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November 3, 2011

Nashoba's Smilin' Sam I Am...

Heaven shakes with the sound of Woo-Wooing as the celebrity poster child for Bernese Mountain Dog rescue passed from this world into the next after a two-year battle with cancer... His most amazing, committed, dedicated and loving Berner mom, Michelle Keck posted this:


Rescue wonder dog Sammy crossed peacefully over the Rainbow Bridge last night. His almost 2 year battle with Cancer finally got the best of him — the size of the tumor was either too much for his fragile frame to carry anymore or it actually started to encroach on his spinal cord, but when he lost control of his back end yesterday I knew it was time.

Sammy was the result of a MIssouri puppy mill followed by a Debbie's Petland purchase to a young and naive couple. When they couldn't keep up with his medical bills, Sammy found himself in a Worcester area shelter on New Years Eve 2005 — he was Nashoba Valley's First Rescue of 2006.

There was something special about Sammy. From his first days in rescue, his story captured the hearts of many. Very early on he was deemed a teacher and became our poster child for the fight against bad breeders, puppy mills and pet stores. He took his job quite seriously but always with a smile on his face.

A few things Sammy taught me:

  What you look like doesn't matter but heart and soul does
  The power of positive energy and the healing power that it can have
  Every day is a gift, every morning a blessing
  Always follow your gut, it's your heart's way of grabbing the leash
  Compassion for every living thing, every minute of every day
  Love really has no boundaries
  There is always room for one more friend in your life
  When counter surfing — be silent and fast

Nashoba's Smilin' Sam I Am, CGC, TDI, BFF
January 16, 2004 ~ November 1, 2011


Sammy inspired quite a few comments, and Shelia Durfee's remembrances follow:

Things just got a whole lot more fun at the Rainbow Bridge... Michelle said, "There was something special about Sammy." There certainly was. His structure and orthopedics were not the desired standard for a Berner yet, in the ways that matter most, Sammy was the quintessential specimen of the breed: his many successes as a counter surfing strategist, his artful feigning of innocence, his infectious sense of humor, his thorough appreciation of any attention given him, his joyful approach to life, his wonderful 'can-do' attitude, his indomitable spirit.

The first time Sammy met my Aussie, Libby was about 4 months old and no more than 14 pounds of fluff. Sammy was enjoying a raw marrow bone that had to have been 10 inches long and Libby waltzed up to him, gave him a wink and a little nuzzle, lifted the bone out of his paws, pranced away with it and laid down nearby to gnaw on it her (nervy little) self! Sammy just let her do it — no grumbles, no well-deserved correction from the adult dog. It was a complete puppy pass given by a sweet and gentle soul. That was Sammy.

Those who might be reluctant to adopt rescue dogs for fear that they might be a disappointment when compared to lovely, well-bred puppies full of promise for titles and accolades need only to read Michelle's heartfelt eulogy of Sammy to realize that perfectly wonderful dogs don't always come wrapped up in perfect packages. It is possible to adopt a dog that no one wanted, to fall completely in love with that dog with all his challenges and to have that dog change your life. Michelle gave Sammy the chance he needed to blossom into the dog he was meant to be. In return, Sammy gave everyone lucky enough to have known him the chance to blossom into the humans that we were meant to be. I will never forget Sammy.

Sheila Durfee, Jazzie and Libby


Michelle wrote quite a bit about Sammy over the years... And everyone who knows even a bit about this story knows that as often as people say there's "something special about Sammy," you could say that about Michelle, too...

Something Special About Sammy

Sammy is a 2-year old neutered male with the sweetest temperament in the world. He was purchased in a pet store and is the product of a Missouri puppy mill. He was dropped at a Massachusetts shelter on December 29, 2005 with a medical fi le an inch thick and was taken into Nashoba Valley rescue on New Years Day.

After a quick review of his medical fi le we realized that his previous owners had spent well over $6,000 mostly to treat his allergies (food & inhalant). Sammy could have been a poster child for Prednisone and Antibiotics. When he came into rescue he was overweight, had a double ear infection, a torn ear fl ap from shaking his head so much, raw chewed up feet and a nasty nasal discharge. His coat was a mess, his skin was dry, fl akey and smelled of yeast and he had a definite ‘rat’ tail. He immediately made a visit to a holistic vet to help determine his food sensitivities and was then converted to a raw diet. Slowly but surely the Berner bounce began to return. The ear infections cleared up; the yeast was gone; he became much less itchy, his coat began to shine and his teeth became sparkling white.

But unfortunately, with all the time and money his previous owners spent, Sammy’s orthopedic issues, which are severe and very obvious, were never addressed. After x-rays and a consult with an ortho specialist, we found that Sammy has six involved joints.

