Loving Memory of
Zanzebern Shining Knight
June 22nd 2002 to March 22nd 2008
So dearly loved and missed by Annie Bell, family and friends
My favourite photo was when he was about 14 months and he had licked the ear of Adam, a small boy
Harry Brat at 5 weeks of age.
This was one of the first photos of the lil' man who was to become my lifelong friend
'Harry and Me'
Illustrates the bond that was there at the beginning
Annie and Harry Brat in October 2007
Harry Brat's Story
This will be a hard thing to do - write about my beloved Harry Brat. In fact it has taken 6 months to summon the courage to start putting words together. I know that it will involve many tears and I'll have to go back through many emails written to Berner- L, Zanzeberners and Bernese in Oz to get some details. But I think that this activity will be very therapeutic. I can then put this story with his 'stuff' forever.
Harry Brat was my first Bernese. He became the love of my life and gradually, my heart dog. He was one special boy. I had done some research into the breed - spoken to one BMD owner at the local Avalon dog exercise area in Pittwater, Sydney. The dog came from Queenstown, Tasmania. The year was 1999. I can't remember whether it was early in the year or late but I do remember that it was daylight saving time. So it was either late spring or early autumn. The dog was a 7 mo girl. Apart from the usual questions like 'What dog is that?' the breed and location of the breeder, I knew very little else apart from the fact that I wanted one. That was the sum of my research.
Fast forward to 2000 and personal circumstances were such that I moved to Canberra for work and to live. Bear my beloved GSD/Lab cross (Bear) was getting on in years and I felt I needed to do some succession planning. That meeting and breed name had remained in my memory. A busy 2000 meant that any attempt to follow-up on the initial interest in Bernese had to be postponed.
A web surf in 2001 found references to two New South Wales (NSW) based BMD breeders: Lyn Brand's Branbern and Nik Lennon's Zanzebern. A quick assessment concluded I didn't need to spend money on an airfare for a dog from Tasmania since there were breeders within 3-4 hours of where I lived.
I chose to contact the closest breeder - Nicole Lennon. After talking for about 45 minutes - I said 'I'd like to see your dogs'. She said 'I'd like to see you.' For that I gave her 11/10. Little did I know that the trip to Wagga that followed would lead to a close association with Bernese and Zanzebern Kennels in particular; a life trip that would take me many places and to meet many people who were as besotted/possessed by Bernese as I.
November 2001 a work colleague (Cindy) and I headed for Wagga Wagga in the NSW Riverina to learn more about Zanzeberners. Cindy stands about 5'3" and weighs about 50 kg wringing wet. (This is important.) Wagga I'd estimated was about an hour or so from my home. I severely underestimated the time and distance and was forced to call ahead at least twice to let Nik know that we were still on our way. Eventually we arrived at Zanzebern; about an hour and a half after my ETA. Nik was very gracious and offered us refreshments and grinned at my embarrassment.
She introduced us to Woody. He was a gorgeous dog. I couldn't keep my hands off him. He lay at my feet allowing me to continuously pat him. What an introduction! She also introduced us to a 10 week old boy (Romy) and a young girl who had arrived from Japan (Zema)
We spoke further about the breed and then Nik said, 'You must come and meet Qeno'. We went outside and sat at the outdoor setting. Nik went over to a puppy pen and let out this enormous dog. He (Qeno) bounded across the garden, leapt onto the seat near Cindy, turned around with a floppy tongued grin as if to say 'Gidday. Whatdidya know?' I looked in amazement. All I could see was an enormous 56kg tri-coloured dog. Cindy (who hadn't moved by the way) had disappeared. I could not see her. I was in love; between them Woody and Qeno had worked their magic.
Whilst sitting outside, Nik asked me a few questions:
At that point Nik's eyes filled with tears and she pointed to a Bernese statue in a garden bed.
'See that statue?'
'Beneath that statue is the ashes of my first Bernese, and his name was Harry'. I
I was stunned but thought 'Hmmm, I think I might have a Berner'. After talking about when I wanted one (which was not until the following August- my birthday) Cindy and I started the drive back to Canberra. It was some years later that I asked Nik why was I a suitable PPO. Her response: 'You were prepared to wait.'
