Witness true love & heartache with a Bernese Mountain Dog. With their tri-colored good looks & strong human bond, falling in love with the ‘Berner’ breed is easy.

The Bernese Mountain Dog

I fell in love with the Bernese Mountain Dog breed when I was having brunch with my now husband at the once Adams Mill restaurant in Manchester, CT, almost 27 years ago. Just outside the window was a school of Bernese Mountain Dogs learning how to pull their characteristic Swiss carts to and from the market with groceries. It was love at first site.

Snowy faced Bernese Mountain Dog

Nicknamed “The Berner” and known for their handsome tri-coloring, friendly expression, extra large hearts, and who promise to stick to you like glue forever. The Bernese Mountain Dog will steal your heart and leave you weak in their absence.

The Berner does not like to be left alone. They will sit in your lap, sleep in your bed, ride shotgun in the car, walk easily with you on a leash, anything as long as they are with you!

Berner Dog Puppy
Our second Bernese Mountain Dog, Gretchen 8 weeks old.

We’ve been fortunate enough to have had three Bernese Mountain Dogs to love and invite into our homes. Each one is so special and dear to us. I hope you enjoy their stories.

Charlene Chester Tri-Star “Charlie”

Charlie was our first Berner. We found Charlie at the “Tri-Star Breeders” in Westport, CT, about 26 years ago when the waiting list to get a Bernese Mountain Dog could be as long as a three-year wait. There’s a little story behind how we were able to get our Charlie so quickly, though.

How Charlie Came To Us

When I called the breeder to inquire about a puppy, I caught her at a very bad time, and she had some words for me and hung up on me. Later that evening, the breeder called me back, apologized, and offered us the pick of the litter. A few weeks later, we picked up “Charlie”. The name Charlie came about from the perfume “Charlie.” Chester was the town we lived in, and Tri-Star was the breeder.

Bernese Mountain Dog Puppy in Black and White
Charlie, the Bernese Mountain Dog puppy 8 weeks old.

Living to a Ripe Old Age

Charlie was so sweet, kind, and mellow. She would rather sit in the backyard than go for a walk. We brought Charlie with us everywhere we went. She lived to be 11.5 years old, which is very old for a Bernese Mountain Dog, who usually only live around 7-9 years. Charlie’s sister lived to the ripe old age of 13.5.

We were so lucky to get Charlie from such a healthy litter of puppies. If you are interested in getting a Bernese Mountain Dog, I can’t recommend enough how important the right breeder is. It’s EVERYTHING!

We were devastated by the loss of Charlie to the dreaded cancer. And without hesitation started searching for our second Bernese Mountain dog puppy.

Gretchen Pearl Glenmegan

Glenmegan Breeder

The owner of Charlie’s sister recommended us to Glenmegan Breeders out of Colebrook, Connecticut, as Tri-Star Breeders was no longer breeding Berners. She had actually moved to the Netherlands and was now breeding flowers, interestingly enough.

We visited Glenmegan and met all of her Berners. Poppy was pregnant with 6 puppies, and we’d have to wait and see if we would get a girl or a boy. A little tidbit: Megan the breeder was also once the head writer for the soap opera “One Life to Live.”

And a girl it was, Gretchen Pearl GlenMegan.

A Little Bit About Sweet Gretchen

Gretchen was on the small size with a thin white facial blaze. Gretchen was sweet, a little skittish, and head over heels in love with my husband… We swear she thought she was his girlfriend.

Gretchen was also scruffy for a Berner. Her fur would grow out so long that she looked like she had dreadlocks on her ears, and her paws were like those from the Christmas Grinch.

Gretchen was also very agile for a Berner. We often considered agility training, but it is just not a good idea for Bernese Mountain Dogs. I hiked with Gretchen daily. She walked perfectly off-leash, never leaving my side for a minute. Gretchen was always so well-behaved.

She carried a stuffed animal with her everywhere she went too.

Bernese Mountain Dog with Stuffed Animal in Snow Path

Gretchen loved the mountains and the beach equally. She was a joy to have along with us.

You may also enjoy the A Bernese Mountain Dog & The Gift of a Whale post.


Then, one day, on a hike in Vermont, I noticed she was slow and clinging to me more than usual. She didn’t eat her dinner that evening, and I knew something was up. Her lymph nodes around her neck were also enlarged. At 6 years of age, Gretchen was diagnosed with Lymphoma. We were crushed!

We were told she would have about a year to live if we treated her with chemotherapy. Unlike humans, dogs get a very little amount of chemo, so it doesn’t affect their everyday living. We agreed and enjoyed every minute of the next year we had with our dear Gretchen.

Bernese Mountain Dog with Heart Leg Bandage

Dog Mountain Chapel

Have you ever been to Dog Mountain? One of the most treasured days I spent with Gretchen after her diagnosis was here at Dog Mountain. “Dog Mountain is set on 150 acres on a private mountaintop spot in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. The grounds are always open to people and their dogs. Stephen Huneck and his wife, Gwen, bought the property in 1995. They turned the barn into a studio space. After Stephen’s unique visionary experience, the Dog Chapel soon followed. The Dog Chapel opened its doors on Memorial Day weekend of 2000. The unspoiled haven is covered with hiking trails and dog ponds. Wildflowers abound in the summer, and snowshoeing is a favorite activity in the winter. Year after year, the Dog Chapel and the Stephen Huneck Gallery get more and more visitors from all over the world.” Dog Mountain.

