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ALL Photos on this website

are SageKeep Dogs bred or owned by Esther Wilson

unless otherwise specified.

Beware of Bernese Mtn Dog Breeder websites that steal photos of Berners from other breeders and then display those photos to falsely portray their kennel.


Many graphics used courtesy of Classique Graphics by Dawn Gabig
















































In Loving Memory

~ SageKeeps Panning For Gold~




Shown here, Panner is only 18 months old.

His height was about 26-1/2" tall and he weighed about 95 lbs.

At age 2 years, Panner weighed in at 102 lbs.


Date of Birth: January 21, 2004

Date of Death: May 2, 2006

Cause of Death: HBC (Hit By Car)


Orthopedic Clearances:

WCVM Certified Normal Elbows and Good-to-Excellent Hips
PennHIP Certified TOP 30% of all Bernese in their database
CERF: Eyes Normal 6-8-06

See also: www.bernergarde.org database


Look up Panner on the Berner Garde Database:



CH Hidden Valleys Miracle On Ice
CH Hidden Valley's It's Rocky
CH Altair of Hidden Valley
CH Majanco Verzasca
CH Hidden Valley Ursula Under Ft
CH Rogel's Gentilhomme
Hidden Valleys Goody Two Shoes
Eaglecaps Morning Star
Intl CH Kielerstar Eli V Muir
CH Taplac's Heckler
Adelina V Kielerstar
Alpentail Alexia V Eaglecap
Can CH SwissStar Raider Of The Last Bark
CH Hidden Valley Nikel V Alpentail

It is tough to write about Panner because I still feel incredible sadness, regret and also anger with the people I entrusted him to and at myself for entrusting him to them. I am working to forgive them and myself but it is difficult, especially because they did not follow-through with their agreement with me. If they had, Panner would certainly be alive because he would've been left with me when they went on vacation. I am thankful that, after loss of Panner, another breeder opted to entrust their puppy to this couple because I simply could not. I was very sad to learn from other breeders that this couple blames Panner entirely for his demise. They blamed his temperament, which had always been gorgeous when he lived with me. Somehow, they expected an adult male dog who had been with them less than 3 weeks, whom the wife had abandoned when Panner was about to be attacked by another dog (among other things), was supposed to be happy to endure being placed at a strange kennel, among more strange dogs, with a 4 ft high fence. No, Panner wasn't to blame. Human error was to blame, which is often the case with dog deaths. It's too bad that not everyone can take responsibility for their own mistakes. I'm very hopeful that these people are making good parents with their new puppy as I know they have good hearts (they're just not very experienced with dogs). Their devotion to try to find Panner was sincere and deep, even if they did delay contacting me for help until it was all but too late. I know they suffered greatly from Panner's demise, as did all of us that knew and loved him.

Panner was the puppy I kept as show/breeding potential from my Wild West Litter (aka, The Dirty Dozen). He brought some important qualities to my breeding program that I really, really wanted: overall soundness, wonderful companion temperament, excellent health and excellent orthopedics. His mother, Star, still lives with me.

In June 2006, Panner produced an incredible litter of pups with my Mariah. Panner was a great stud: he produced better than himself, which is what you hope for. My Vinny and Savvy are Panner kids.

Because he produced such a nice litter, including the two gorgeous boys that I have, I no longer needed Panner in my breeding program. Berners are a breed that requires - thrives - on human companionship. Several Berners share my companionship and so they each must vie for my attention. That's why, when I can, I always feel it's a blessing to place a retired Berner into a wonderful pet home whenever possible. The pet home will likely give lots more individual attention that I can. I strongly feel that Berner hoarders (breeders who keep their healthy, well-adjusted Berners even after they're neutered/spayed and so amass 30+ Berners living with them) do a great disservice to those animals. So I thought that, since Panner had finished as a stud, I would love him enough to put him with a loving, committed family who could better meet his needs.

Panner was incredibly athletic with the excellent orthopedics to support it. In late March 2007, Panner was neutered and placed with a nice couple in northern Idaho who enjoy hiking and are very physically active outdoors. Panner is incredibly athletic and, as I discussed with this couple at length, this was a big reason I placed Panner with them.