When I look back at the dumb answers I gave to those questions she asked, how naïve was I? How patient was Nik when I think what she has heard as responses from the ignorant PPO that I was at the time.
I didn't think anything more about the puppy for some months. Then in July 2002 Nik sent me some photos of a litter of twelve! Some had significant white blazes and facial markings. Again I was excited at the prospect of getting a puppy. Consultations with work colleagues (Cindy included) short-listed a couple of puppies from the photos that I was interested in. The puppy that came home was not on my shortlist.
A trip to Zanzebern and any selections made in the office went completely out the window. So many puppies! I watched them for a time. The one I had in mind turned out to be a pudding who did not want to do much other than sit. Whether or not it was because he'd recently had a meal or was just a placid baby I'll never know. My attention was stolen by a puppy who was somewhat independent and a talker. He was not a follower, preferring to explore on his own and he was a big puppy (litter name Beau).
I picked him up to cuddle him and he bit me on the chin! 'For that,' I thought, 'you're coming home with me!'
I paid my deposit on Beau and went home to wait three long weeks until my birthday. It turned out that a lady from Newcastle had been to see the litter earlier in the day and could not decide between Beau and one other. Nik contacted me to say that the lady from Newcastle had decided upon Beau but since he had a deposit paid, he was no longer for sale. I wrote back: 'See my smiling face'.' Privately I was very pleased to see that someone had the same good taste.
My birthday arrived and I headed off to Wagga Wagga to pick him up with what I thought was a vey big plastic carry crate - the largest my vet had available. I picked up Beau (now known as Harry the Brat). He barely fitted in the crate! How he'd grown in three weeks. I was so keen to get him home that I picked up a speeding ticket just where the Sturt Highway joins the Hume - 15kph over the limit. I noted the location of the highway patrol car and now ensure that I'm under the speed limit every time I pass that particular spot coming or going!:-))
We arrived home and I introduced Harry the Brat to Bear. Bear was not impressed. He ignored Harry for three weeks when he finally accepted that he was home to stay. I have to hand it to Bear, because of his age (almost 10 years) he never taught Harry how to take socks, shoes, dirty laundry or clothes off the clothes line (like he'd done as a puppy). To this day no dogs have taken from the clothes line; that is Bear's legacy. (Theft from the laundry basket, chewed shoes? - that's a story about a different Berner for another time).
I was lost in Bernerland. I made a point of getting on the scales with him (until he became too heavy) and taking a weekly photo so I had a record of his development.
As Harry the Brat approached 12 weeks of age I knew that I had to get me (not him) obedience training. I approached the closest dog club I could find but they never returned my call. A dog training club some 20 minutes away did and so began my continuing association with that club. I enrolled Harry in classes and each week, instructors and fellow handlers were amazed at how fast he grew week to week. I never noticed; I lived with him.
Harry was taught using the clicker method - as have all my dogs. I'd never come across it before (which was not surprising since I'd taken the pet GSD to two dog training classes 10 years previous. The training method then used was the check chain). The clicker training results were very impressive. I loved the results achieved from positive reinforcement. I loved having a well trained dog at the end of the lead and I think he loved being fed.
Harry passed Beginners easily. He had his first love affair in Beginners. He fell in love with a wire haired Terrier called Daisy who was small enough to hide under his chin. At every opportunity he would try to 'cuddle' her using his head. She only attended Beginners training and we never saw her again. She was lovely and it was always a good laugh seeing Harry being so protective of her with her nose peaking out under a flew on one side and her tail on the other.
Intermediate was a small stretch but he did manage to pass after a couple of attempts. Advanced was a higher bar to cross and it took several attempts to get him weaned off food and onto praise as a reward. Harry Brat (as he had become known) eventually made it through advanced to graduate class. We did trial - twice in Novice Encouragement but I did not have the motivation to continue to trial competitively so we stopped trialling but not attending class. I'd also use him as a demonstration dog to show the exercises that Beginners and Intermediate dogs were expected to do. His size gave him presence but his nature won him many, many fans and often I was very proud of my Bratman. Many handlers at the club knew Harry and the obituary written for the Session newsletter struck a chord with many.
