In January 1994, we drove across the frozen tundra of Illinois to a community near Galesburg to pick up our first Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. He was 8 weeks old, and the most beautiful dog Dori had laid eyes on. That was “Charlie.” So named for Charlie Company, the army unit Steve commanded when he was stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado. Charlie’s registered name was Dav-Ka’s Cardinal Virtue, CD, DD, NWPD.
Charlie was such a handsome puppy. We decided to enter him in the Puppy Sweepstakes competition at the 1994 GSMDCA National Specialty. Charlie, 6 months old and owner-handled by Dori, won Best Puppy in Sweeps in a field of 48 puppies! And so we were bitten by the Swissy bug, and we’ve never looked back.
While fun-loving Charlie could be quite mischievous, he was also the consummate working Swissy. He and Steve learned each working event from the ground up because, at the time, barely a handful of members in the GSMDCA were actively training Swissies in obedience, drafting and weight pulling. And those who were doing so were spread throughout the United States. Charlie was particularly adept at drafting. Not only was he one of the first two Swissies to earn an Open Draft Dog title, but he was equally comfortable hauling the brush Steve cleared from the property or giving little children rides at various events and demonstrations. He was one of the first Swissies to attain an AKC CD (Companion Dog) title. He also earned his NWPD (Novice Working Pack Dog) title at the ripe old age of eight!
A favorite saying we used to hear from many of our Swissy friends was, “Swissies are like potato chips – you can’t have just one!” No truer words were ever spoken. We were so smitten with Charlie, we wanted another Swissy.
In March 1995, we added a female Swissy to our family. We drove the opposite direction this time – to Shadetree Kennels in Martinsville, Virginia. We brought home an 8 week old gorgeous girl. Unlike Charlie, who slept the entire 9 hour drive home from western Illinois, our 8 week old “Indi” screamed and complained the entire 8 hour trip home from southern Virgina. She didn’t want to be in her crate!
Indi was prettier than she was smart, but like most Swissies, wanted to please. So, even though she would rather lay on the couch, she was a trooper and actively entered into many venues with us – conformation, obedience, drafting, and weight pulling. She produced two beautiful litters of puppies and was a wonderful mother to both. In fact, out nickname for her was “Mother.” Her registered name was CH. Shadetree-SVR Indianola, CD, DD, TDD, WWD, VGS, ROM.
We kept a puppy from Indi’s first litter, and named her “Ava.” Ava was absolutely stunning. At two years of age, after she earned her breed championship, we had her hips and elbows x-rayed. While her elbow films were clean, her hip films showed a dysplastic left hip. We were devastated because we knew we could not breed her with a dysplastic hip. So, she was spayed and she became Dori’s working girl, her constant companion. While Charlie was the Swissy who got Steve into the working events, Ava was the Swissy who was the impetus to Dori’s personal growth in the performance venues. She excelled in drafting and weight pulling, earning many titles. She became CH. TwinPine’s Avenue v. Indianola, CD, DD, TDD, WWDS,VGS. Ava was selected as the GSMDCA’s Ambassador of the Breed for the year 2000 because she was the first Swissy to earn a Versatility Greater Swiss designation.
We had an opportunity to get a Swissy puppy from a friend/breeder who was located in Lexington, KY at that time. In December of 2001, we brought home another Swissy boy and named him Walter. As Ava aged and could no longer jump or pull as comfortably as she could as a younger dog, Walt became Dori’s working boy. He passed away in October 2012.
Charlie, our very first Swissy, passed away early January 2004. He had lived 10 years. Anytime a Swissy makes it to the double digits, we consider ourselves lucky. We’ve enjoyed the friendship of a number of Bernese Mountain Dog owners over the years, and we’d often considered bringing a Berner into our home. We had the opportunity to do just that when we received a call from a lady in Michigan who could no longer keep her 4 year old male Berner. She knew that we engaged in many activities with our Swissies, and that dogs are a main focus in our lives, so she asked if we would adopt Dundee. She sent us a picture of Dundee, and we fell in love with him. So, January of 2004, Steve drove 6 hours to Holland, Michigan to pick up Dundee and bring him home to us. Dundee and Steve grew close, and they were quite a team in drafting, earning several titles. Very sadly, in May of 2006, Dundee massively bloated and went to Rainbow Bridge. He was only 6 ½ years old, and he’d been with us only a little over two years. Our lives were enriched by Dundee, and we were heartbroken that he passed away before his time.
We have had many opportunities to bring home puppies from responsible breeders, and in summer of 2006, a wonderful opportunity raised its Swissy head again. Cathy Cooper of Shadetree Kennels had a male puppy from a litter she thought would be just right for us. This was her “X” litter, so we had to give the puppy a registered name beginning with X. We came up with Shadetree’s Xenia of TwinPine. In Greek, Xenia means hospitality. When we think of hospitality, we think of the television show, “The Beverly Hillbillies,” and the classic line, “Y’all come back now, ya hear!” And, so our new boy came to be called Jethro.
While we cannot imagine our lives without Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs, there is another breed we love, as well – Golden Retrievers. Over the last 23 years, we’ve had 3 Golden Retrievers, two of whom were rescues – Mister and Cheyenne. We currently love, adore, train and compete with Bee, our three-year-old One Ash The Golden Bee. Bee’s breeder, Elaine Brent of One Ash Kennels, wanted the litter to be named for pubs. We used to live in Colorado Springs, CO, and we would, from time to time, stop into the Broadmoor Hotel at the base of Cheyenne Mountain, to drink a yard of beer and savor a delicious meal at the on-site pub, The Golden Bee. The restaurant is a replica of an old English pub, all of the wood and brass fixtures and appointments having been imported from England. We needed to name our Golden puppy for a pub? Well, what more appropriate name could we give our AKC registered Golden Retriever?