Houston2We lost our beloved Houston last fall. It has been very hard for us —  he was loved by so many people. His memory will go on with the ranch and we will have a special place to remember him in our Children’s Healing Garden.

This is his story.

Long before we moved to Idaho, our family was at a Fourth of July parade in Aptos, California. Titled “the smallest parade in the world,” it was an event that we looked forward to each year. It is customary for the parade watchers to file in behind the last parade participant and follow it to the end of the parade route. This one particular year, a man who had joined the parade was walking with the most beautiful dog I had ever seen. The dog was big and majestic looking, and he walked down the street with great pride with his head held high and his big paws moving with grace. I had to find out what breed he was.

I walked up to the man and the dog looked me right into the eyes, his tail wagged, his face was soft and welcoming. I spoke to the dog first. “Hello, you big beautiful guy.” His tail wagged faster and he came over to me. As I was petting his head, I introduced myself and asked about the breed. The man gave me a lot of information on the breed, Bernese Mountain Dogs, and their wonderful temperament. He also said that it was difficult to find breeders who have dogs for sale. I thanked him for the information and gave the dog a big love. As I walked away I thought, “Wow! What an amazing animal, I’ll have one of those dogs one day.”

The man was correct when he said “Bernies” would be hard to find. I tried for several years to buy one — I went on-line, called breeders, and I got in touch with the American Kennel Club — but to no avail.  I couldn’t find one to buy.

Houston4Things were changing with our family and as the boys started to grow up, we had serious discussions about the environment we were raising them in. We lived in Los Gatos,  but we taught school in San Jose. There were drastic changes in the school’s culture, including a lot of violence and hatred. It was becoming clear that a move for this family was in order. After months of discussion we made plans to investigate a town in Idaho.

We arrived in Spokane, Washington and met with realtors in Coeur d Alene, Idaho. The very first weekend, we found our dream location and home — a ranch with a lot of acreage. We purchased the property and over the next three months we packed and prepared for the move north.  We arrived in early summer, jobless, but we planned to find jobs during the summer. As you can imagine, a Bernese Mountain Dog was the furthest thing from my mind.

I landed a job as a school principal and began working in August. It was a fun and exciting time for all of us. Kyle started the first grade, Klint began kindergarten, and Keith was a produce manager in a local grocery store. I loved being a principal — I had a wonderful staff of teachers, social workers and office staff. They all kept me informed about our new community. One of the most important tidbits that I learned about was the free, weekly publication called the “Nickelsworth” – it advertises everything from local garage sales to employment opportunities.

Since we were looking to buy horses for our ranch, I read the paper every week.  One week in mid-September, to my great amazement, I came upon an advertisement for Bernese Mountain Dog puppies. Immediately I called to inquire. The woman was a local breeder who had raised the dogs for many years. We talked a long time; she loved that I was a principal and that I planned to take the puppy to school with me. Our conversation ended with me getting put on the list for a male puppy. I was so very excited; I ran in and told my office staff. They were thrilled with the prospect of a puppy at school!Houston3

The days and weeks went by, and finally in mid-October, I got a phone call from the breeder that the puppies had been born. She would watch them carefully and make sure I got one that had a mellow, soft temperament. It was a long 8 weeks, but we finally got the call to bring our puppy home. We decided to name him “Houston” in honor of the space shuttle that had disintegrated while returning to earth.

When the day arrived to pick up the puppy, I was like a kid in a candy store. I could barely sleep the night before. I had an administration meeting that morning, and I admit, it was hard to concentrate!  As I left school to pick him up, my wonderful staff wished me well.

Driving to the breeder, I thought about that beautiful dog I had seen in Aptos. All these years of wanting and waiting, and now the realization of actually owning a Bernese Mountain Dog. She greeted me at the door and in the kitchen, THERE HE WAS, sitting in the middle of the floor playing with a stuffed hedgehog. I fell to my knees and said, “Come to Mom, you beautiful sweet thing.” He waddled over to me with his tail wagging. He had big white paws, a gorgeous block head and sparkling eyes. I held him for the longest time; he licked my face and his tail never stopped wagging. It was hard for me to put him down. We completed all the formalities and I scooped him up in my arms again. Safely tucked in his kennel, we started back to school. When we arrived, my staff, and now two sons, were waiting. Squeals of excitement were heard coming down the hallways (and not just from my children).

K2 Equestrian Center HoustonI place him down on my office floor and stood back. He was such a happy guy. He went right to the boys. He got loves and kisses from everyone in the office. He sat between my two boys in the backseat on our drive home. Both boys couldn’t keep their hands off him; they laughed and giggled all the way home.

Keith was waiting for us when we arrived. He was standing on the porch and it had just snowed. The boys yelled for him to come see what we had. Keith came to the car, smiling and shaking his head. He looked at Houston and laughed. “He looks just like I thought he would,” he said to the boys. The rest of the evening was all about Houston.

To be honest, so has the rest of his life. He remains beloved part of our family. He went to school with me every day. His gentle sweet way helped little children with bumped knees or hurt feelings. He was loved on each day, by the children and my staff. It was clear to me from the beginning that he was very special. Houston would trot down the halls of the school with me. He would not enter a room unless I went in. He would also stand with me at the bus stop each morning to greet the children.

During the summer when school was closed, he would work at the ranch. He greeted families that came to use the ranch. He had become a very large part of the ranch program.

Houston5Houston was a certified therapy dog and worked at the ranch with hospice clients. He played a big roll with Hospice of North Idaho; and was a greeter at the opening of the Hospice House in July, 2011. His warm and gentle personality had been a blessing to children of trauma, disabled individuals, and clients in hospice care. He has been such a true love of our family that we now are the proud owners of five Bernese Mountain Dogs. We have been breeders for the past four years. Thank you, our beloved dog Houston, for all the love and kindness you have shared with so many.



  1. Loved your story. We had three Berners, Momma and two of her girls. Life with three 100 lb. lap dogs can be hectic but I wouldn’t trade a minute of it. We’re down to two, but will keep you in mind when we are ready for another.
    My husband also says, “if we win the lottery, we’ll buy 10 Berners” – we’re known as those crazy dog people!

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.