The drive from Pennsylvania to Fort Wayne, Indiana can seem interminable. There are only so many songs you can sing along to… only so many times you can listen to “Dad is Fat” on Audible. Sometimes, you’re stuck conversing.
July 4th weekend of 2016 we were heading to my hometown for my niece’s wedding. Having hit one of our distraction lulls, my husband threw out a casual, “We should look at Berner puppies while we’re in Fort Wayne this weekend.”
Uh-uh. No way. Not unless he was good and ready to bring one home… and I let him know as much. You can’t just “look” at Berner puppies. They’re like crack. Here… hold one. You don’t have to buy. And the next thing you know you’re head over heels in love with a living breathing teddy bear that you’ve only just met.
“Just kidding,” he said. “I’m not ready yet.” I noticed he went strangely silent. Just let it sit there. Let those words he just said marinate for a while… About 20 minutes later he piped up again. “I think maybe I’m ready,” he said.
Two days later we pulled into the driveway of a country breeder in small town Indiana. We had learned a bit from Hero… this time we wanted to visit the breeder, meet the parents. No sooner had our wheels hit the gravel in the driveway than eight full grown, majestic adult Berners came bounding toward our car. They ran with the telltale Berner gait, all four feet leaving the ground in a powerful gallop, big smiles stretching from ear to ear. We had found Heaven’s gate!
We still knew very little (it’s good to know what you don’t know), but we liked this kennel. The facilities were clean, the dogs were incredibly friendly, dispositions were excellent; these were obviously pets. The family raises the dogs as a family project; as a result, every dog and puppy is handled daily by both children and adults. That satisfied our still quite uninformed checklist.
What we didn’t know to ask about at the time was of greater value, however. I’ve since learned that each dog of breeding age in the program has certified OFA scores (the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals will use x-rays to give adults in a breeding program a score that ranges from varying degrees of dysplasia to borderline, fair, good, or excellent) as well as clear eyes and hearts. This time… we had stumbled upon a more thoughtful breeding program, as opposed to the puppy mill Hero had come from.
There were no puppies available at the time of our visit, but the breeder let me know puppies were expected August 1. We had already named the little guy. We’d come back to pick up Sherman in late September!