happily scatter all over the yard, but at least she was safe and out of my way. This started her fetish for sticks and she considered every stick to be her personal stick. Believe me, it was dicey when I broke my ankle and needed to use a cane! And, by the way, my ankle was broken due to an unfortunate walk with Lola!
We can burn here from January through April and John started a burn pile. Lola, being a work dog was outside helping. John would cut and pile up the brush, Lola would drag half of it off, John would drag it back. Overall it was going really well.
Until the burning started & Lola realized “hey, he’s burning my sticks!”
At which point, Lola decided to rescue her sticks and grabbed one out of the fire, taking off through the woods with the burning stick. Since it was a very dry year, of course the woods caught on fire. John grabbed the hose and doused the woods as well as Lola. This resulted in a very depressed & wet dog but she wasn’t finished with that stick burning guy. At the end of the day, John dragged the hose back down to the burn pile to put out the last of the fire when he realized the 40′ hose wasn’t offering a whole lot of resistance….
A 4′ hose is much easier to carry around. Moral of the story: do not mess with Lola’s sticks! Good thing we love ya Lola.