Harry Brat was an instructor favourite; particularly when doing the recall. They came from everywhere to watch. It seemed that they came to see him practice and would cheer when he had to repeat the exercise simply because he would run towards me, spin and sit on my feet looking upwards adoringly. It meant that they had a second chance to watch his pantaloons swing as he slowly but solidly completed the recall properly this time.
He never did get the hang of figure 8, preferring to walk behind gazing adoringly at my backside rather then walk beside as he was meant to. No matter how I tried it was a habit that I could not and in the end did not break.
When Harry was about 4 months of age we went to the Hall Markets a local village near Canberra. I'd been once before and had see people walking their dogs so I knew it was dog friendly. Little did I know that owning a Berner automatically makes you a breed ambassador! Boy did I get an education and quickly. On the first visit he was very good. I was amazed how he was a people magnet. Many came to pat him and ask the now familiar questions:
'What breed of dog is that?'
'I've never heard of a Burmese mountain dog' or ' That's a black Saint Bernard or a Rottweiler crossed with a Border Collie'.
'Gee he must eat a lot.' 'How do you manage to feed him? What do you feed him? and assorted variations on the theme.
By the end of the first visit I realised that I had to learn my lines and have answers ready. As we walked around the markets, I kept an eye out for other dogs that maybe aggressive/shy, timid people and looked for pee trees for him. At one point we stopped and I gave him a drink from a bottle. I was quite surprised to see so many people watch me water the dog! Didn't they have better things to do than watch me? Obviously not!
Many came to pat him, so many more than I expected. It was me who was overawed by the attention. Harry Brat just lapped it up. Towards the end of the market walk I stopped to speak with a stall holder and relax as the first outing was almost over. I'd made sure (or so I thought) that there were no people around when out of nowhere came a little girl, maybe 14 months old who ran up to Harry and threw her arms around his neck. I held my breath not knowing what he would do. I should not have worried because he rolled back on his haunches, smelt the vegemite on the front of her jumper, and licked the jumper clean. This dog was bombproof. That simple action made sure that I would take him back to the markets regularly just to do the rounds. He even became a favourite at the dog biscuit stand where he'd sit nicely waiting for a treat - which he always received for being a good dog.
At 11 weeks it was evident that Harry Brat would never be a show dog. He did not have the reach in his front legs, he had a gay tail and his front feet turned outwards. His scores at 12 months confirmed that - 3:3 for elbows and 10:9 for hips. I didn't care, he was my pet. Whilst he could never maintain the running pace of the other dogs he preferred to walk near me and sidle in for a stroke/pat as he trotted along. So he was neutered at about 18 months of age.
He loved being at the dog club, peeing on every tree and sniffing as a male dog is want to do. I loved it when he did wheelies, - peed on a tree and then scuffed up dirt behind him as if doing sliding skids in a Holden ute whilst holding the handbrake on. It is one of my favourite memories of him.
He'd always let you know that the neighbours were in the back yard with a loud alert bark.
Harry would always hop onto the ottoman and chair for a cuddle, strategically placing his body so no other dog could join in. He'd stay in position for long periods of time and I loved the full body contact that he gave. When he gave cuddles it was a full body hug - him lying on top with his head on my heart and huge paw on my shoulder as he made the opposing side of my body go numb.
He preferred the cold tiles in the laundry to sleep on rather than on my bed. Not that I minded, he was a lousy bed mate always restless and never able to settle down for any length of time.
When Harry was 11 months, Chester came to stay for about 6 weeks (which turned into 3 months) because Chester's human dad was having a knee replaced. This was a very cunning ploy on the part of Nik to see if I really wanted to have a second dog.
Chester fitted into my home easily and I knew that I could cope with two. After Chester had been staying with us for about 5 weeks, a photo of a young Berner was placed on Nik's website. It was Gideon looking for a forever home since he was not going to Sweden as a stud dog. I wrote 'I think he lives at my place'. Nik agreed. I decided to go and pick him up after Chester had returned to his home. A quick trip to Cockatoo in the Dandenongs to Emma Copp's (Zollikon Bernese) was the plan. 'Bring Harry with you she said'. So I did.
Little did I know that Harry would mark the fridge, the lounge and any other place worth of a yellow stream! Thankfully Emma and her partner Paul were dog people and were no where near as embarrassed about Harry's behaviour as I was.
