Archive for the ‘BARC Inc.’ Category

It’s February and winter is still on the lam.  Well yes, January brought some snow, but it’s hard to believe this is Wisconsin in winter.   Here at Sontheim temperatures hover in the balmy mid 40’s and occasionally tumble below 20 degrees.  The migratory birds are confused and the Canadian Geese can’t make up their minds if they should be coming or going.  On any given day you can watch great flocks fly South, only to see them return on the next day to head North again.  It is astonishing to watch such confusion and it makes me uneasy when I think of our Hummingbirds.

Other than experiencing the strange effects of climate change all else seems fine at Sontheim.  Our Sophia had a rough encounter with epilepsy last year while Sam and Lilly experienced good health and unfettered romps in the woods.  All we know is that the seizures started after Sophia had received her lyme disease booster and Dr. Sander, our trusted family vet, and I suspect that the vaccination may have been the trigger.

Sammy loves eye contact.

All together Sophia had four seizures, the first of which took place in the early morning hours on 8-24-11.  We tried medication which unfortunately she was not able to tolerate.  So I decided to treat her with food.   Sophia’s fourth and hopefully final seizure was on 11-01-11 and thankfully there has been no recurrence since.

Recently our Sam also gave us a scare when I heard him give a sharp yelp while he was out of sight.  All I know is that something must have happened to his rear end, because for several days thereafter he was not able to take the stairs.  In consultation with our vet I gave Sam some Rimadyl to ease his discomfort, and sure enough, it did not take him long to be his usual rambunctious self again.

While all things seem right on our beautiful patch of land high on the bluffs, nothing seems right in Wisconsin.  For a year now, our beautiful state has being torn apart by the divisive politics of Governor Walker and his cohorts in the State Legislature.

The Assembly just passed a mining bill which  will roll back long-established environmental safeguards.  All 183 pages of the bill were written behind closed doors by the republican majority and their mining company lobbyist.  As with the bill that stripped collective bargaining from workers’ rights last year, this bill is being rammed through the legislature without public input.  As it stands, bill AB 426 will give mining companies the right to rape our land by looking the other way when they divert water from our rivers, when they deplete our groundwater through high capacity wells, when they pollute the air and dump mining slag into our pristine wetlands.  And all of this for the mere promise of a few hundred jobs.  Or should we also mention the millions of mining dollars that are flowing into the coffers of the six republican incumbents who are being recalled by the people of Wisconsin!!!

All across our nation, the fight is on to preserve citizens’ rights and quality of life.  2012 has barely begun, but it is already clear that it needs a lot more than a just little bit of love.   Oh Charlie Brown, how I envy you Your Christmas Tree.

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Summer has gone and the Autumn is filled with harvesting the abundant fruit our young orchard has provided this year.  The peach trees suffered broken branches from the weight of the fruit and will need to be trimmed after the first frost.  The asian pear trees also were heavy with fruit but luckily the branches did not succumb to their heavy loads.

I have a neighbour who helped harvest the fruit in exchange of plenty of it for her own canning.  The surplus we distributed among friends, to everyone’s delight.

Sammy is enjoying the Asian pear harvest

The dogs happily participated in gathering the fallen fruit and all of them were eating their fill.  I was astounded to see how many pears each of them ate without any ill effect.  Even our Berner girl Sophia, who is famous for her touchy digestion, did not experience a stomach upset.

Sophia contemplating another pear while Lilly looks on

Now, all that is left to harvest are the Bartlet pears and the apple trees.  It will be a pleasure to accomplish that task in the coming week with mild weather and temperatures near 70 degrees.

Our own Hummingbirds left a few weeks ago, but there is still activity at the feeders as migrating Hummers stop to replenish their flight weight.  Only yesterday three more arrived from far North, settling in for a few days to enjoy the abundance offered by blooming prairie flowers and our freshly cooked sugar-water.

It is always bitter-sweet to watch these tiny travellers arrive in dire need of an abundant foodsource and see them settle in for a week or more until their flight weight is restored and they are able to continue the dangerous journey to South America where the lucky ones will spend the winter.

All to soon, the last of them will be gone, the feeders will be put away and winter will come.

Hummingbirds all a-flutter during courtship: How fluttering feathers can generate courtship sounds.

Hummingbirds catch flying bugs with the help of fast-closing beaks.

