By John Bailey
Wildest Dream Farm was just a dream at the turn of the century. As a matter of fact, it wasn't even a dream it was an assignment that Tina had to do for a Marketing class she was taking, in college. As an assignment Tina had to develop a marketing plan for fictitious business. In order to complete the assignment she and I fantasized about what our dream home and life would be like and Wildest Dream Farm was born. At the time, she and I were dating, living separately in town, so it truly was a wild dream. Later that year, we got engaged and decided to look for a house together, big enough for our combined 5 children. Wildest Dream Farm began taking on shape.
Our original plans were to focus on horses and horseback riding programs for those people struggling with emotional or mental health issues. We did a great deal of research on Hippo therapy (a Greek word for therapeutic horseback riding which has nothing to do with Hippopotamuses) and it's benefits to the population of people that I was working with on a daily basis, as a Family Therapist. We quickly put-up pasture fences and moved Tina's horse (that she had been boarding for a couple of years) and my little filly (that I had gotten for my birthday, from Tina) into their new home. My 13-year-old daughter saved up and bought a mare and then we added another gelding which Tina came across. All going as planned.
Phase two of Tina's Marketing Plan (which was now being followed very loosely) called for us to add other therapeutic animals to the farm i.e. Therapy Dogs. The therapeutic value of dogs is well documented. Tina owned a Big Boned German Shepard (Max) that came with us to the farm but he wasn’t going to be a therapy dog, except possibly for a “scared straight” program. Max’s non-therapeutic skills came in handy about 6 months later and we will be forever grateful to him. As a child and teen, I had Dalmatians, a Boxer, and St. Bernard. I loved the big dogs but I didn't like the wet mouths. As an adult I had an Irish Wolfhound and a Leonberger . Before Max, Tina had owned a couple of Neapolitan Mastiffs and a Yellow Lab. We decided to find a breed together that neither of us had ever owned. We were in no hurry but the research was on. So many Breeds to choose from. We wanted a big dog, good with families (children) and animals with a great temperament (so they could be therapeutic).
One Winter’s night, about 6 months after we had moved into our farm house Tina got a call from her 14-year-old son, who was babysitting, while the two of us were at work. Even though it was only 6 pm it was very dark and the wind was blowing hard, her son said that Max was on edge and doing a lot of barking (which was not uncommon as he was getting use to farm life too i.e. varmints). While Tina was talking to her son on the phone, Max became more agitated and moved to the laundry room door, which was closed. On the other side of the laundry room was our back door, that led to the outside. The kids heard a pounding on the back door as if the screen door had blown open and slammed shut. While they were on the phone Max stopped barking and the wind appeared to die down and all seemed well . Tina and I got home and all were fine. We didn’t give the incident another thought .
The next morning, I headed out the back door and sure enough someone had broken the lock, pried open the door and actually entered the laundry room. Once they entered, I assume they either opened the laundry door to the Hallway and met Max (unfortunate for them) or heard him barking through the door and ran away (the smarter way to go). That day we added to our list of dog traits, a dog that would watch over and protect our home and family. That is how we found the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog.
We did our research on the breed and breeders, just like you might be doing right now and we fell in love with the breed even further. We than began looking at breeders. Turned out you couldn't just find a Swissie or Swissy just anywhere. After speaking with many breeders, we found an excellent breeder in North Carolina (who no longer breeds Swissies) and waited over 6 months to bring our puppy Justus home. Near the same time, we also came across a female puppy from a not-so-great breeder, she became our rescue girl, Scout. Scout was never bred but she taught us a lot about the "ugly side" of the Swissie world as she had bi-lateral hip and elbow dysplasia, a leaky bladder, over bite and arthritis. We were told she likely wouldn’t live much past 2 but she made it to 7 before she could no longer stand even with assistance (she is missed but feeling no pain) . Justus who became our first Therapy and Service Dog, also went on to become the 2008 Greater Swiss Mountain Dog National Champion. He is the Foundation Stud Dog for our breeding program here at Wildest Dream Swissies.
What we have learned over the years can be summed up quite easily. Make sure you know the breed of dog you want and why. Make sure you know the breeders and that they know what characteristics they are breeding for. Know how to care for and feed your dog and where to get answers when you have questions. Be committed to your dog for its entire life. Best of luck and we are here for you 517-605-9403.