We met Gideon and it appeared that Harry and Gideon would get on well together. The following morning (the day of Country and Western singer Slim Dustys funeral) I left with two dogs and Emma in tears. She had formed a close attachment to Gideon and I promised to stay in touch. To the best of my ability Ive tried to do that throughout Gideons life. Gideon is still living at the time of writing (aged 5 years and 10 months) so his story will be told at a later date.
Bringing Gideon home was a good thing as it gave Harry a companion. Bear continued to age, finally being put down in 2004 at the age of 13. I dont think Gideon and Harry even noticed his departure. Bear was given the green dream in the backyard one evening. As they both grew, they turned into big dogs. Nik always said that when I cam to visit with both boys that she knew there were Berners about. I didnt realise how big they both were and the impact they had until well after Harrys death.
Spike my other Berner boy arrived for a short stay when he was 10 weeks old and has stayed. At the time of writing he is now 3 years and 3 months of age. So his story will also be told at a later date.
Life was easy with Harry Brat not having major medical incidents apart from the occasional ear infection. In June 2006 I had to go away and live in Queensland to do a tender response. It was not possible to take my dogs for the period, so I had my show dog (Spike) holiday with friends who showed him through to his Australia title.
Gideon and Harry went to stay at a friends kennel for the duration. I grieved; I missed them all terribly. Id sing the songs Id made up daily, Id talk to them, and my eyes would fill with tears without much prompting. I had a ball of dog hair accumulate in the back of the car. It was not removed until all my dogs were back at home some 11 weeks later.
It was during that time that Harry had a grass seed turn septic and had to have a lump the size of a small orange drained from the back of his head. His head was shorn and he looked like a Trappist monk. 18 stitches, a course of antibiotics later and he was fine. It was a relief for the grass seed to work its way out of the body and not enter a vital organ.
I was really pleased to pick up both Gideon and Harry after 11 weeks away. Here is an extract of an email that I wrote to the Zanzeberner list on 14th Sep 2006:
I left Brissie on Thursday. Today I received the post that Anne (Gribbon) in Brissie had sent and I think that it sets the scene. . Its to the tune of The Proclaimers Im On My Way. You must sing this loudly and off key and with a poor imitation of a Scottish accent for it to be fully effective:
She's on her way
From misery to happiness today
Uh Huh, Uh Huh, Uh Huh,
She's on her way
From Brisbane to Queanbeyan today...ay.ay.ay.ay
She's on her way
to see her handsome berner boys
A day from now she'll be
Buried up in their fur
She'll be laughing and a-crying with such happiness
And I will too, just imagining the thought of it.
She's on her way
And that is about what it was like. Cool weather, fair skies, no radars (that I saw), 'roos and not too many red lights. I had to be patient and made it to Coonabarabran the first night. The next day, I went into Canberra via Wagga to see Nik and the dogs and also importantly get some good quality photos of the Berner quilt (Note: subsequently won by Maria Crifasi).
I managed to get a Berner fix from Denzel, Juju, Orsa, Xavier and Missy and the baby puppies. It was so good to get covered in Berner fur, schnarb marks and puppy breath. I was at Queanbeyan by 9pm, exhausted and so looking forward to picking up Harry Brat and Gideon von Wink on Saturday. I unpacked the car and woke early to stow stuff away (Parents arriving for annual visit Wednesday, house to be cleaned etc). I then had to think about the priorities - food for the dogs, get the dogs; bond with dogs.... pick up Spike on Sunday.
Thanks to watching Australian Idol I learned the trick that if you think you are going to cry; rub your tongue across the roof of your mouth. On the way to Yass to pick up da boyz, I made such a groove so large, Queensland Premier Peter Beattie could channel water between Toowoomba and the Gold Coast! Every car I was behind, whether in a convoy or on its own felt as though I was stuck in traffic on the Ipswich Motorway or Parramatta Road.
46 kms to go; what would be best, pay the fees, pick up da boyz and go? Nope that won't work - what would be the best way? Will they know me?
39 km to go; how has Harry's hair grown after the hotspot and the grass seed. - From the photos Dave and Sue (kennel owners sent) - he has a new nickname - Friar Tuck. Will they still remember me? (Apply Australian Idol technique again) 19 kms to go - through Murrumbateman - (whew that went quickly) not long now. Will they remember me? Dave had sent me some photos - Gid looked as though he needs a good brush - Harry will too. Note: get a new undercoat comb as other one is with Spike.