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Two years ago we brought our first Bernese Mountain Dog home.  We had driven all the way to Dallas TX, where a super shy Berner girl was being fostered by a member of the BARC rescue group.  (For details see the March 2009 posts.)  We brought her home and named her Sophia.

After two years as a member of our family, Sophia has learned a lot.  She has become an excellent office dog who loves to lie under my desk while I do my work.

Sophia under the desk with Sammy off to the side.

She loves the out-doors, especially when there is some stinky spot to be found with the possibility to roll in it. 

She has literally become my shadow and follows at my heels everywhere I go.  And most of all, she comes running whenever there is a chance to collect some petting.

Oh No, mom is petting Sam!

My sweet Sophia, you have made great strides in adjusting to a normal life.  Our family would be incomplete without you.

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2010 was an enlightening year which brought me clarification on many fronts. Most importantly it brought the joy of reconnecting and strengthening a family bond which had unraveled and become fragile over many agonizing years.   My loved one, in her wisdom, pursued a path of healing which in the end brought us together again in a connection that will strengthen and endure.

But 2010 also brought sadness at the early death of two dear friends.  You already know about Patti, whom I met through our mutual love for the Bernese Mountain Dog.  I wrote about her passing ‘A few days after Thanksgiving’.   I think of her often and wonder how our young friendship would have deepened over time. 

And there was Bob, my friend Cindy’s beloved husband, who died of a brain aneurism within a few days of Patti’s death.  While Patti’s passing came after many months of unrelenting suffering and can be looked upon as a blessing, Bob’s sudden death struck like a lightening bolt and was a shock to all.   Bob is remembered as a generous man who raised his children well, a man who loved his wife, a man who will be missed.

Here at Sontheim 2010 was an important year.  The dogs have settled in and become a closely knit pack.  Our newcomer Sam has become the undisputed, but gentle leader whose presence has brought out the best in Sophia.  Because of Sam, our neurotically shy Berner girl has learned to boldly go where she never went before.  Now, Sophia comes running to collect her share of hugs and kisses throughout the day.  And what a change that is from not so long ago, when I would have to corner her, in order to bestow some petting.

And now that 2011 has begun and last year’s snow has largely melted we are settling into Winter.  The air crackles with frost and the wood burning stove warms the house.  I think of the long line of  lovely people I have been privileged to know and wish a very happy New Year to you All!

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We are thoroughly snowed in and I witness my dogs’ unbridled joy as the garage door opens and they fly out well ahead of me.  We have three feet of the glorious white stuff and we are expecting more as the year ends.

I back the tricycle out and follow them along the plowed path, camera in hand.

Today we are in Wonderland.  Shrubs and trees are coated with diamonds and the sun shows a brilliant face.

In this very moment happiness is all around und three jubilant dogs show me the way.

They run and scoop the snow into their mouths – to toss into the air – and some of it to crunch between their teeth before they slide it down the hatch.  The moment is magic and joy ignites the air.

A poem comes to mind, a poem newly read, by a poet just discovered through my daughter’s gift which I received this Christmas:

Halleluiah (by Mary Oliver)


Everyone should be born into this world happy and loving everything.

But in truth it rarely works that way.

For myself, I have spent  my life clamering toward it.

Halleluiah, anyway I’m not where I started!


And have you too been trudging like that, sometimes almost forgetting

how wonderous the world is and how miraculously kind some people can be?

And have  you too decided that probably nothing important is ever easy?

Not, say, for the first sixty year.


Halleluiah, I’m sixty now, and even a little more,

and some days I feel I have wings. 


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Quite a bit has been said about the importance dogs have played in human evolution and it comes as no surprise that many people love their dogs.  That love seems to be especially stong in the folks who are devoted to the Bernese Mountain Dog.

I learned this fact after becoming a Berner mom myself.  It has been almost two years since we brought Sophia home from her BARC foster home in Dallas, where she had spent several months recuperating after her traumatic start at a puppy-mill;  and as you all know, our little Berner girl has been joined by a bouncing Berner boy not too long ago.  So the question is this, what makes this breed so irresistible?  And why is it that there is no such thing as a One Berner Household, provided there is room for a second, a third, and maybe even a fourth?

Sammy on the couch with Sophia by his side.

The addition of our second Berner was initially strategic.  Our girl had come a long way from the frightened pup she had been when she first arrive, and she had learned to love her new home and family.  But something was still missing.  She did not fit the description of the Bernese:  loving, outgoing, goofy, fun to be with…  None of that seemed to be possible in her live.

