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Swiss Puppy Dogs

I want one Bernese Mountain Dog to go, please.

Those of you who follow on Twitter know that I make no secret of my acute dog obsession, seeking them out wherever I travel, an posting all “my” dogs.

One of the gifts of travel is learning what is truly universal on earth. After years of globetrotting, I can affirm that dogs are universal: almost every culture and country has their own breed of dog that is custom-built for the landscape and culture from which they come. Often, the kind of dog that is happy in someone’s backyard says more about a place than what’s on TV or what’s selling in the shop around the corner.

In Switzerland, the mighty St. Bernard tends to get all the attention (they are wonderful dogs), but as much as I love them, my latest affections lie with the Bernese Mountain Dog. Originating in Switzerland’s mountainous Bernese Oberland, the Bernese Mountain Dog (Berner Sennenhund or Bouvier Bernois) is a very Swiss animal, bred especially for this mountain land and climate.

What exactly makes them Swiss? First, they are very large and very strong and love to run up and down steep alpine pastures and mountainsides. Adult Bernese Mountain Dogs can weigh up to 60 kg (132 lbs) with strong legs and giant paws that can deal with the snow. In fact, they love the snow and wear a curly, double-layered fur coat that can get them through the coldest winters.

Traditionally, Bernese Mountain dogs were working dogs used to haul things up and down the Swiss Alps, specifically milk from the cows and heavy cheeses made up in the high pastures.

Wait! A beautiful-yet-huge, calm-mannered dog that carries giant wheels of Gruyère cheese on its back? Be still my beating heart.

View Images
Four-week old Bernese puppy and me. (Photo by AE/NGT)

Determined to meet some real-live Bernese Mountain Dogs, I visited one Swiss breeder in Lauterbrunnen who happened to have a fresh batch of four little puppies. She handed me one, then two, then three and at that point, I’m afraid I lost all journalistic decorum and broke down into one big, blubbering dog daddy.

After cooing at the puppies for more than an hour, I added another entry to my ever-growing Swiss Dictionary project.

  • Home to very large, beautiful (smelly dogs) that carry cheese on their backs. Ich liebe!

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