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Rich In Thought - The Dog Rescuer
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Napoleon once said that a dog teaches us a lesson in humanity. As a big-time dog lover, I tend to believe the truth of that especially with my recent scholarly experience with the subject.

In February of this year, Robin and I made our contribution to the humanity of the world by becoming adoptive owners of a sweet rescued adult Bernese Mountain Dog we named Gino.

With a Berner (that’s what we owners of the breed call them) there’s a danger. You can’t own just one, for the craving grows. With their sweet demeanor, beauty, and playful temperament there’s no doubt they’re addictive, wherein lies the danger of these black-furred beasts.

Gino is a two-plus year-old Berner that spent most of his life caged as a breeding male in a mid-western puppy mill.

When he was rescued by an organization he had a belly full of worms and was only 65 lbs. – normally he should be at least 85 lbs. with most males of the breed in excess of 100 lbs.

The rescue organization vetted Robin and I like a child adoption. What kind of yard and fencing? Other pets? Especially looking for another Berner to be a mentor. Type of food we used? How previous dogs died? How long during the day we were gone and on and on.

After we were selected, my heart went out to him when I heard about the plight in his short existence of poor or little food and water, a caged life, no human socialization, and deplorable living conditions. He was never allowed to just be a dog.

In preparation for his arrival, I asked the organization what type of toys he liked. My other Berner, Dante, enjoys anything that squeaks and my golden retriever, Daisy, likes balls and her rope.

The answer I got was disheartening.

“He doesn’t know toys or even playing. He never had those in his puppy years.”

I knew at that moment he would be loved and safe in his now “forever home.”

Since he’s been with us for over two months now, I noticed Gino has some interesting quirks that initially brought delight until I learned their reasoning and causes.

When at the back door, all excited and wanting to come in, Gino does an adorable spinning, almost chasing his tail.

Actually, I learned it’s a sad reminder to his previous life that he spent in a cage and the only way he could burn off energy was to spin in that manner given the confinement and space he had.

When the door is opened, he does a circular lap and then darts through the door at Mach speed. What’s funny is if he passes the door he doesn’t turn around but continues on his lap. Translation: At the puppy mill his only running exercise was in a circular ring around the cages – a la show pony - and had to get into his crate as the owner cracked a whip.

We’ve noticed Gino doesn’t make a sound. No barking like the other two when someone comes to the door or a cat ventures in their backyard, not even a whimper. Good well behaved dog, right? Nope – and this put a pit in my stomach and brought tears to my eyes – I found out that in puppy mills like Gino’s, the breeders will put a pipe down the dog’s throats at an early age to damage their vocal cords to eliminate the barking of the mass dogs on their properties.

After a couple of months now Gino has fit in with the “pet family” and is becoming well socialized. Dante and he seem to be well paired up as bookends and Daisy, at nearly 12 years old in her sunset years, well… Daisy seems to care less about the newcomer.

Gino didn’t take that long to make himself at home. When not watched, he’ll find himself a spot on the couch or when upstairs, he can get just as comfy on our bed. We’re softies so guess who gets his way – for now? Who can say no to that sweet face and those chestnut-colored eyes knowing what he had been through earlier in life?

I am happy to say Gino is on his way as a thriving, white-tipped tail wagging happy guy and pushing the scale at 90 lbs. One thing I’ve noticed about his routine is that there is no snooze button on a dog that wants breakfast or spent the night in your bedroom and wants to avoid “an accident.”

He loves company and being around his people. He seems to place it first in his short list of needs. Robin and I seem to be the center of his universe, and like the other two dogs, the focus of his emerging love and developing trust.

“Saving just one dog won’t change the world, but surely it will change the world for that one dog.”

Richard Paloma is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News, and The Escalon Times. He may be reached at or by calling 847-3021.