I’ve recently (finally) come across some exciting prospects in my search for what I deem to be a responsible breeder of Saint Bernards. It may not be long before a Saint Bernard slobbers his way through the threshold of the Lomonaco household and into the fabric of our family. Be prepared, dogsters, for excessive Saint Bernard puppy pictures when the time comes!
Thinking about a puppy is exciting. After a difficult year, the prospect of something new and joyous is exactly what our family, two, four, and three-legged (Ahab the cat would be devastated to be left out) – rejuvenation and to enjoy bringing new life into our home.
I know that bringing home a new puppy will not make the hurt of our recent loss go away. No dog will ever replace Monte in my heart. Yesterday would have been Monte’s sixth birthday, and the pain of losing him is quite fresh and raw still. He will never be a part of my past, but lives in my heart, some of the best and most vivid memories of my life, and in the work I do daily to help owners better understand their dogs and foster learning through relationship. I laugh and cry about Monte every single day.
The entire rest of my dog mom and dog training career will be based on honoring him. I will honor him, to the best of my ability, in the following ways:
- Supporting responsible Saint Bernard breeders – I firmly believe that the world would be a grayer, less silly, and sadder place were this planet not graced with noble Saint Bernards. Unfortunately, I know that the breed I love has fallen victim to devastating health defects and a vocal majority of breeders who do not health test their Saint Bernards and rally against any attempts to make genetic freedom from health defects a requirement of club membership. The only way to preserve Saint Bernards in their best and truest form is to positively reinforce the very, very few individuals who have committed their lives to bettering the health and temperament of this breed through giving their puppies fantastic homes.
- Rescuing irresponsibly bred Saint Bernards – While people still buy from puppy mills, pet stores, and back yard breeders hawking the cheapest puppy around on craigslist and in the newspaper, the sad fact is there will be many Saints in rescues. People responsible for breeding these dogs send them home with anyone who can afford the inexpensive purchase price. Saint Bernards are not for everyone. Jim and I could probably have a beach house for what we spent on Monte in the last four and a half years. They are a lot of work, time, and money. Vet bills, food, toys, crates, leashes, collars, harnesses, medication – EVERYTHING is more expensive for a giant breed dog. People think a $300 Saint Puppy is a bargain, until his hips blow at six months and they’re looking at thousands of dollars in surgery, at which point the dog is turned over to rescue. There will never be a shortage of badly bred, wonderfully kind Saints needing a good home, and I intend to provide a good home for these good Saints that have fallen victim to bad people. Rescued Saints rock!
- Sharing his story – I have developed “Project Monte” in honor of my boy. Ode to Boy: Tributes to Crossover Dogs is a site where I can share his story and share the stories of other dogs like him – dogs that taught their handlers the value of compassion, not coercion, in the name of dog training and forever changed their interactions with all dogs as a result. Project Monte is the story of how one dog changed the world for a family and an entire community of international dog owners, and other dogs that have given their owners the gift of positive training.
- Sharing what he taught me with thousands of dog owners, in my practice and writing – I’m a lucky gal. What better job is there than helping people and dogs understand, appreciate, and enjoy each other more? Monte’s legacy extended far beyond the boundaries of my business and clients here in upstate New York and has touched the hearts of dogs and people throughout the world. I have no doubt I will spend the rest of my life sharing the lessons I learned from and with Monte with countless dog owners that are like i was – desperately in love with their dog and desperate to understand and improve his behavior.
One of the breeders I spoke with today told me, “You know, we do require that all of our puppies attend a puppy class and preferably an obedience class as well.” I laughed, because my puppy will be not only attending, but assistant teaching at puppy class!
Long live Monte’s legacy. This new puppy certainly has some massive paws to fill.