OK, I'm here. Say hi to Sue and Dave. I can see Gideon (woolly mammoth) and Harry sitting quietly beside. Gideon is letting Dave and Sue know that someone has come to the kennel. I say hi to Sue and Dave, and approach their pen. I say nothing and get right up to the gate. I pause. Gid continues to bark and then Harry starts the yips - sounding like a porn star. The volume of Gideon's barks increases as does their frequency. I enter their pen to a Gideon greeting - an eye-high spring and Harry sitting on my feet, looking up adoringly. Dave and Sue were kind enough to let me settle da boyz down before we all had a coffee and completed the fiscal business. I open the car door and Gid hops in - to his usual place right behind my head. Harry does likewise on the passenger side - 'Well' says Gid 'Are we going home or what?' And we did. They were very quiet and travelled well and settled in at home really quickly. I fell in love with Gideon all over again, the ratbag has turned into one special dog. Harry appears to be self conscious about his hair style but it will grow back.
Sunday morning: Harry Gideon and I go for a carride to pick up Spike. Man has that little monkey grown! He looks so much like Teddy (Zanzebern Hewitt) now and has Nienna's (Nienna van't Rijkenspark - imp NDL) curly bum.
I pick up all his show certificates and ribbons. His quilt is forming in my mind ....We head to the dog club and Da boyz run themselves to a standstill in the dam paddock. Grubby, muddy, wet and happy as! After an hour we head home. Not a peep from any and I am grubby from head to foot and just love it. After I have managed to get some food into the house for the humans, and the dogs dry off, I start brushing. Thank goodness Gid had been a show pup - it took me two hours to go over him and I have still to do pantaloons and under his chin. Harry - well he can wait for another day. Gid now looks like a woolly mammoth in a suit, not tracky dacks.
Spikus was his normal socialite self, demanding pats and turning on the charm for belly rubs and just being 13 months. As the day wore on: this song evolved: Sing to 'Hello Dolly':
Well HELLO puppy,
Its so nice to have you back where you belong.
You're looking swell puppy,
I can tell puppy, You're still going,
You're still growing,
You're all so big and strong.
I wish the band was playing,
Because your mum's saying
That she's been away
Far, far, far too long.
Golly gee fellas,
Climb up on my knee fellas,
Mum not going away so long again!
(Apply Australian Idol technique just one more time.)
It's so good to be home, I've been smacked in the head twice and have a fat lip from Spike. Slow learner -eh?
It was December 2007, when he had his first epileptic fit at the dog club. He stopped, then did a forward roll onto his side and had a fit. I was really scared. A trip to the vet, the first of many, and I was advised that because of his age it was most likely to be a brain tumour rather than epilepsy. All of a sudden life took a most unexpected turn.
Lunchtimes no longer were rest periods but an opportunity to go and check on Harry and the others. The fits were unable to be controlled by phenol barbitone. He had both grand mal and petit mal seizures. One of the later seizures caused his eyelids to lower and effectively he was blind unless he kept his head up high. He had a dose of valium but that caused him to become a zombie and I hated that because the dog he became was not my dog.
Discussions with Emma gave me some insight as to what might be happening inside his head and I found it to be very frustrating talking with the vet and suggesting what may be going on when the vet couldn't give me some support. (I was very thankful that Emma could give me a vet nurse's and Berner owners view at the same time. Her support was invaluable as I often dissolved into tears at the surgery.) As a result I've changed vets to someone who will tell me how it is rather than beat around the bush. Lord knows how many tissues I used during the three months between December 07 and March 08!
The following is from an email to the Berner list:
Tuesday 18 March 2008 just before Easter 2008. Harry Brat was given a cortisone injection that was meant to last 8 days. Wednesday 19th I had a different dog; apart from the sloppy lower lids I had my Bratman back. He was happy. He barked at the neighbours over the fence, he kicked up dust after doing a pee and was a happy boy. It gave me hope that maybe we were winning the fight.