His immediate problem was his right elbow. He had arthroscopic surgery to remove bone fragments in that elbow on February 15 and started Hydrotherapy sessions two weeks later. It was also determined that Sammy was hit by a car around 6 months of age. His right front leg had been broken and the ligaments and tendons in his left leg where torn but apparently never treated, that paw operates at a funny angle but does not seem to cause him any pain. However, his left knee will always give him problems...he has bilateral medial patellar luxation, the left side is a Grade 2 and, at this point, we have decided against knee surgery.

But Sammy is on the mend, he has started training classes and will try for his CGC at the NV Spring Fun Day and hopefully his TDI certification in the near future. Sammy’s story is a sad one and unfortunately, with puppy mills and brokers flooding the internet and suppling pet stores, I think our rescue groups will see more and more “Sammys” in the future.

Although I do not advocate dumping your sick dog off at a shelter, I really can’t disparage Sammy’s previous owners. Every time I look at his medical file, I see only heartache. Vet visits, follow-up visits, emergency room visits...they tried everything they knew how to do and finally their patience and their wallet gave up. I only wish they had done the proper research in the beginning and looked for a
reputable breeder...instead they took the easy way out and walked into a pet store and shelled out $2000 for a puppy they knew nothing about. I also wish they had found the BMDCNV, even if was after they bought Sammy. We could have helped them over some of the hurdles.

Education is key and by getting Sammy’s story out to the public I hope it will help future puppy owners to make the right decision when looking for their new family member.

Sammy is slowly becoming a teacher and to that end he made his TV debut in early February when he starred in a local cable segment on pet store puppies and the health problems that come with them. Sammy was marvelous and there were many comments on what a beautiful boy he was, until they saw him walk. But Sammy smiled his way through the interview and gave anyone a kiss who would
allow it. I was very proud to tell everyone he was MY dog.

Ann Milligan, Public Education Chair and Web Master of the BMDCSEW, is designing a web page about Sammy’s story to help steer PPOs in the right direction when searching for their first Berner. Anne’s idea for the page is to introduce Sammy as a working Berner. Sammy’s job is to be a Teacher, and Ann feels his contribution to our breed’s welfare could be very important. The web page is still
under construction but I’m looking forward to seeing Sammy’s smiling face helping others to make the right decision.

When Anne first saw Sammy’s face in a Berner-L photo, she somehow knew why he’s here with me now and all the good that can come of it. Sammy is safe, loved, well cared for and even has a Berner brother & sister...he’s smiling once again.

You see, there is something very special about Sammy.


Sammy is also featured on the Rescue Gallery HERE.

Earlier this year, in January, Sammy achieved hard-won "veteran" status and Michelle wrote:

Nashoba's Smilin' Sam I Am --- aka Sammy --- is celebrating his 7th 
Birthday today --- YES he made it to Veteran's!!!

This boy's spirit and energy is unbelievable and he continues to amaze me every day. We are now one year into his tumor diagnosis and even though he has an "off" day every once in a while, they are few and far between and he rebounds very quickly. An "off" day consists of being a bit mopey and looking for a little extra love with one of Mom's special fried eggs on his breakfast. So far, that seems to do the trick and within a day or two, he is back to chasing squirds (squirrel & bird mix) and keeping our counters completely clear of food. His supplement list seems to grow monthly -- breakfast & dinner resemble a science experiment at this point --- But under the careful management of Dr Doolittle and lots of love, support and positive energy from his pack, we hope to have this goofy guy around for a lot longer.

We're celebrating today with a good romp on the snowy trails around the house, a feast of fresh Pocono Mountain venison for dinner and Liver Cupcakes with Mashed Potato frosting for dessert!

Every day is a blessing and every morning is a gift --- so be sure to make all those hugs last just a little bit longer.


It all began in January of 2006 with this email from Anya, BMDCNV Rescue Chair, in which Sammy is introduced as a rescue looking for a very special and likely unique home...

On January 2nd we took in our first rescue of 2006.  Sammie is a 2 year old neutered male who was purchased at Debby's Petland at 4 months of age.  At two years of age he was dumped by his owner at the Worcester Animal Rescue League, together with an inch-thick medical file representing many thousands of dollars of expense.
Basically, the vet who performed a general exam on Sammie for us last week says that he is "a train wreck".  He has both food and inhalent allergies (most of the bills address this issue) as well as some very obvious and severe orthopedic problems.  She said that he has probably never had a day free of pain. 
After some discussion by those in attendance at the board meeting today (many of whom have had substantial experience with bad allergies in their Berners), it was agreed that, because of Sammie's phenomenally sweet temperament, we would search far and wide to see if there is some kind soul willing to adopt him (knowing that they would be taking on significant medical expenses).  
Since I currently have no applicants on file who are willing to take in a dog with health issues, we are looking for anyone out there who has the time, love and financial capacity to even consider helping this boy.  If you think you might be that special person, please contact either me or Alise Burbridge, who has very generously agreed to foster this heartbreaking boy.    If a genuine (saintly) candidate for Sammie steps forward, the club will get an orthopedic work-up done in order to confirm the extent of the work needed in order to permit Sammie to live somewhat more comfortably. 
Meanwhile,  a few of the folks at today's meeting ("Sammie's Team") have volunteered to help Alise in addressing Sammie's allergy problem and will be preparing a plan of action. 
Please consider carefully and let me or Alise know if you might be that special person with the love and the resources to help Sammie.

