For the Love of a Berner

Funny how someone else’s words can sum up the animating force behind your business better than you can.

I’m not talking about the passion, or the mission statement or vision – but the deep and quiet purpose of the heart that puppeteers your efforts.  The heart keeps its purpose a secret in order to nurture it.  And then one day, triggered by the words of a casual conversation, this purpose erupts into perfect clarity creating a resonance that’s so powerful – well, it makes you cry.

That’s what happened to me when Berner Garde asked if I could engrave the organization’s motto on the back of the custom keychain I was making for them to use as an incentive for breeders to bring their dogs in for DNA donation.  The motto:           “For the Love of a Berner”.

Berner Garde

The first thing I can tell you about Berner Garde is that it is run by wonderfully caring, dedicated people, guided by the love of Bernese Mountain Dogs.  This foundation was established to collect, maintain and disseminate information about genetic diseases in Berners in order to facilitate research, treatment and to educate breeders and owners.

Berner Garde compiles a database of Berners here in the U.S. in order to track pedigrees and specific data about each dog, thereby following the genetics passed on throughout generations.  Also, in conjunction with Michigan State University, the foundation has established a tissue repository to store DNA samples from afflicted and healthy dogs for use in research.

Berner Garde Volunteer Swabs a Cheek in Gettysburg

Berner Garde works with the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America (BMDCA) to encourage breeder and owner participation.  The BMDCA helps underwrite some of the collection process, and provides the opportunity for Berner Garde to reach out to breeders and owners via clinics at shows – like the BMDCA Specialty Show in Gettysburg, PA in May.

The second thing I can tell you about Berner Garde is that I didn’t learn about them and their wonderful mission until 4 days after Zelda, my beloved Bernese Mountain Dog, passed from malignant histiocytosis – a breed-related cancer.

Berner Garde Volunteer Packs Blood Sample

Regrets of Unopened Email

It is difficult to remember the last days of Zelda’s life with us.  The comfortable thread that sewed our lives together, albeit too short, unraveled with heartbreaking rapidity and despair.  The everyday activities that helped define our companionship were shoved to the side – either because we were compelled to do so, or because we couldn’t face that they would never be the same again without her.

Among those temporarily abandoned tasks lay an unopened email from Lori, the lady who organizes our local Berner group.  She encouraged everyone to be sure that his or her Berner’s data was current in the Berner Garde database.  When I finally got to the email and clicked through the link to learn more about this organization, I was confronted with yet another devastating reality – I could have contributed Zelda’s tissue samples to the repository to help in researching a cure.

Over time I believe we come to articulate simply the lessons of our life’s events.  Like “love never dies”.  Or “malignant histiocytosis always wins”.  Perhaps it is a way for us to call a truce with the grief we feel.

After two years, I have managed to find that neutral ground about the loss of my pup, Zelda.  But I cannot about the opportunity that was lost in an unopened email.

Goofy Girl in Gettysburg

For the Love of a Berner

And so, the concept for Zelda’s Song as a business seized me – and it’s been an incredible journey to this point where I am launching this website and business.  It was a no-brainer that I would help “fetch the cure” by contributing to Berner Garde.  But in the busy-ness of business, I was too distracted to look into my heart again to find the true animating force that was driving me.

That is, until this keychain….


    • sharon says

      Hi Dina,
      Thanks for writing! Ther Berner Garde keychains were donated directly to Berner Garde, so I don’t have them right now.
      However, I am working on this year’s production run over the next month or so and I’m sure that if you care to donate the purchase price of $45 to Berner Garde, they would be happy to get one to you.

      If you email me at I can let you know when they will be ready.


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