Our Berner girl needed help in the final adjustment to a normal life.

When Sam arrived, he entered our lives in true Berner fashion:  a big boy with an even bigger heart, he walked in and claimed us as his own.  There is no shyness about this boy and no hesitation.  And ever so slowly he has done precisely what we hoped he would do – he has helped Sophia to a nearly normal life.

Today our Berner girl showers us with Berner love and she comes running to claim her share of  hugs and kisses.  She is practicing the Berner-lean and often now she shows a goofy smile and participates in Sammy’s adorable silliness.

Luckily a member of the Berner community has produced a video that makes my point most clearly and I’d like to share it here.  Watch and enjoy:


Before you click, please note that there is a slight problem with the video link, but if you type in “Bernese go together” at the Youtube screen, the video will pop up.  Or better yet, if you go to Cyndi’s comment at the end of the post you will find the video ready for viewing.  Please also note that the video has a slight delay at the beginning. 

Many thanks to Lori in Minnesota for this wonderful video.  It will make you smile.

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In the three and a half months since his arrival Sammy has brought pure joy to all of us at Sontheim!  In true Berner fashion, he is a bundle of love as he divides his attention equally between his mom and dad.
Upside down Sammy on the couch, showing us that life is good.

He has drawn Sophia further out of her shell and has learned not to run over Lilly when they play.  But most of all Sammy is the silly pup who makes us laugh. 

Tired or not, Sam is always ready for a snooze and a snuggle with his Dad.

He lives so thoroughly in the moment that we forget all worries by watching him.  “Climate change, natural disasters, religious hatred, political strive,” are all gone when we engage with Sam. 

Recently I have realized that Sam is also my medicine-man.  When Sam looks straight into my eyes I lose sight of  my intense struggle with the devastating effects of Multiple Sclerosis.  He seems to know when a depression is imminent and knows how to stop it before it takes hold. 

Much to my surprise I have learned that he will come running and place himself directly in front of me when grief and hopelessness threaten.  He looks straight into my eyes until my nervous system calms down and the danger dissipates.  This is no small feat, because over the last year depression induced thoughts of suicide had become a life-threatening part of my struggle with MS.   

Needless to say, my silly Sammy boy has become a life-line for me.  He is a true help in my daily struggle to survive and I am surprised beyond words that I have been given such a miraculous gift.  It is hard to believe that after years of  escalating struggle such help is brought to me by no other than a six-year old rehoused rescue dog.  

Our abode has been home for many rescued dogs and cats.  Some came from shelters, but most came directly from Chicago’s streets.  We were happy to take them in and save them from a miserable life and violent death.   They were:

Buffy the blue-eyed kitten, found in a wood pile outside a factory in Michigan.

Pingan, the gorgeous but neurotic cat, adopted from a group of students leaving the University of Chicago.

Obilot the blind Border Collie mix, found wandering the streets of Chicago after being hit by a car whose driver did not bother to slow down.

Georgely the little Bearded Collie, who was scheduled to be euthanized because he had been at the shelter for too long.

LuLu the Dachshund-Spaniel mix, adopted from the Chicago Humane Society, who became Georgely’s true love and playmate.

Bear the black ChowChow was snared in the parking lot of the United Center after three weeks of feeding him.

Lucile the Coyote-Shepard mix was rescued with her remaining puppy whom we named Toby;  she was Bear’s mate and followed him eagerly to her forever home.

Haley the little pup who was heared crying at midnight in driving rain in an alley behind the house.

Charlie the tiny kitten, who was rescued after falling into a sewer pipe in an alley in Chicago; and Fergy cat, who was saved from being smashed by a sledgehammer wielding boy.

Beanie the gutsy little Terrier had to be lured into  in the car by a passerby’s little female dog, because he was mortally afraid of people after spending a lifetime on Chicago’s streets.

Freddy the pure bred Pekingese, who showed up at our gate and asked to be let in.

Leo the Chow was adopted from a humane society in Iowa, where he had been abandoned in an outdoor cage.

So many pets first discarded or lost, but then finally found.  It was a privilege to provide them with a family of their own where they could live in harmony and peace.  And now our Sam who pays back all the care we gave along the way.  I find him “a miracle” beyond compare.

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