Michelle became Sammy's angel.  Alise, Sammy's foster mom, wrote:

Oh, Michelle...your beautiful boy! I can't tell you how thankful I am that I got to see him in Essex at the draft test, one more amazing Sammy smile, hug and butt rub! You are his angel and now he is forever yours.

Sammy at the 2011 Draft Tests in Essex, MA where
he soaked up all the attention due any celebrity
And so Sammy joins the ranks of those "Treasured beyond measure," both in LIFE and in memory.  Imagine him now with clear skin, white paws and sound limbs — but his smile was already perfect!

October 11, 2011

Chester and Roxie on Summer Vacation

BERNER, Inc. graduates Chester and Roxie are seen here in the company of their "mom", Christine. They're all watching the action at the Dock Dog competition in Killington, VT. Chester was jealous of the retrievers. He hasn't learned to swim yet and was keeping a careful eye on technique, thinking he might just absorb the skills by osmosis. Roxie was worried that they were all going to drown without her help!

August 14, 2011

Update on Max

When Max left Vermont Veterinary Eye Care after his surgery this week, he could see the world around him for the first time. Vet tech Amy told us that he was unafraid and was barking enthusiastically at all the exciting new things before his eyes! He's totally psyched and ready to take in everything around him.

Max's eyes are swollen. His foster "mom", Beth, has a lot of nursing care in her future. Max will need an assortment of eye drops numerous times throughout each day in addition to his meds. He has to stay quiet and wear his e-collar 24/7. I know Beth will handle this with aplomb. She and her family have done an amazing job with Max already.

Beth (who will soon change from foster mom to adoptive mom) writes:
"For the first time, I have seen that amazing Bernese tail up and wagging. I have noted that over the past several months, Max's tail does not curl up and wag like a Bernese. When I brought him out today...one of my sons rode into the driveway on his bicycle. Before today, Max would have barked or pulled on his leash (stressed by the sound of the bicycle). Today his tail went up and he showed us his true Bernese "spirit". Despite his surgery and multiple meds, he is happy....relaxed in his new world.

Thank you to everyone that pulled together to help out Max. He is a BIG love and I am sure has a career in the Therapy Dogs of Vermont!"

July 31, 2011

Big Day for Max, the blind pup!

Well, thanks to the generosity of the Berner community, Max's big day is scheduled for August 6. He's going in for cataract surgery which, I'm told, will give him a 90% chance of significant sight when completed. His foster family is SO excited!

I have attached a lovely photo of Max and his foster family, including foster sister, Lily, at graduation from their beginner obedience class back in June. Thanks to this wonderful family, he was already heading down the right path, even without his sight!

Sincere thanks to every one of you who donated to his cause! I continue to be blown away by the generosity of Berner folks! Thanks also go to the BMDCA, which contributed $1,500 from it's rescue fund. And finally, sincere thanks to Dr. Hoy and Vermont Veterinary Eye Care in Williston, VT, who were kind enough to offer BERNER, Inc. a substantial discount on this expensive surgery. Max's cause has truly become a community project! I hope to have regular updates on his condition following surgery and will post them as I receive them.

June 13, 2011

Help Max See!

Max came in to a small all-breed rescue in New England at just under 5 months of age. He was almost totally blind due to congenital cataracts in both eyes. He was placed in foster care with a wonderful family who had recently lost their second rescue Berner. A visit to a canine ophthalmologist proved that Max would be a good candidate for cataract surgery that would give him a 90% chance of gaining sight. Without the surgery, his cataracts will progress, worsening to a point where protein will leak from the lenses and cause inflammation, which in turn will lead to secondary glaucoma. The cost of the surgery is $4,500.

The all-breed rescue does not have the funds to pay for Max's surgery and the foster family, who adore Max and would love to adopt him, are also unable to come up with such a big chunk of cash. An aside here...you could look long and hard to find a better adoptive family for Max. This loving family with three great, dog-savvy kids, has plenty of Berner experience as well as a commitment to rescue. His foster "mom" has already been working with a trainer to help make Max more confident in his dark world and the kids are currently working on their own fundraiser for his surgery! Even their dog Lily helps out - acting as Max's own seeing eye dog! (Naturally, that's the lovely Lily in the photo with Max!)

If you can find your way free to help Max see and to save him from a life of increasing pain, please donate to his surgery fund by sending a donation through the link on this page or by mailing a check payable to BERNER, Inc. (with "Max's Surgery" in the memo line) and mail it to:

P.O. Box 1221
Arlington, MA 02474-0021