In March 1987 I flew to Toronto and rented a car so that I could visit five Bernese Mountain Dog breeders who lived west, north and east of the city. I had also arranged to stop at the house of a breeder of Bearded Collies. I knew nothing about the breed but there was a very intriguing picture in a magazine just before the Bernese section. I wanted to do some research in case we wanted to add a Beardie our household in the future.
One of the Bernese breeders was to meet me at a dog show she was attending. As I waited for her I wandered around and saw a Bearded Collie being groomed on a table. I took the opportunity to talk to the owners (and breeders). When I described why I was interested in the breed and what life would be like at my house, they told me that Beardies weren't for me. They were especially concerned that the long coat would mat when exposed to rain and ocean swims.
I went to dinner, found a hotel room and thought about everything I had learned that day. I was discouraged but Beardies weren't the real reason for my trip. For that reason I considered cancelling my appointment to see the Beardie breeder the next morning. But manners got the best of me. I thought it would be rude to make a call that late at night.
The following morning I ended up at a small house in downtown Toronto. I went in, sat down on the sofa and my life was transformed. There was one male and three (I think) females in the household. I loved everything about them. As we talked I learned that I hadn't landed in just any Beardie household. Carol Gold was a pioneer in introducing the breed to Canada. She was, for all intents and purposes, the expert. I stayed as long as I could but I had other appointments that afternoon so I said my goodbyes and thought that was that.
A day after I returned home I was offered a puppy by my favorite Bernese breeder. That was exciting but I couldn't stop thinking about the Beardies. So I wrote to Carol and asked her how old the Berner would have to be before I could add a Beardie. She wrote back immediately to say that a six month difference would be fine and that she was expecting a litter of puppies that would be whelped in the state of Washington. She was going to fly out to select one and she could choose one for me at that time. I said Yes immediately.
In early January 1988 we drove to the airport, waited forever in the cargo terminal and finally took possession of a charming ball of black and white fur. That day changed our lives. The puppy, named Milo after the boy in The Phantom Tollbooth, soon took charge of our lives. Over the first few years he had extremely serious health and emotional issues but he never faltered and became more robust as he aged. He and I went on to do very well in competitive obedience, we travelled the country with Real Canadian Superdogs and he became a character in our community.
Milo was the first of ten Beardies to live with us over the years. Every one has been remarkable and memorable. Today we celebrate the first birthday of the latest. Tock (LarksLane Hickory Dickory Tock), named after the dog in The Phantom Tollbooth, turns one year old today. We see echoes of all the past Beardies in him but he is his own dog, with unique behaviours, a look of his own and a special place in our hearts. While the Beardies have been a treasure, I have also valued the fact that Carol has become a dear friend. She no longer owns Beardies but they will never leave her heart. Tock and I stayed with her in Toronto when I picked him up last January and it was great to see a Beardie in her house one more time.
I have more videos than still photos of him but here are a few shots taken from before he arrived up to some photos taken at daycare last month.