Inside the chapel, on the walls, you will find layers of pictures, letters, note cards, and more, all commemorating our dear friends. And it was here that I pinned a picture of Gretchen and me on one of our daily Vermont hikes on the doorway leaving the chapel.

We spent the day on the trails, romping with other visitors and roaming the gorgeous grounds. We read many of the letters that covered the chapel walls. It was touching and memorable. Just what we needed.

We lost Gretchen almost a year later to her diagnosis at 7 years old…

Then Came Sassy Ella

After the loss of Gretchen, we decided to wait a year before getting another dog. We wanted to do some traveling before settling in once again with a Bernese Mountain Dog.

Vert-Monts Breeder

It was then that I met Doris from Vert-Monts Breeders up on the Canadian border of Enosburg, VT. Her Berners were regal, stocky, and all European. Her dogs are part of her family and come from a long line of healthy Bernese Mountain Dogs. And when she sent me this photo, I knew exactly which one I wanted…

Leaning sassy Ella right out in front of them all!

Four Bernese Mountain Dog Puppies

Born Sassy

Ella is the sassiest and biggest handful we have ever had…

But don’t you just love her?

Bernese Mountain Dog Puppy on White couch

As Ella began to grow, her head grew first, much bigger than the rest of her body.

Bernese Mountain Dog on White Couch

Ella was a natural-born sass who got into everything. She’s bossy and wants to be the center of attention all the time. Her first trick was stealing books from the bookshelves in our sunroom. One time, I caught the book thief in action! She never destroyed the books; she just did it for attention.

Smile for the Camera

Ella instantly took to the camera, too. She began posing all around the house, jumping on all the furniture to strike a pose. Just because she wasn’t getting enough attention…

I swear Ella even holds her breath to get her picture taken. It’s the funniest thing to see.

Bernese Mountain Dog Cuddly Face
Girl with Bernese Mountain Dog

In the wintertime, Ella totes around in her plaid scarf, a gift from my father.

Chow Hound

Unlike any of our other Berners, Ella is very food-motivated. She’s a chow hound, to put it mildly. I took Ella to the vet one day for an x-ray of her knee, and they sedated her. When I brought her home, she was still sudated but remembered that there was a loaf of bread on our breakfast nook table and went directly to the table to make sure it was still there…

See more of the table and bread in the A Timeless Classic | Franciscan Desert Rose Table Setting post.

People Pleaser

Ella loves people just as much as she loves food. She gets so excited when we have company she can actually make herself sick. When guests leave after longer stays, she stops eating as her stomach is so upset. Being a people pleaser isn’t easy.

She steals the hearts of everyone, too. Even the mailman leaves her a treat when he leaves packages at our door. And she knows exactly when and where they are.

Cuddle Bug

Ella is a total cuddle bug, giving her the nickname “Bug.” She most certainly thinks she’s a lap dog and sleeps with us with her head on the pillows. She’s just all that! Ella loves all things with pillows, and her favorite spot is the sectional at our home in Maine, which is loaded with pillows.

You may also enjoy the Cozy Couch Moments post.


ACL Surgery

Ella is now 5 1/2 years old. Her health is very good, but she has had a few struggles. This past summer, she had ACL surgery on her back knee. After the surgery, she chipped a knee bone, causing a second surgery with a cast for 8 weeks and rest for 12 weeks. This was all destabilizing, and I believe she will have a bit of a limp for her lifetime now. But she gets around just fine. She takes a joint supplement once a day, Deramaxx™ chewable tablet.

As you can see it didn’t slow her down too too much…


The summer before, Ella caught mange from a wandering fox at our home in Vermont. We quickly learned that it’s easy for dogs to get mange just from sniffing in the area where a fox had been lying. She was so itchy, and her skin was flaking so badly. She had weekly shots for 7 weeks to get rid of the mange.


Ella is also allergic to grass. She is on immunotherapy, which she gets an injection of once a week, along with one Apoquel® tablet daily to relieve any itching.

Bernese Mountain Dog Paw on arm Driving in Car

Side Kick

Ella is my little sidekick. She joins me on all my thrifting adventures—see more in the Thrifting with the Gals Series. I miss her terribly when I’m not with her, and I’m so grateful for our little sassy Berner every day.

You may also enjoy our new blog series, Antiquing Road Trips & RV Decor Series. Stop by and see how Ella likes our new Panoramic RV.