The effects of the cortisone lasted a bit over 2 days. Good Friday night about 8 pm I started to see him regress and I thought `This is a precursor to another fit' and expected to get one overnight. At 11pm I could smell urine - Harry Brat had had a mal and had let go of his bladder. I wasn't surprised - it had happened before. I cleaned him up as best I could and fed him some ice-cream and honey which is good to get the sugar levels up quickly (I've learned from the canine epilepsy group). He seemed to be recovering in the usual way and I returned to bed.
4:00AM I woke again and listened for his breathing; I heard a change. I went out to him and found him lying in urine again - his bladder having let go a second time. However he was breathing shallowly with his tongue hanging out. I gently pulled his tongue to see if he would swallow. It was flaccid - he didn't react, the tongue surface dry. I picked up a paw and his leg was floppy. At that point I realised that he was in a coma and knew that any thought of showing at Canberra on Easter Saturday was gone.
As I sat patting Harry Brat, Suki occasionally would put her head under my arm when I was on all fours stroking him, Spike would come and lay with me elongated along my body when sitting beside Harry and Gideon periodically put his head over my shoulder to see what was happening.
At about 6:30am, Spike, Suki and Gideon were standing in the backyard looking at each other. Without a sound together ran down the backyard as if playing but with nary a sound - no bark or a growl. I looked at Harry's body and it twitched in a couple of places. As I patted his head, an eye opened and I saw completely the beautiful brown eye that I had not seen in total in weeks. I moved my hand across his vision only to find there was no response. Harry Brat had passed away. I am convinced that they knew what was happening. Maybe (this is a human interpretation of their behaviour) but maybe they were wishing him happy tails in their own unique way.
After composing myself I rang the emergency vet for advice. They arranged for the pet ambulance to come (Yes there is one in Canberra - Canberrans and environs please store this away for future reference) and collect him, a post-mortem to be done and Pets at Peace to cremate him and return him in a box. It was a couple of hours before the ambulance arrived and the furry kids were able to sniff him in their own good time. The only freakish behaviour was after his body had been taken by the ambulance and they paused then sprinted through the laundry out the back door.
By 3:30pm Saturday I had a synopsis of the post-mortem. Everything was good apart from his brain which was pretty runny - probably caused by the fits. In his brain, towards the front they had found a lump that was yellow/brown in colour, described about the size of a marble. They could not tell me whether it was on the surface or embedded within. I requested that this be sent to pathology for further investigation. I am expecting the result to be inconclusive and his death be labelled generically - death by brain tumour.
On the Saturday afternoon Ivana came and sat with me. We drank wine, cried and laughed. She left me with more than enough food to feed me and three dogs for a week and for that I am eternally grateful. I lived as a zombie for some days in the week that followed.
On Sunday I paid the vet bill, asked for and received a copy of the post-mortem. In every respect his body was either in good condition or within normal limits. I had a healthy dog apart from his brain. What surprised me was the size of the tumour 3.5 x 2 cm - a bit smaller than a golf ball - not marble sized unless you super-sized a marble! Even though Harry had a big boof head, that tumour took up a lot of space regardless. Some days later the pathology results concluded 'histiocytic sarcoma' as the cause of his death. The details have been entered in his Bernerped and Berner-Garde records.
B-G Dog ID = 27995
Harry's impact was not only in my life but in the life of many readers of the dog groups to which I belong. Many had never met him but felt they knew him as one of theirs regardless of location. Over 80 individual emails arrived in my inbox and I've kept everyone. One day I'll learn how to scrapbook; rather than take the easy option to print and file them away.
Play and sleep well my darling boy. I look forward to hearing yips of joy and feeling you plonk that big furry butt on my feet when we meet again one day.
Harry's remains are in a box that takes a pride of place amongst the Berner trinkets in my entertainment unit. His living legacy lives at my home in the form of his niece Suki-lala and grand niece Harri-ette (4mo at time of writing). Two stories waiting to be told. His other legacy is the Shining Knight Award, for worthy dogs whose carers are members of the BMDCV. The first award will be given in 2009.
Harry Brat (Zanzebern Shining Knight) 22/6/02 - 22/3/08
Postscript: This has taken over two months to write and many, many tears but it has been so worth it.
Annie (November 2008)
In Loving Memory
The Harry Brat Shining Knight Award
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