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 a 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 something, so she and I fantasized about what our dream home and life would be like and Wildest Dream Farm was born. Of course we were both living separately in town and neither one of us had ever lived on a farm. So it truly was a wild dream. Well time went by and it became apparent that we were going to try and make a life together (our marriage in Las Vegas wasn't the first clue but it was a strong one). We looked at our two houses and our combined 5 children and determined neither house was big enough. So we began our search for a farm home big enough for all of us and found one. Wildest Dream Farm began taking on shape.
Our original plans (as designed by Tina's college marketing paper) was to focus on horses and horse back riding programs for the people struggling with emotional or mental health issues. We did a great deal of research on Hippo therapy (a Greek word for horse back riding for therapy and has nothing to do with Hippos) and it's benefits to the population of people that I worked with on a daily basis (I'm the Director of Professional Services at a Family Counseling Agency). We quickly put up pasture and 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) on to the property. My 13 year old daughter saved up and bought a mare and 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. Both Tina and I have a wide and vast experiences with dogs, mostly big ones. Tina had raised Labs, Mastiffs and currently owned a Big Bone German Shepard (Max). 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 (Cole). Each were great and lived long lives. Cole had just passed away at 13 even though she had open heart surgery at 4 months. So the research began. So many Breeds to choose from. We wanted a big dog, good with families (children) and animals with a great temperament (so they would be therapeutic).
Well one night, about 6 months after we had moved, Tina and I were both working later and two of the 5 children were home ages 14 and 8. The wind was really blowing and Max (the German Shepherd) 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). The barking continued long enough that it got the kids up off the couch from watching T.V. (this is a lot of barking) and they called us. While 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 a door that led to the outside. The kids heard a pounding of the screen door and it appeared that the wind had blown it open. While they were on the phone Max stopped barking and all seemed well again.
The next morning I checked the back door and sure enough someone had broken the lock and actually entered the laundry room at which time I assume they either met Max or heard him barking and ran away. That day we added to our list of dog traits a dog that would watch over and protect home and family. That is how we found the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog.
We did our research, just like you might be doing right now. 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 anywhere. At the time we were not aware of the Grater Swiss Mountain Dog Club of America but we were lucky and ran across an excellent breeder in North Carolina (who no longer breeds Swissies). Near the same time we also came across a female puppy from a not so great breeder, she became our rescue girl, Scout. Over time we have added Swissies to our home and we now live with 7(ish) Swissies. Max has since passed away at a wonderful old age of 14 (we still miss him). Scout 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. She also has passed away (she is missed as well but feeling no pain) . Justus who became our first therapy dog and also went on to become the 2008 Greater Swiss Mountain Dog National Champion is also a Service Dog. We are hoping Truly will be our second generation therapy dog.
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 the 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 for the life-time of your dog. Best of luck