Hugo & Merlin Leonard

How did your owner decide they wanted a small friend and that you would be the right small friend for them?
14 years ago Mum and Dad decided to get a dog to complete their family. When they were researching what type of dog to bring into their family they were at a family function and the owner of the house had the most beautiful dog they had ever seen. His name was Hank (the Tank) and he was a Bernese Mountain Dog. Not only was he the most beautiful dog they ever seen, he was also the cuddliest people magnet they had ever met. He sat on Mum’s foot and looked back up into her eyes and asked her to rub his glorious thick white chest. Hank had the most adorable eyes and thick glossy black coat with white and tan markings. Mum was in love and all thoughts of any other breed flew out the window. They put in an order and 9 months later (like a human pregnancy) they held their first gorgeous baby Bernese bundle of fluff, Oscar, in their arms. They have never looked back.

Two years later they got a playmate for Oscar and called him Leo. When they lost Oscar to Lymphoma the household was very sad and they had to get a playmate for Leo so along came little Arthur (he was a very proud handsome boy and carried himself with lots of pride and presence so everyone used to call him King Arthur). Sadly both Leo and Arthur died within 3 months of each other and for 6 very lonely months Mum and Dad were dogless. Life was miserable until I, Merlin the Magician came along in April 2010. You could say I was a little spoilt, but who couldn’t fall in love with me as I was simply the most adorable sweet baby.

I am the most sociable friendly dog and I loved the fact that Mum and Dad took me everywhere with them but I was very lonely at home alone with just Peppa the cat for company. Don’t get me wrong Peppa is lots of fun and I was happy when we got her when I was 12 months old as my previous housecat mate Charlie was killed by a snake. I missed Charlie as he taught me everything I know about loving cats and the kinds of games they like to play with dogs. Charlie also taught me that cats are the boss even though they are tiny compared to a Bernese Mountain Dog. Still much as I love playing with cats, I really wanted a doggie friend to keep me company. I finally convinced Mum and Dad to get me a little Berner puppy to play with. So finally in June 2011 Hugo (who thinks he’s the Boss because of his name) joined our family. Everyone called him my new squeaky toy. We have lots of fun chasing each other and play-wrestling. Basically I have taught him everything he knows and he is finally learning who’s boss around here. I just love having him around. Mum and Dad love having 2 dogs again and there’s never a dull moment around here.

Where did your owner find you? 
I (Merlin) came from a breeder in Wagga Wagga and Hugo came from a breeder near Windsor.

How did your owner choose your name?
Since Mum and Dad’s previous dog was called Arthur and he died suddenly and broke their hearts, Mum decided they needed some magic in their lives so Merlin was the obvious choice for me. I have certainly brought lots of magic and laughter to their lives. There were lots of arguments as to what to call my new puppy brother. Mum wanted to continue the King Arthur theme and I almost got a little sister called Guinevere, but the breeder didn’t have a suitable girl at the time. They were offered a boy dog and they fell in love with a little chap who just looked like a Hugo and the breeder called him Hugo Boss. I, however, refuse to call him the Boss part.

What do you enjoy doing?
Both Hugo and I love going for walks in the bushland. We both go to obedience classes and I, Merlin did agility for a year. I was a bit nervous of all the scary equipment at first but learnt to love the tunnels and jumps. I never got the hang of the high dog walk so Mum decided to try Dancing with Dogs with me at the Belconnen Dog Obedience Club. I absolutely love dancing and everyone says I move beautifully. It’s a pity my Mum has two left feet and I keep telling everyone I am handler impaired. Still I’m sure if she keeps practicing we’ll make a better team one day and she won’t embarrass me so much. Everyone has so much fun in the classes and we have had a few performances, the most recent at the Tulip Tops Gardens where we performed a group routine to the music of ‘Tiptoe Through the Tulips’. We were a big hit. Mum is also teaching Hugo to dance but he’s not as good at twirling and dancing as me.

When Mum was in the US in May she bought a fancy new dog cart for us and every day she takes us to our dog club where there is lots of nice flat ground where we can train. At first I was afraid of the cart but Hugo loved it and kept wanting to be hitched up. Hugo was only 6 months when Mum finally decided he was old enough to get his own harness and she started working with him. He loved it and is a real natural. Finally, not to be outdone by my little brother I decided to allow Mum to hitch me up and now I love it as well. We never miss an opportunity to get out there and strut our stuff. There aren’t many dogs in Canberra who do carting so we’re hoping that other people will see how handsome we are and how much fun we have and want to join us.

