Rachie - Tess - Gulfport, MS

Julie Rachie
Gulfport, MS

Berner-Garde  # 58712
The Story of Tess

The first part of Tess’ life is unknown other than she was born in early 2005 in Missouri, a state with many “USDA licensed breeders” AKA Puppy Mills.  No health clearances appear in B-G for her or for the other dogs in her pedigree.  Despite that, she was used for breeding until she was no longer earning her keep, it is presumed.

Tess’ new life began at the side of the road in Northern Mississippi where a man had adult purebred dogs of many different breeds and was (amazingly) giving them away.  Who knows, maybe it was the end of the day and he couldn’t sell them and didn’t want to bring them back - he said he would kill the ones that no one would take.

A kind young woman saw Tess (not her name at the time) and could not leave the terrified dog there so she took her and was given a piece of paper stating her name, date of birth and vaccination records.  She had been given only worming and a few shots.  No rabies vaccination was indicated.  She was matted, filthy, covered in tics and cowering.  The woman took her home, cleaned her up, fed her and gave her comfort.  After moving into an apartment, she felt that Tess needed more room and attention. She reluctantly searched for a new home where Tess would receive the love and care she needed.  She interviewed several people, and then let me take Tess with the promise that I would give her love, have her spayed, and a safe, fenced area in which to romp with my dogs which included my young Berner.  When I met Tess, I first noticed the eyes were big and round with fear.

For the first few weeks Tess hid in a room and would sit and “freeze” if I came in or tried to touch her. No treats interested her. During thunderstorms, she would come to me shaking.  She cautiously played with my other dogs, but did not want anything to do with humans.  She did not show any aggression towards people, she would just sit frozen in fear, when approached.  It’s been reported that, in many cases, Puppy Mill dogs are rarely aggressive, they have just given up.  Fear seems to be their overriding emotion.

Over the next few weeks, I corresponded with members of various Bernese Mountain Dog owners and Rescue groups frequently involved with these cases. I received several pointers helping her begin to overcome her fear issues.  After working with her at home, I brought her to a small obedience class with a trainer who has expertise in behavioral modification techniques.  We were allowed to be passive students, sitting on the sidelines and watching the others.  Initially, just being there was very difficult for her.  At most of the classes, she lay there wide-eyed, panted a lot, and wouldn’t even take any treats.  In the 5th or 6th week, she walked around the room on a leash among the other people and their dogs.

As you can see at her graduation, which was honorary due to her limited participation, she looks much more relaxed than in her early picture shown on the left.  She still has many weeks, months, or years of rehabilitation due to her extreme behavioral issues.  She will continue in future group classes.  After several months, she has come from the cowering dog to a happy, barking, loving dog but continues to be cautious and timid at times.

Tess is a prime example of why people looking for a purebred dog should boycott Puppy Mill dogs, many of which are found at high prices in pet stores and at some internet sites.  The puppies may or may not turn out to be sound and healthy. It is a gamble – but more importantly behind every puppy, there are thousands like Tess who are kept in cages and have no quality of life.  They are discarded when they are no longer productive.

Tess’ 1st day - Keoni comforting her


Tess’ graduation after 3 months