Manda - Part 4

When I last left you…Manda had just died on an emergency trip from France to the Colorado State University Veterinary School in Fort Collins, Colorado.

After a few days, we returned to France. We didn’t struggle long with the decision to get another dog. We knew that no other dog could ever replace Manda, but we also knew how much joy a new dog would bring. And, how a new dog might help us with our grief.

We began our search for berners in Europe. Yeah, I said berners, plural, because we had decided to get two, a male and a female.

I guess it was fate that during one of our visits to our French vet while attempting to diagnose Manda, I saw a business card on a bulletin board advertising berners. The breeder was named Daniele Porcher and lived in Southern France.

Also, the lady who owned a kennel where we would house Manda and the cats when we traveled knew of a breeder.

Finally, a French couple (the Riperts) with whom we were (and remain) good friends gave us a good lead on a Swiss breeder. They have friends in the French Alps near Montreaux that own a dairy farm and make cheese (yum). They, in turn, knew of a local berner breeder.

Our first visit was to Southern France. The Riperts went with us. After all, it was a beautiful drive into the Ardeche and was a good excuse to have a French lunch “on the road”. After driving through some rough country into the boonies, we arrived at the Porcher’s, where we met Alex. It was obvious from the conversation that we were supposed to know who Alex was…but we didn’t. All we knew was that he was one of the most beautiful bernese we’d ever seen. Big (about 140 pounds), bone (legs the size of my arms), a head like we’d never seen, marked extremely well, and he LEANED.

We soon learned that Alex v. Wildmannsgraben was a champion in three countries and was currently the number one dog in France. We also learned that a litter from him and a very nice bitch would be born within a couple of weeks.

After asking about hips, questioning the pedigree, and staring at Alex for an afternoon, we plopped down our 1000FF deposit on a “pick of the litter” male.

The next weekend, Alex won first place at the “Internationale Hundeausstellung” in Bern, Switzerland. (My German is rusty, but I loosly translate that as an international dog show.) There were 98 Berners entered.

It was our first European dog show, and was quite an education. I’m sure you all know that they do things very differently. Most of the dogs were farm dogs and farmers were showing them. It was great!

A few weeks later, Alex won at a show in Nantes, France. And, was subsequently discussed in an April, 1993 article in the Alpenhorn by Sue Sanvido—there is even a picture.

Suddenly, our concern over our 1000FF deposit was gone.

About 10 weeks later we had the fluffiest, cutest little puppy you can imagine.

In France, all dogs born in a given year must have a name that starts with the same letter. 1993 was an “I” year. Igor, Ivan, Iceman, Ivanhoe? Ici? (Can you imagine a dog name Ici? To call it in French, one would yell “Vien ici, Ici!”) We decided on Indiana. This really upset the breeder since “indiana” is a feminine French name (diane). Our compromise was the call name “Indy”.

In the meantime, we checked out other breeders for a female. One breeder in France would not reveal hip results, so we ruled him out. Finally, we visited the Swiss breeder—Verena Treuthardt of the “de Savora” kennel. She had two litters on the way. Hips were great, history was great, references were great, and the dogs she had were great. We contracted for a female from her first scheduled litter.

That litter never happened. The dam miscarried. We got a female from the second litter. This was the breeder’s “H” litter, and we named her Heidi.

Indy came home at the end of May, Heidi came home three weeks later in June. What a handful! We carried them up and down the stairs. We carefully supervised their play time. And we rigorously followed feeding guidelines from the breeders. They grew like weeds. We have pictures of them in our arms each week until we couldn’t hold them anymore.

At the end of July, we moved back to Fort Collins, Colorado. What a trip! Two puppies, two cats, six or seven suitcases, and two grumpy people. Clearing customs in Chicago was breeze. The customs agents who handle the drug-sniffing beagles gathered around and fed enormous amounts of treats to Indy and Heidi.

Our flight from Chicago to Denver was on a DC-10. Since the cargo hold is not air conditioned, animals are not allowed on a DC-10 during the summer months. So, the four animals were routed to Denver via Kansas City (where they changed planes). Luckily, they arrived safely in Denver about the same time as we did.

At about six months of age, Heidi was diagnosed with hip dysplasia in her left hip. It goes to show, even with good research, a reputable breeder, an excellent pedigree, proper nutrition and care as a puppy, it can happen. She is now spayed and is about to embark on a career as a therapy dog—more on that later.

Indy matured slowly. We tried showing him at about 1 year of age and never did better than a second place in class. At 2 years we put him with a handler and he got his championship with 4 majors out of 7 shows. Since then he’s won 4 BOBs. He loves showing. And, we love the people, the dogs, and the show atmosphere. At 2-1/2 he is still maturing and filling in. He has started carting and we plan on working on a CD next.

Well, that’s our story. I’ll keep you up-to-date.

(Since this was written, Indy has gone onto win many BOBs, Group Placements, and a bigger part of our hearts. We’ve added two more Berners to our family and become much more active with showing.)


Posted by Rick on 07/28/2004 at 06:36 PM

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