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A newfound love with a Bernese mountain dog

by jmaloni
Fri, Oct 18th 2013 08:45 pm

by Mark Daul

Outdoors in Niagara

As many of my readers know, I don't sit around the house too long. My wife and I like to get out and meet and talk with people, and when I do that I learn a lot of neat "stuff." And you see a lot of that "stuff" here in my column.

We frequent Lower Niagara Moose Lodge No. 584 in Lewiston, probably because the people in Lewiston are so friendly and outgoing. Then some time is spent at the launch ramp there chatting with John the harbormaster, Leo Haskill, or whoever else comes along. If you ever visit the launch ramp, especially this time of year, you will see boat after boat come in between noon and 2 to 3 p.m. with their catch of the day. The Lewiston fish cleaning station is the best, and busier than any in all of Western New York. If you want to see big fish be there around those hours.

Last Saturday we stopped in the Moose Lodge to see what was going on and sat down alongside Sam Manerino, a village resident and a fellow "Moose." I don't know Sam all that well, but he was finishing up his brewski and he said, "Well, I have to go home and see the most beautiful girl in the world."

I said Sam, "Who is that?"

He said "Sophia!" "You know Sophia Loren the movie star from years back? Remember how beautiful she was, well that is who I named my dog after, Sophia, I call her Sophie for short."

I thought to myself, "Wow! That must be a beautiful doggie, and this guy is in love!"

After a little more chitchat about Sophie, I learned it was a Bernese mountain dog, a breed I never heard of until then. Dog lovers everywhere have probably, at one point, heard of these dogs, but I never have. When Sam went on telling me about his "one pet family," I realized Sophie was not just a pet, but part of Sam's life.

Sam decided to stay and have "one more brewski," because he got so wrapped up in his love story about Sophie. He told how he acquired her; it was while he was in Missouri working for a short time and met a woman Bernese mountain dog breeder. Sam was interested. The dog breeder wanted a $500 deposit, and he could have the pick of the litter. Well, the day came and Sam could go and the see the litter, and pick whichever puppy he wanted.

Sam continued with his story of how he finally found the dog breeder's home. It was in the high hills and backwoods of Missouri, up this heavily wooded back road and down another, all the while he was thinking this reminds him of the 1972 movie "Deliverance," with John Voigt, John Boorman, Burt Reynolds and others. He had to ask directions on this unpaved road with no road signs, and someone told him, "Go to the intersection that has a blue propane tank laying in the ditch at the side of the road and turn right there." He did, and as he was traveling that road he was thinking again about the "Deliverance" movie, so he tucked his money between the seat cover and the seat cushion in his truck, saying to himself, "They still might get me, but they're not going to get my money, that money is for my dog!" Even though that dog was sight unseen, as he was driving up another hill in the woods when he got near the top, the woods opened up and here was a beautiful big log house at the top with dogs running around the huge yard.

He was greeted by the dog breeder and she proceeded to show him the litter. There were only three that followed her out for the greeting of Sam. Of course, Sam liked them all, but spotted a shy one back on the steps of the house. Sam asked the woman, "What about that one, is that one part of this litter too?"

The lady told him it was, but she didn't think he would want that one because it was the runt of the litter. It just didn't have all its familiar genuine Bernese markings, but it was a thoroughbred all right. Sam walked over to look at her and suddenly fell in love. He knew that was going to be "his dog." The woman was genuinely concerned and told Sam, "If you want her, because she is definitely not the pick of the litter, I'll take $500 off the price for you."

That was it; Sam got his "Sophie." Then he added, "And she was so beautiful."

Apparently these dogs need to be registered somewhere, and when Sam was filling out the papers for her he needed a first name, a middle name, and a last name. Thinking fast, he thought the first name should be Sophia after Sophia Loren, the beautiful Italian actress, whose primary residence for the past seven years is Switzerland, Sophie's (the dog) actual homeland. Thinking quickly, the middle name would be Anna, which was Sophie's mother's name, and the last name came up as "Mizzou" after the Mizzou Tigers, the nickname for Missouri's College football team.

As he was driving home with his new pride and joy, he thought about the new name for his newfound love, and realized the three names he picked randomly and in a hurry, spelled "Sam." That made him even happier.

A while after Sophie and Sam bonded, which was almost immediately, Sam hurt his knee and was laid up in bed. Sophie, grown up a little more then, would gently crawl up on the bed and gently rest her head on Sam's bum knee until morning.

Sam said, "She knew I was in pain, and she wanted to assure me it was going to be alright. And she knew just where the pain was, which leg and everything, same as when I had a bum ankle, she did the same thing."

Sophie's bed was in Sam's bed from then on. It sounds to me like Sam got the pick of the litter after all.

My wife and I met Sophie the following day. Sam said he would bring her to the Moose Sunday if we were going to be there so we could meet her. We said we would come down and watch the Bills game and we'd meet her then. After meeting Sophie, I then realized how infatuated a person could be over their dog. She was everything Sam said - smart, faithful, loves everyone she meets, well behaved, and beautiful just like that movie star he talked about. She has a long soft coat, which is tri-color, mostly black, rusty color dots above the eyes, on the feet, and cheeks. Her chest is all white up to her lower jaw and continues up the top of the nose to the top of her head.

Google this dog and see for yourself or go to the Sentinel website, www.wnypapers.com, and you will see the real Sophie in full color. A Bernese mountain dog is originally from the Swiss Alps in Switzerland, and was bred as a work dog because of its size and strong legs. Sam's Sophie weighs around 75 to 80 pounds he said, and most females can weigh up to 105 pounds.

Thanks to all you folks that came up to me through the week and commented about the story about John Long Sr. that appeared two weeks ago. Many of you enjoyed the story, and some of his friends enlightened me of things about John that I didn't know. Somehow I'll try and relay some of those in future articles because of space restraints in the Sentinel. There are several other things I would like to talk about too.

"So Smart," my friend whom I introduced to you last week wants you to be as smart as him. He wants you to know what the definition of "fishing" is.

He says, "Fishing is the art of casting, trolling, jigging, or spinning while freezing, sweating, swatting or swearing."

Sam and Sophie get their exercise with regular walks, which this type of dog needs, and that is what keeps Sam trim also - with regular walks in the great outdoors. Get yourself outside, into the outside world, go hiking, fishing, hunting, camping, bird watching - whatever suits your fancy, just do it. Take someone fishing.

Comments good or bad, email [email protected] or my boss at [email protected], attn. Terry Duffy.

Pictured: Sam with Sophie outside Lower Niagara Moose Lodge No. 584.

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