AKC Gazette Columns

AKC Gazette - January 1993


On January 28, 1968, Carol Pyle of California, sent a letter to those owners and fanciers whom she could locate, calling for the formation of a Bernese Mountain Dog Club. In our first newsletter, dated March 1968, Carol wrote, "We now have 33 members, many of whom sent additional names along with their applications, and these people have also been contacted. We should be getting more members as we go along.

The 33 members own approximately 50 Bernese Mountain Dogs - most own a single dog or bitch. Several are active in other breed clubs and discovered and fell in love with the Bernese through this interest. Others have spent a great deal of time trying to locate Bernese Mountain Dogs and/or making arrangements to import them.

"All in all, it would appear that the club is off to an excellent and enthusiastic beginning, and we are delighted with the help and response so far." By the end of that first year, the membership had reached 62. The firm foundation laid by Pyle has been carefully built upon in the years since 1968 by a dedicated and caring membership, which now is in excess of 700. As testimony to their lifelong commitment to this breed, the BMDCA has been extremely fortunate to have in its membership several people who became involved early on in the club.

The BMDCA has been successfully fulfilling one of the objects of its constitution, that being, "To encourage the organization of independent local Bernese Mountain Dog specialty clubs, where sufficient fanciers of the breed exist to meet AKC requirements." Now there are better than a dozen such clubs that are actively involved locally and regionally in educational programs, rescue work, protection of the breed and in serving as host clubs for national specialties, the first of which was in 1976.

This year's national specialty, scheduled for May in Kansas City, Missouri, will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America. Heartland Bernese Mountain Dog Club is hosting this memorable occasion. Details will be included in the April column.


In December 1991, I was talking on the telephone with Lilian Ostermiller, who was actively involved in the Watchung Bernese Mountain Dog Club's rescue program. The club is centered in eastern New Jersey, with membership also being drawn from neighboring states. The subject of our conversation had nothing to do with rescue. Just as we were about to say goodbye, Ostermiller said, "Oh, I do want to tell you about a wonderful old Berner that is staying with us until we can locate his breeder." She explained that there was not just one, but two dogs, a Berner called Ruff and an Old English Sheepdog named Pandora. Their master, an old gentleman, had died very recently, while a couple of years before that, their mistress had passed away. When there was no one to take care of the dogs, a stepson took Ruff and Pandora from what had been their home on Long Island. When the young man discovered that he could not keep the dogs, he somehow learned about Watchung's rescue program. He explained that he would not leave the dogs at a humane society, nor could he bring himself to put them to sleep. Driving clear from Virginia to New Jersey, he brought the dogs to Lilian Ostermiller who agreed to take them both, promising she would do what she could to find their breeders. The only information he was able to give Lilian was that he believed both dogs' breeders were located in the New York or New Jersey area. He said he thought the dogs were seven or eight years old. The dogs were also wearing outdated rabies tags.

With nothing but the name of the deceased owner and the tags, Ostermiller began her quest to locate the breeders by calling the telephone number of the veterinary hospital on the rabies tag. To her amazement, Lilian learned that the dogs were not seven or eight years old but, remarkably, 12! There was no information about the breeders or even a clue as to where the dogs had originated, as they were older dogs when they were brought to that hospital for their shots. A change of residence had taken place, so it was impossible to try to tap the memory of a veterinarian who might, by some chance, have remembered something about the place where the dogs had come from. Armed only with the dogs' birth dates and the name and address of the late owner, the next step was to start calling breeders in New York and New Jersey. At the same time, she enlisted assistance for Pandora by contacting the rescue chair for Old English Sheepdogs. .

As the story unraveled on the telephone, Ostermiller sighed and reported that all attempts to locate the breeder of Ruff had failed. Having exhausted the area and beyond, she felt frustrated that this wonderful Berner , age 12, could not be reunited with its breeder, who would surely enjoy such an event.

As Ostermiller was speaking, I recalled an older couple from Long Island which had purchased a puppy from me. In tact, they were coming such a long distance that I had offered to meet them part way. It was a blustery day in December when I put the male Berner puppy in their arms. Later, they had sent pictures of him with his canine companion who was but a few weeks younger. I asked the name of the owner and, upon hearing it, I said with a choke in my voice, "Lilian, I think I may be the breeder. I will call you after I check my records,"

The return call found us both in tears when I sobbed, "Yes, yes, I am his breeder. When can I get him?" Following the call, I located the snap... shots, each carefully labeled, that had been sent so long ago. My heart filled with anguish as I saw the two pups stretched out together. How would they cope apart? My concerns for Pandora diminished when I learned that she, too, would be reunited with her breeder. Ostermiller, through observation, felt that the dogs would be able to handle the separation.

Ruff was home for Christmas in 1991. He had spent his first with me in 1979 and then went to his new home on December 28, 1979. Life was coming full circle. The months after our reunion were very special. How grateful I am for them! On July 7, 1992, Ruff, at 12 years and eight months of age, left me to join his life-long master and mistress in Heaven. Thanks to a caring stepson, Ostermiller and Watchung BMDC's rescue program, Ruff was loved to the end.

-Julie Crawford, Route 2, Box 170, Delmar, MD 21875 .