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The Midland Bernese Carters are a friendly group of Bernese owners, who all freely volunteer to give up our spare time at weekends during the summer, to give displays of carting with our dogs in order to raise money for charity, while at the same time keeping the draught work skills alive in the breed, and having fun ourselves by showing off our dogs for the enjoyment of the public. Since many of the events at which we appear are two day affairs (Steam Traction Engine Rallies, Country Fairs and so on), we also get the chance to relax and socialise in the evenings by patronising the beer tent! Needless to say, we are meticulous about clearing up after our dogs, and actively encourage responsible dog ownership.
As well as our own dogs, BRIG & CRESTA, around nine of our other regular carting dogs have also been P.A.T. Dogs, while some have done well at obedience, and others have acquitted themselves well in the show ring, proving that they are 'not just a pretty face'.
The displays normally consist of about 3 minutes of manoeuvres in the arena, performed to a musical accompaniment, after which we invite the public to come into the ring to meet the dogs and make a fuss of them, while we read a commentary (for those who are still listening!).
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Once we think the dogs have had enough (which can be quite quickly if it's a bit warm), then the public leave the ring, and we parade out to some Alpine Music. For the remainder of the day, we rest the dogs and maintain a static display of carts. We sometimes run a tombola to raise extra funds for charity, although most of the money we raise is donated by the event organisers in lieu of an appearance fee, since we don't make a charge for the displays. Once we've displayed in the ring, we also try to cart around the showground, in order to give the traders and those members of the public who might have missed the display, a chance to see the dogs carting. This created a logistical problem at the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway's Steam Gala 99 in mid October however, since part of the rally was taking place on the far side of the tracks, and the only way across the lines for the carts was via the barrow crossing at the end of the platform - permission had to be sought from the signalman, who said it was the strangest request he'd ever had for a crossing!
Our 'patch' broadly covers the area from Chesterfield to Bedford, and from Cheltenham to Thetford, but the Midland Bernese Carters are not the only carting group giving displays in this fashion, and another group with whom we have particularly close links are the PENNINE BERNESE CARTERS, who cover the area from Nottingham to Northumberland and Cumbria, and whose events are included in our Carting Calendar We also maintain close links with other Bernese carting groups and breed clubs, whom we support with our dogs and carts from time to time. Our dogs are however, first and foremost 'pets', who live indoors with us; carting is simply another enjoyable 'working discipline', that we share with them.
Very occasionally, we are asked whether the dogs find it difficult to pull the carts, and whether it's cruel to make them do it. We generally answer this by recounting the demonstration that we provided to a class of school children; one of the youngsters (about 7 years old) asked how hard it was for the dogs to pull the carts, so we invited him to come out and try for himself. Using only his little finger, he pulled the cart easily across the floor. We then invited one of his teachers to hold on to one of the dogs while it's owner called it from across the hall. It was all the teacher could do to stand still, despite hanging onto the lead with both hands, and eventually, the dog dragged her across the floor to its owner, graphically demonstrating just how much strength the dogs have, and how little of it they need in order to pull the carts. Whenever we produce a harness, our dogs are eagerly bouncing around, waiting for it to be put on, so that they can go carting, which they wouldn't do if it distressed them in any way. Bernese can be quite stubborn if they don't want to do something, and anyone who's owned one, knows that you can't easily make a Bernese do something he really doesn't want to do (at least, not without it being very obvious!). We also make event organisers aware that we will limit or cancel a display if we feel that the conditions are not right, since our dogs' welfare is always paramount in everything we do with them.
To visit a couple of websites with some old, historical pictures of what we believe to be Great Swiss Mountain Dogs carting, CLICK HERE or HERE. Needless to say, we don't ask our dogs to pull loads like these!
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