Bernese Mountain Dogs were originally bred in Switzerland as farm dogs and because they are so strong the farmers used to load up the milk and cream cans in the carts and the dogs would take them to the cheese factory. Our ancestors were also used as guard dogs to protect the farm. We are pretty good at guarding our house but the only thing we get to carry in our cart is flowers and the other day when we were at Clonakilla winery they filled our cart with bottles of wine. I guess you could say we are pretty useful working dogs.

Do you have a favourite treat, spot or toy?
Both Hugo and I love to play tug and we are always driving Mum crazy by racing around the house grabbing things and ripping them to pieces. We also love to chase our little kitty cat sister, Peppa. She is a real tease and hides and then pops up in funny places like the top of the balcony in the entrance area. She has amazing balance and we keep trying to get her to fall off the rail but she generally outsmarts us. Just a tinkle of her bell gets us running after her at full speed scratching the timber floor to pieces. She loves it and sometimes Mum has to lock her in her room so she can get some peace and quiet – she always spoils our fun.

Our favourite toys apart from tug toys are those which squeak. They never last very long as we just have to work out how they work and that involves ripping all the stuffing out. Unfortunately once we rip them open Mum confiscates them and throws them in the bin. She really is a spoil sport. We also love running around the house with cushions in our mouths when Mum can’t take it anymore she puts them all away until she says we grow up and stop being so silly.

Our favourite place to sleep is on the couch or on Mum and Dad’s bed. They recently decided to buy a king sized bed so that we could all fit on properly and get some sleep. Hugo likes to get up really close and snuggle up with his head on Mum’s pillow. Mum doesn’t mind so much but Dad complains that this makes his asthma worse. I’m more considerate and sleep at the bottom of the bed. Peppa has to be locked in her own room at night as she likes to sneak under the covers. Hugo and I aren’t that inconsiderate and besides we Bernese would get too hot – being originally from Switzerland we like the cool temperatures. Unfortunately Mum and Dad have never taken us to the snow. Maybe one day.

What do you think makes you so special to your owner?
We are always happy and ready for fun and have the waggiest tails and big slobbery grins. Who could ever resist us? Mum is always saying that she doesn’t know what people who don’t have dogs do for laughs. We keep everyone happy and laughing with our silly antics.

Are there any funny or interesting stories about you that you can share with us?
Hugo and I work as a great team with Peppa the cat. We dogs know we aren’t allowed to jump up at the kitchen bench so we have taught Peppa to knock things off for us. Peppa, like all the cats Mum & Dad have had, just loves to see things fall and then she’ll play with them for a while and get bored and then we dogs pounce on them and destroy them. It’s called teamwork. Just before Christmas last year Mum had made little Christmas cakes to give to friends. She carefully packed them away but one morning she forgot one on the furthest corner of the kitchen bench. It looked so inviting all wrapped in purple foil. I asked Peppa for her help and she managed to knock it to the ground. By the time Mum arrived home 2 hours later the only evidence of my little party was a couple of bits of purple foil and an almond on the floor. Mum panicked and immediately rang Dr Matt who suggested we come to visit him as soon as possible. Dr Matt suggested we should have our consultation outdoors. I thought this might be fun until he started giving me awful stuff to make me bring up all that delicious fruit cake. What a waste of a tasty snack that was. Mum said that sultanas are toxic for dogs and that I was very silly to eat them but I insisted it wasn’t my fault – the cat made me do it!

One day I will forgive Dr Matt for spoiling my day like that. Apparently it was for my own good, and saved my life or something, but that is hard for a dog like me to imagine as those Christmas cakes of Mum’s just tasted so good. Still we love visiting Small Friends. It takes team effort sometimes to get me inside the door and the staff have to tempt me with treats. I don’t mind going in really but I’ve got to make them think they have to give me lots of liver treats and make a huge scene to get me in. I just love all the attention. Hugo on the other hand is so silly he hasn’t worked that trick out yet, he just gets so excited to see everyone at Small Friends and races in, so I end up getting most of the treats.