” Are you one of those people who gets all giddy when you see a dog in public? Trying to make eye contact with the human on the other side of the leash to see if they would approve of you smothering their K-9 with affection? Good, so am I! “
PHOTOGRAPHY BY EMMA O’BRIEN WORDS BY MARISE BURGER & ESTASCHIA COSSADIANOS
It’s one of those unspoken things that people with dogs must just live with. We love our pooches dearly and we appreciate it when other people pay them attention as well. Big fluffy faces and sloppy kisses are the best, aren’t they?
Luckily for us, most people don’t have an issue with the public show of affection unless their pup has a medical reason or personality that doesn’t allow for it. If it works for the dog, it usually works for the human.
Echo and her mom are the same. From cuddles on the couch to cuddles with strangers, what makes them happy is spreading the love and awareness of a breed that has a personality that is even bigger than their physique. Bernese Mountain Dogs were originally bred in Switzerland to assist with farm work and herding cattle, which makes them very active – a major issue if you don’t do your research before welcoming this breed into your home. What struck me about Estaschia, specifically, was how determined she is to create awareness on this topic.
Here’s what she had to tell us about our beautiful cover model:
Echo is a beautiful Bernese Mountain Dog. Please tell us a bit about how she became a part of your family.
The story starts when I was touring Europe while pursuing a music career in my younger years. I had no clue the breed existed and when I laid eyes on this massive smiling creature, I was sold. We were in Norway at that time, spending the holidays with my best friend’s family, and I was glued to this dog’s side. I was obsessed.
Years later, after doing my research and having to wait a couple of years due to various factors, we set out on our eight hour adventure to get Echo and a few of her siblings to Gauteng. The other pups’ owners were lucky I let them go – I was ready to be a mum of three bears.
Being a therapy dog, Echo spends time visitig old age homes, orphanages, and hospitals. What inspired you to pursue this path with her?
Remember that time before covid hit and we were all working in an office environment with tough deadlines and crappy people? At that time, I wanted to have a therapy dog for the corporate version of me as I was diagnosed with anxiety, and it fit the timeline of when I was going to get my dream dog. The plan was for Echo to go to work with me and help me ignore triggers or help ease them.
Echo was in the office with me for a good month before covid happened. Then we all had to work from home and logistics changed. My anxiety got better but I didn’t want to let the idea of a therapy dog go. So I started taking her to places where people needed some extra love and cuddles, but where they can’t always have animals for therapy. Animal therapy is growing in South Africa, and I am proud that my fluff butt gets to be part of that change.
What is Echo’s favourite pastime?
Driving. Echo has the biggest smile on her face when her head is popped out the back window with the wind in her ears. A close second would be exploring, as she goes everywhere with me and gets to meet a lot of people.
What is the silliest/ naughtiest thing Echo’s ever done?
Asking a Berner owner this is tough because they are goofy creatures by nature. However, she did like to eat my underwear when she was 6 months old, and we had frequent trips to the vet. She would find a way to get into the laundry basket and dig out my best undies. As soon as she noticed you saw her with that piece of fabric, she would just swallow it. She probably wanted to follow in the steps of a lingerie model.
What about pet peeves? What really annoys her?
Echo is quite chill with most things. You can touch and rub her anywhere and she won’t give a fluff, but what I adore doing that makes her scowl, is tickle her paws. The hair between her paw pads is quite sensitive and she will kick to let you know to stop. If you don’t, you get a very annoyed glance.
Echo gets along with all kinds of critters. But is there anyone she doesn’t get along with?
Honestly, we haven’t come across anything she dislikes yet. Bunnies, birdies, cats and even bugs have her intrigued. All things are friends. Echo does
dislike flies, though. She chomps at those sky raisins with gusto.
What does your routine look like during the week?
After dad gets up for work, we get to cuddle properly with belly rubs and we motivate each other to get out of bed. This is every morning. Between me working and telling her what a good girl she is for allowing me to work without her heavy sighing, we go for three walks a day and also some play dates. We schedule monthly therapy sessions with organisations to be sure to give everyone we can awesome vibes. Life is demanding and since my life took a massive change two years ago, I am still trying to balance being Echo’s momager and a hardworking human contributing to society.
BIG FLUFFY FACES AND SLOPPY KISSES ARE THE BEST, AREN’T THEY?
Echo was a flower girl at your wedding. Please tell us a bit about the special day and what inspired this decision?
Echo is our kiddo, and everyone in my life knows that if she can’t go, I would likely not be there as she is never left alone. You wouldn’t exclude your kid from big events, so why wouldn’t I have my dog as our ring bearer? Choosing a venue was solely based on whether they allow dogs, no matter how gorgeous. I am pretty stubborn regarding certain things, and we were lucky that our dream venue had no issue with Echo being there.
My maid of honour was Echo’s keeper for the day and she spent the whole day chilling with the girls. From hair and makeup to photos and celebrations, Echo was there. She had a bow in her hair and the rings were tied around her neck in a red velvet box. She walked down the aisle first and was up front with the rest of the bridal party. She was the goodest girl.
I was met with many concerns from family regarding Echo, because what if she messed up the day? What if she did something? Well, I wanted to have a wedding that would be remembered, and who remembers events that go perfectly? Boring! Our wedding had moments that didn’t follow a schedule or that weren’t rehearsed and we loved that. It was us, and Echo is a huge part of what makes our story. She will never be left out of it!
You talk about Bernese Mountain Dog education on your social media accounts. What would you like to tell people about this beautiful breed?
Because of Echo’s striking good looks, friendly temperament and soft fur, literally everyone wants one. We get stopped a lot, and I welcome it, but before I give people any breeder details, I make sure they know that Bernese Mountain Dogs aren’t at all the same as the dogs we have in South Africa. You are supposed to do your research before welcoming any dog into your family, but I also tell them things that the internet surely didn’t tell me.
had done years of research before I got Echo, and I was still not prepared for many things. As beautiful as she is, here is a common mistake most people make. They are goofy, gentle giants, but they have a high energy drive and, being a working breed, need proper mental and physical stimulation. Their intelligence makes them stubborn, and unlike smaller dogs that you can just pick up if they don’t want to walk or listen, good luck picking up a headstrong 50kg – 70kg dog.
Berners are also needy; they want to be with their owners all the time and you can’t just leave them outside or alone as they become destructive and will dig up your entire garden. You can’t be mad at them for it either. Same with any other breed. You will have to put the work in and can’t fault them for being who they are.
Choose what you are willing to tolerate and compromise on, else, choose a different breed or just don’t get a dog.
This is another reason why we partnered with GCS Joint Care Advanced, because bigger dogs are more prone to joint and hip issues. So, we try and use as many platforms as we can to help get the message out there of proper nutrition for your dog.
This breed is growing in this country, but overbreeding is what I am so scared of. Or having them end up in shelters because people aren’t being thorough enough. We have seen this happen to Huskies most of all, because people do not grasp the breed in their entirety. People who read this magazine are probably ones who are responsible owners and understands this, but for the rest, I wish it could sink in that animals aren’t property, they are family.
What is Echo’s New Year’s resolution for 2023?
Probably to have more beach adventures. Echo loves the beach and chasing seagulls is an entertaining pastime for her. On a more serious note, it would be to reach more people to help educate them on dogs in general, and give even more people smiles. We love making people’s hearts happy.
And there you have it! Our ambassador for 2023. Welcome to the family, Estatchia and Echo! We hope you have fun this year and that we will be seeing a lot more from you and the wonderful work you do.