He Ain’t Heavy… OK, He’s Kinda Heavy

Our first instinct was to wait until our senior Golden Retriever “crossed the rainbow bridge” before bringing home a puppy. Biscuit (named after the racehorse Seabiscuit, nicknamed Scotti, Biscotti, Oso, Bear, Scotti Bear, Scotti-licious) was ten and a half years old, slowing down, graying, and we couldn’t trust him around children. Would he teach a new puppy to be untrustworthy? To add to our hesitation… we had never had a well-trained Bernese Mountain Dog. We always told people that Hero was “broken” because of his beginnings in a puppy mill, but we couldn’t support our claim through experience. Were Bernese the breed we thought they were?

Puppy fever, of course, won out. And so one late afternoon on a crisp September day we showed up in the driveway with a carload that would rock every remaining day of Scotti’s life.

Look what we brought you, Scotti!

First walk. Scotti wanted nothing to do with the little monster.

Scotti: Yeah, thanks. I hate it.

It was several weeks before Scotti stopped growling at his new little sibling. Thanks to the books I had read by dog behaviorists, I was not too concerned with Scotti’s behavior. He was, in fact, teaching Sherman good manners. And boy did Sherman arrive with bad doggy manners. Scotti wasn’t the only dog growling at him; the first few times I took Sherman to a dog park he was getting rolled by dogs much larger than himself. Why were they picking on my boy? Why didn’t Scotti love the little live plush toy we had brought home for his entertainment?

There are certain niceties that a dog can learn only from another dog. Sherman was greeting other dogs in a bullish manner, attempting to say hello face to face. Dogs consider this rude, but you can’t blame the little guy for not knowing any better. He had to be taught. When Scotti growled at him and the other dogs rolled him a bit, it was a message, one Sherman learned pretty quickly since his instructors were so good (and I was vigilant.) It took a personal trainer to finish the lesson as Sherman is such an extrovert, but greetings from the side rather than from the front became a skill that made Scotti feel much more at ease with his brother.

It’s still a “chicken or egg” question for us as to whether bringing home a puppy made life better for our senior dog. Did he perk up at Sherman’s arrival? Yeah, we’d have to say he did. Did his perking up also compromise the end of Scotti’s life? Probably so. The two, once Scotti accepted Sherman, wrested as incessantly as Sherman and his little sister do now. Bernese puppies are seemingly relentless fans of the WWE, if indeed it’s true that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. In the early days we had to rescue Scotti from Sherman, bringing him up on the couch with us and sending Sherman to bed early so the poor old man could catch a break.

As Sherman grew to the same size as Scotti, the two settled into a routine. Sherman was without a doubt the dominant one in the relationship, but he adored his big brother. If he was too rough, it was still out of admiration. And Scotti loved Sherman’s company. They spent hours together outside and loved their hikes and play dates with other dogs. It was a brotherhood. Sherman was in the room when Scotti crossed the Rainbow Bridge. We don’t know what of it he understood, but he was quiet for several days following, and has been increasingly dependent upon us (including significantly more cuddly) ever since.

There’s no doubt it’s harder to have two. But I think it’s also a blessing for the dogs. It was easier when it was just us and Scotti. It was easier when Sherman was an only dog. But when we see the way these dogs adore one another, it’s an easy call. Dogs enjoy the sibling life.

It took WEEKS for this to happen. This was the first recorded non-growl play session.
Sherman lay quietly with Scotti for quite some time the night we had to say goodbye. 
The sibling connection was immediate with Sherman and Zuzu.



Published by: When Life Goes to the Dogs

It was my youngest daughter who introduced me to the Bernese Mountain Dog. That first boy, Hero, set in motion all kinds of crazy love. And now, at the end of the day, I often find myself asking... what do these dogs have that is so special? I'm raising three Berners now, navigating the world of social media for dogs, holistic health and raw feeding. Sherman has become a therapy dog; Zuzu may soon follow in his footsteps. Madi, as I like to say, is still cooking. I guess we all need something to put our hands to that makes us feel like we've made a difference in this world. Believe it or not, these dogs help me do just that.

Categories Multi-Dog Household, Raising PuppiesTags, , , Leave a comment

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