Bergamasco Beginnings

Donna & I joined together and now had three Golden Retrievers and two Bearded Collies. One of Donna’s Bearded Collies died at an early age from an unknown ailment and the other young Bearded Collie developed Addisons disease. Donna found an experimental medication that was being tested for human usage that enabled Dodger to lead a fairly normal life. When the last of my Golden Retrievers went to the happy hunting ground, Donna started to look for a breed that wasn’t over bred, didn’t have as many medical problems as we had encountered, nor was changed too drastically through the whims of the kennel clubs.

For Donna, The Polish Lowland Sheepdog the ancestor of the Bearded Collie, at the time a rare breed, fit the bill. In December of 1994 we became the proud parents of Cole, a male Polish Lowland Sheepdog. Scanning through a dog book, I saw a picture of a long haired coated dog called, Pastore de Bergamasco, (Shepherd Of The Alps), “neat” I said to Donna, “Let’s bring one home!”

At the time we didn’t know how profound that statement was! Donna called throughout the USA, trying the main stream kennel clubs, then the rare breed kennel clubs and found out there weren’t any Bergamamso Sheepdogs to be had. I said that can’t be so, they have to be somewhere, keep looking.

While on foray in a book store, Donna inadvertently ran across a magazine that had an article about the Bergamasco Sheepdog. The article had an English woman’s name and phone number. But try as we might, we kept getting connected to South Africa. We didn’t think that Bergamascos’ could be found in South Africa, when Italy was their country of origin.
After several months, it dawned on us that the magazine was an English Magazine and perhaps we should use an England Country Code. Lo and behold the phone number worked. In England, we talked to Reyna Knight who was kind enough to call Dr. Marie Andreoli, a long time Bergamasco breeder in Italy. One six-month male Bergamasco Sheepdog was available.

It really didn’t matter to us, male or female, black or grey, all we knew was that we were going to receive a Pastore de Bergamasco — a breed that wasn’t readily available in the USA — so a male it was.

Our Italian Bergamasco Breeder never asked for any monies in advance and more or less said, if you don’t like the dog that I am sending you, please send him back. We really appreciated Dr. Andreoli’s generous attitude. It made us feel that she was genuinely interested in the breed and not the money — hard to find in any situation. Eventually, after many faxes to Marie’s sons in Italy, E-mails and the Internet weren’t readily used at that time, we arranged to receive our first Bergamasco. A Grey male, Fauno, six months old was coming to us!

Summer time, July 1995, Kennedy Airport NY, 90F degrees, including a two hour US Customs wait — but… Fauno had arrived!!! We didn’t realize it at the time, but Dr. Marie Andreoli sent us a magnificent dark grey male Bergamasco Sheepdog. Fauno, a gentle large male, who preferred to eat at midnight, when all was quiet, took me six months of developing a trusting relationship to get him to stop living underneath our kitchen table and another six months to have him eat out in the open and not just in a quiet secluded environment. At a year and a half, our young Begamasco Sheepdog started to develop into a strong, passive, but self imposing entity that we know Fauno to be…

We enjoyed Fauno so much that we asked about a mate for him. Dr. Andreoli selected Gae. Gae,(Mother Earth) a four month old female was born black but eventually faded to grey. Gae became Fauno’s first partner and our first experience living with a female Bergamasco. If all went well two years later Gae would be just right for Fauno.

Gae When Donna and I first went to Italy, in the Summer of 1996, we arrived at Dr. Andreoli’s house and found approximately 35 Bergamascos’ of all ages. Puppies, young ones, adolescents, adults and mature dogs, most in coat but if the coat was too much for them at a certain time, the coat was trimmed back to make it easier for the aged, noble Bergamasco. All of these dogs lived together fairly harmoniously. The males and females were separated from one another, especially at times of season.

Breeding is an art and a science doesn’t always work the way you would like it to! With over 35 years of experience, knowing and understanding the various characteristics of the different lineages and styles from many generations back, Dr. Andreoli was able to qualify most of the characteristics that she was looking for.

She once told us if you only have one type or style of the breed and if you lose what you like about the breed, where do you go from there to find what you lost? As we stated earlier, breeding is an ongoing experience and an art that doesn’t come easily! Perhaps over many years of breeding, one dog in many would have it all.

Dr. Marie Andreoli started sending Bergamasco Sheepdogs to us one at a time, usually from different lineages, that incorporated different coats, different head types, different body structures. Even if we liked one dog in particular, Dr. Andreoli would say: “This dog/bitch is from an old line, it would be better if you had this line to work with.” Dr. Andreoli would direct us to breeders who had litters that were from different linages, from England, Switzerland, Sweden or from where ever. These Bergamascos were brought in to the USA so there were enough Bergamascos of different lineages and types to maintain the breed for quite some time.

Donna, without ever realizing it, was being given Pupas Bergamasco Genetic Pool and information that was developed during 45 years of living, loving and breathing the experiences of the Bergamasco Sheep Dog. This is the way Donna became responsible for the Bergamasco Dell Albert Bloodlines in the USA and perhaps, just perhaps as of now, we have the most documented and diverse genetic pool of Bergamasco Sheepdog Information in the world.

Once again, none of this would be remotely possible without Dr. Marie Andreoli’s direction and whom spent an eternity for the love of the breed.

Pastore de Bergamasco, The Shepherd Of The Alps.