More About The Bernese Mountain Dog

Bernese Mountain Dogs are a large and sturdy breed of dog that originated in Switzerland. Here are some key characteristics and facts about Bernese Mountain Dogs:

  • Appearance: Bernese Mountain Dogs are large and muscular dogs with a distinctive tri-color coat. They have a black base color with symmetrical white markings on the chest, face, and legs, as well as rust-colored accents. They have a strong, well-built body and a friendly expression.
  • Size: Berners are considered a large breed. Males typically stand between 25 and 27.5 inches tall at the shoulder, and females are slightly smaller at 23 to 26 inches. They typically weigh between 80 and 115 pounds.
  • Temperament: Bernese Mountain Dogs are known for their gentle and friendly nature. They are generally good-natured, calm, and patient. They are loyal and affectionate towards their family and are often good with children and other pets. They can be a bit reserved with strangers but are not typically aggressive.
  • Exercise and Training: Berners are an active breed and require regular exercise to keep them physically and mentally stimulated. Daily walks, playtime, and opportunities to run in a securely fenced area are essential. They are intelligent and trainable dogs, but they can be a bit stubborn at times, so consistent and positive reinforcement-based training methods work best.
  • Health: Like many large breeds, Bernese Mountain Dogs are prone to certain health issues, including hip and elbow dysplasia, certain types of cancer, and bloat. Regular veterinary check-ups, a balanced diet, and proper exercise can help in maintaining their overall health.
  • Lifespan: The average lifespan of a Bernese Mountain Dog is 7-10 years. However, factors such as genetics, diet, exercise, and overall healthcare can influence this lifespan.
  • Purpose: Historically, Berners were used as working dogs in the Swiss Alps. They were bred for tasks like pulling carts, herding livestock, and guarding property. Today, they are primarily kept as companion dogs, but they can still excel in various dog sports and activities.
Bernese Mountain Dog and Fall Hydrangeas

Remember, owning any breed of dog requires commitment, time, and effort. If you’re considering adding a Bernese Mountain Dog to your family, please make sure you can provide them with the love, care, and attention they need.

It’s a Bernese Mountain Dog Parade!

Four Bernese Mountain Dogs on Berners on Parade.

I’m joining a couple of Bernese Mountain Dog lovers for a “Berners on Parade” tour today. Meet White Arrows Home, Zuri & KodaThe Every Day Edit’s, Elliot & Chloe, and on Instagram, Stephanie’s Buoy.

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Love & Heartache with a Bernese Mountain Dog

A Vintage Affair

If you have any thoughts, comments, or suggestions, I’d love to hear from you. Please share in the comments below. And be sure to share this blog post link with your friends who are also vintage enthusiasts.

Do you have a flair for all things vintage, too? I would love to see and feature you in our Reader’s Showcase Series. A place for you to share and be recognized for your talents and passion for all things thrifting, vintage, and antique decor-related inspired by your time here with Dabbling & Decorating. Email me at annck@dabblinganddecorating.com

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  1. Diane Korp says:

    Reading your story reminded me so much of my own. We have also had three Berners: Tucker, Watson, and Bunson.

    Tucker and Watson were half brothers. Watson died at six from a very aggressive cancer. Unlike most Berners, Watson was not very bright. However, he was my sweet cuddler, as well as my protector. If a dog jumped on me Watson was right there to chase it away.

    Tucker was the first Berner we got. He was the perfect dog and the first one that was really mine. He was smart, obedient, loving, loyal, and, of course, beautiful. If Tucker had a fault, it was that he was extremely stubborn. Everyone knew and loved him from the employees at the stores he was allowed in to the people at the dog park to the neighbors. He loved going to the groomer. He even loved going to the vet. He was almost 12 when he died, of a different kind of cancer than Watson had had. He had been my best friend for all those years, and I wear a bracelet containing some of his ashes now. We will always be together.

    Poor Bunsen was a Covid puppy. I wasn’t able to socialize him the way the other boys had been. He is almost 3 now. The socialization is going slowly, but he’s coming along.

    Even with the heartbreak of losing them, I wouldn’t trade my time with my Berners for anything. Living with them has been an absolute joy for me, my family and my friends. I hope your Ella lives for a very long time!

    1. Hi Diane, yes such familiar stories. We adore Berners too, there’s just something about them that is so loving yet sassy, haha. Thanks for reading and sharing your story!

    1. Thanks Kristin I love your video🐾🐾

  2. Cheryl r Atkinson says:

    Hi Ann! I love your dog. I think the Bernese is such a sweet dog and they can be so funny. I follow a couple on Instagram and they are just great dogs. Thank you for sharing.

    1. I agree Cheryl, I have always adored them. Thanks for your sweet note!

  3. Kathy Munday says:

    ELLA!!!! She is the Queen Berner!! What a wonderful post of this big hunk ‘o love!!! Every photo, every story, every head tilt……just warms my heart. The love you give her, she will return tenfold!! Much love to her and all her Berner friends!!! Wish they lived forever. ❤️🐾❤️🐾❤️

    1. Thank you so much Kathy, they are definitely love bundles and I wish they lived forever too!

  4. Lori @houseonwren says:

    Loved reading every bit of this Ann! You know I’m a big fan of Ella!

  5. Lisa Anderson says:

    Love this blog about your babies…they were and are so special in different ways. So glad Ella and I made the short list!

  6. HI Ann,
    What a great post!
    Today is bittersweet for us. Your Ella and our Elliott (I will need to share his puppy siblings0 looks just like your litter pic!

    Love this breed so much! xo laura in Colorado

  7. They are all so precious! Thanks for sharing your babies with us!