Prior to placing Panner with them, this couple told me they had plans to go to Louisiana for a jazz festival in April - but they didn't want to wait to get Panner. So we agreed that Panner would come back and visit with me - that I would keep Panner while they were gone and, as I do for all my puppy buyers, I would do this for FREE. (I always offer my puppy buyers FREE boarding for the pup's I've placed with them - for their vacations, emergencies, etc. In fact, very often, I've driven and met them half-way at no cost to them, in order to kennel their Berner with me while they enjoyed vacation).

So, our agreement was that, when they went on vacation in a few weeks after they received Panner, Panner would board with me until they returned home from vacation. Unfortunately, they changed their minds without telling me. The wife told me that her reason for leaving him with a kennel instead was because she wanted to feel like Panner was more hers than mine.

Now the following situation is something the wife told TWO of my other puppy buyers: During his time with them, the wife took Panner over to a friend's home down the street from their home. These neighbors owned an aggressive Rottweiler dog. While they were in the backyard, as the Rottweiler prepared to attack Panner, the wife let go of Panner's leash and walked away in fear for her safety. Feeling abandoned and also because he'd never been attacked by another dog before, Panner ran for his life - he jumped that small fence and ran down the street, back to his new home where he waited for his new owner to return (I'm sure he hoped the Rottweiler wouldn't follow him!). Neither the wife nor husband had told me about this - I had to learn it from TWO of my other puppy buyers who befriended this couple in an attempt to help them learn about caring for a Berner. This shows the couple knew that Panner could  -and would- leap small fences.

After Panner had been with this couple for less than 3 weeks, in the latter part of April 2007, these people Panner was placed in the care of Happy Tails Boarding Kennel in the Paradise Valley area of Bonners Ferry. They chose this without telling me. My placement agreement said that Panner would be brought back to stay with me when they left, because Panner would've only been with them less than 3 weeks at that time.





The kennel they chose instead is located on the edge of the Kootenai Wildlife Preserve. Published material on this area says there are cougars, grizzlies and brown bears live in this area. However, the kennel came highly recommended.

Just three (3) weeks after they'd brought Panner into their lives, Panner's owners left on a trip and entrusted him to the care of this kennel. The kennel removed his normal collar with his tags on it and put a plain choker collar on him, instead. I have no clue 'why' this kennel did this because, in my view, it's incredibly irresponsible and plain stupid. I really hope this kennel re-thinks this policy AND their policy to leave new dogs unattended in an open kennel in a wilderness area where - per published information - there are many large animal predators that live in the area. I feel this kennel made some irresponsible choices that enabled Panner's flight and helped prevent his being identified. Having served in rescue, I cannot imagine anyone with any rescue experience making those choices.

On Friday, April 27th, Panner jumped a 4-foot fence at this kennel and tried to go home. As soon as his owners learned of Panner's dilemma, they left their vacation early and spent a small fortune to fly home asap to find him.

They searched for Panner all weekend and then called to tell me about this situation on Monday, April 30th. I immediately drove the 4+ hours north to join the search for Panner. On Tuesday, as I was searching near a pond where Panner had been sighted, I became very alarmed after I saw adult cougar footprints near the pond.  I've lived in an area where cougars roamed freely (like the 3 cougars who lived on my property in a Montana mountain community), so I am familiar both with the pawprints and the risks involved.

Panner's owners and the kennel owner put up flyers everywhere, including nearby towns. The kennel owner put an ad in the local newspaper. All of us called nearby animal shelters and vet clinics.

Panner's owners camped out in various areas where Panner had been sighted. Their friends came to help. Panner's owners mounted a huge effort to find Panner. As you may imagine, it was a very, very emotional time. I do applaud Panner's owners for never giving up hope to find him AND for taking time from their busy careers to look for him (I know that was a huge price to pay to find a runaway dog).

Panner was sighted a few times after he escaped his kennel. One time, he almost came to a particular stranger. There were no official sightings of Panner after Sunday, April 29th 5pm, although there was a possible sighting on Monday.

