We started discussing the idea of adding a dog to our life in early 2013, back before we moved to Colorado. Alyssa grew up with dogs and is a lifetime animal lover, but Will had never had a pet and needed a bit more convincing. One of our first roommates in Colorado had a Rottweiler named Thor. Thor was one of those dogs that makes anyone want to be a better person: he loved unconditionally, looked out for all of us, and had great big eyes that could convince you to do anything for him.
After living with Thor for a few months, he’d won Will over. We decided that spring of 2014 was as good a time as any and set out to find the perfect adventure buddy.
During the search we talked often about our future pal and came up with a detailed list of characteristics we were looking for. We wanted a pup that would be sturdy and energetic enough to keep up with our adventures in the mountains, both in the summer and winter. We needed a dog that would listen to us, and who could be off leash without worry that she would run away. She also needed to be able to hang out in our home (or road) office while we were working, without bouncing off the walls. Most of all, we wanted a dog that adored everyone.
In talking to friends and family we heard a lot of suggestions – Huskies are built for cold, Goldens are great with kids, and what about German Shorthaired Pointers? At the end of the day, none of them fit the bill 100%. Eventually we discovered the Bernese Mountain Dog and immediately knew we had found the breed for us.
Bred for pulling Swiss farm carts, Bernese are strong dogs built to withstand cold temperatures and high altitude. They aren’t incredibly quick, but they will hike through snow all day long. On top of that, they are known for being kindhearted gentle giants with a love for all.
We got Hilde from a breeder in Ft. Collins, Colorado. Though we would have loved to be able to support our local shelters, a bit of research showed that because of very common and quite devastating genetic health problems, it was important for us to find a responsible breeder who had tested our puppy’s parents and grandparents to make sure they were healthy.
Hilde has proven to be everything that we wanted in a dog and so much more. She goes with us just about everywhere – backpacking through the Rockies, fall mountain biking in Moab, and skiing in the Colorado backcountry. She’s even been to downtown Portland, Seattle, and San Francisco! Of course, there are some places she can’t go (it’s hard to haul this 80lb baby up a five pitch trad climb) but she’s always been happy to hang out and hold down the fort when she needs to.
When moving from place to place, it can be tough to make real connections with other people. Fortunately, one smile from Hilde makes that barrier disappear. With her by our side we’ve met scores of people in every place we’ve visited, all with interesting stories to tell. She’s never met another person or dog that she didn’t like, and she’s the best welcoming committee you could ask for! People love to comment on how happy she is – it’s very rare to see her without a grin.
Of course, she does have her faults. She’s hopelessly addicted to belly rubs. Once, she tipped over our canoe and Alyssa had to swim across the Madison River to retrieve her. Whenever we go out we have to add an extra half an hour so that “Hilde the Ham” can greet every stranger on the street. Worst of all, she wholeheartedly believes she’s entitled to a majority share of our bed! Just kidding – she’s perfect. We love everything about her and wouldn’t change a thing.