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  • Writer's pictureLisa Olson

Bernese Mountain Dog

The sad story of Vincent the Bernese mountain dog. His pet parents gave him the best life possible, but it was not easy due to the health problems he was born with. How a puppy mill, not only affects the dogs health and quality of life, but also the family who loves him dearly. Here is his story told by his momma/owner. The images are from Vinnies Celebration of Life photo shoot, he was laid to rest the following morning.

When I saw the listing for a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy born without his right ear for sale, I did not give much thought that there would be more wrong with him than could be seen. I had desperately wanted a Berner, but with their high price tag of two-five thousand dollars, I had not been able to afford one; the breeder was only asking 400, so as a former Veterinarian technician myself, I thought I was equipped to care for him. Upon going to see him in her home, she had told me that her Vet explained

Vincent had most likely gotten smashed by the other puppies in the womb, causing the ear not to form. The story changed, however, between that initial visit and pickup day. The day I arrived to take Vincent home she told me after a recheck by the vet he advised her Vincent could have more underlying issues down the road and so she probably should not be requesting money for him. At the time, I wasn’t sure what to read into that. She insisted that she could not keep him and suggested she would at least like $100. for him to cover the cost of food and the Vet visits. My 10-year-old son was with me and excited to bring our new puppy home, so I paid her, and we took Vincent home.

After taking Vincent for his first well check with my Vet I learned that besides his missing ear, he was blind and deaf on his right side, did not have the ability to breathe out of the right side of his nose, and his right eyelid would never close. Of course, none of these issues were mentioned by the breeder. As Vincent grew, more disabilities showed up. At four months of age, Vinnie began having chronic sinus infections, and when he was seven months, he contracted his first case of pneumonia. During his stay in the hospital the Vet diagnosed him with laryngeal hypoplasia, which means the trachea has a smaller diameter than normal, causing restricted airflow and, in Vinnie case, sinus issues. We were told if we were lucky, he would live five years. At a year old, Vinnie developed Horner’s Syndrome and Facial Neve Paralysis that affected the right side of his face. The Vet said it was the equivalent of Bell’s Palsy. They also found that the Neve Paralysis was running the entire right side of his body. He began having negative neurological responses to touch, light, sound; they compared him to an autistic child. He was in a constant state of nervousness, never able to settle down except for when he was sleeping, and he would pant excessively.

These past ten years have been a true labor of love. I’ve had many tell me if not for us, Vincent would have gone through multiple owners and may have even been put down due to ever-rising medical cost and inability to handle his constant neuro issues. My Vet bills have been astronomical. Issues aside, Vinnie has ever struggled through his mental hurdles to try and be an obedient, loyal, loving companion and fiercely protective of our family. Two years ago, Vincent tore his right CCL and shortly after that was diagnosed with hip and elbow dysplasia. Unfortunately, over the last few months, it had become increasingly harder for him to get around and we had to put him down this past week.

Unfortunately, Vincent’s breeder is continuing to produce these Berners with disabilities; one is missing both ears and has palate issues. A few weeks ago, I was forwarded a post that she made herself of a new liter that has again produced another puppy with a missing ear; it’s even the right ear like Vinnie. All these years later, she continues to breed those same lines that Vinnie came from. She thinks the deformities are coming from food. Sadly this disability will continue if she has allowed the other puppies from these same liters to have breeding rights. I have been told by a personal friend who has been in her home multiple times that she has turned her home into a puppy mill. She owns 10-12 dogs and breeds seven-plus females. She runs it as a boarding facility to hide the puppy mill side of her breeding.

Bernese Mountain Dogs are already prone to many ailments, which is one reason for the shorter life expectancy, and poor breeding can add to an even shorter life. I contacted her about eight years ago asking if she would board Vinnie for us, and as soon as she found out he was on medication, she terminated discussions with me. She had no idea the difficulties we were experiencing with him, nor did she even attempt to inquire what the medicine was for. I looked into multiple ways to report her; even my Vet suggested “calling the AKC.” After some research, I found that she has already been pretty much blacklisted in the community. However, there are still some breeders here in Utah allowing their male Berners to breed with her dogs. Unfortunately, that’s not knowledge puppy buyers would know. Getting Vinnie's story out there is the best way I know to bring attention to what’s she is doing. She's in this for the money, not to better the breed.

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