When I drove up there, I felt I was a day too late and I did my best to shake this feeling. His owners remained hopeful and very vigilant.

We employed the help of two animal communicators, two intuitives and one douser.

The animal communicators and the intuitives said that Panner was unhappy at the kennel and desperately wanted to go home. So he jumped the fence and tried to find his way home. (Okay, so we didn't really need anyone to tell us this but it confirmed what we thought we knew).

Both intuitives said that Panner had been rescued by a very nice, middle-aged couple who were trying to find his owners. Both animal communicators said that Panner was roaming freely and trying to find home. The douser agreed with the intuitives that Panner had been rescued.

One of the intuitives said that Panner would be returned to his owners on Friday after being rescued by a middle-aged couple, family people. She said that the town of Elmira was especially important to post flyers in because Elmira played an important part in how Panner would be found. The other intuitive said this very same thing - not knowing what the other one had said. Neither of the animal communicators had anything about any particular town (and that's probably because Panner was in a strange area).

The problem was that no one - not one of them and none of us - knew where Panner was or had any really good idea.

I had two dreams about Panner this week. Both dreams happened in the same night: in the wee hours of Thursday morning, about 5 am.

The first dream was that Panner was in a barn. A farmer had taken a shot-gun and shot Panner, who had been roaming freely. Panner laid down and, after a little while, died.

In the dream that immediately followed, I saw Panner lying down, stretched out a little on the ground. The ground beneath him was different than the ground had been in the barn (it was grassy instead of hay). When I arrived to see Panner - and in the dream I knew I was in spirit-form - Panner looked up at me briefly to acknowledge my presence and then he put his head back down. He was in incredible pain. A moment later, I knew Panner had died. When I awoke from the dream, I put as much positive energy into Panner as possible and I desperately hoped neither of my dreams were true. But I had a strong gut feeling that Panner had been killed by a human.

I had arranged to drive up on Friday night to the home of another puppy buyer in the area. We agreed that I could use their home as a base for sleep and showers so I could again join the search for Panner over the weekend. I felt strongly confident we would find him and I couldn't get rid of the heavy thought that Panner was dead. But I was determined to find him - just as his owners were also determined.

Just after I left work on Friday, I called Panner's owners to inquire if Panner had been found and to make arrangements to connect with their search efforts over the weekend.

Panner's new dad said that he had been standing in Elmira putting out more flyers when he got a phone call from a strange number. The call was from a man in the area. This man had seen the photos of Panner on his flyers and had gone back to confirm that a dead dog he saw matched Panner's description. The dead dog and the description matched, so he called the number on the flyer.

Yes, it was Panner who lay dead on the side of a road near Naples (not far from Elmira). It appears Panner was hit and killed by a car in an area that was far south of the kennel. He was headed home.

With the help of the caller, Panner's new dad loaded Panner's remains into his car and took him to their Vet for cremation.

Panner with his new dad


We are all devastated at the loss of our beloved boy, Panner. He had just turned two years old in January. We're all amid feelings of remorse, guilt and a fervent desire to change past decisions. If only...If only...

Thankfully, Panner's legacy lives on in his wonderful children. He produced one litter in June 2006. You can visit Vinny, Savvy and Napa webpages to learn more about Panner's progeny.

Clifford, who was Bella's human, loved Panner deeply. He wanted Panner to live with him but he was physically handicapped and it wasn't possible. But he adored Panner. Clifford left us in early April due to a terrible lung disease. It helps me to think that, somehow, Clifford was waiting to greet Panner at the Rainbow Bridge. I know Panner loved Clifford, too, and having Clifford greet him would've been a joy for Panner.

My darling boy, I am so sorry you're gone and for anything I did that made you unhappy. I know Patrick and Lisa feel the same. We all learned lessons at your expense.

Panner, you were such a devoted friend and your passing has left a gaping hole in our lives. Thank you for the wonderful memories you left with us.


Rest in Peace, Panner


and you'll never be forgotten as long as I draw breath.




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Last modified: 05/06/10