My name is Bernadette Beirnes and I have been a resident of Bradford for many years. I grew up on a small hobby farm in Richmond Hill, with cats, dogs, rabbits, pigs, cows, and chickens (Henny and Penny, of course) for my pets!
We began our life in Bradford, back in 1988, with a quartet of huskies, which naturally had us dabbling in the fun sport of dog-sledding. We fashioned a training cart out of an old golf cart, received permission to use the back trails of Base Borden, and let our huskies take us for rides while we attempted to teach them the proper commands. In the winter, we hooked them up to a sled and away we went!
As each one of our huskies eventually followed the trail across the Rainbow, I started searching for another breed to expand my love of training with K9’s. I became smitten with a Belgian Shepherd that I met in an obedience class, and after researching the breed, I searched out breeders. Before long, I adopted a black bundle of fur named Vixen. I was totally oblivious to what kind of paths this little girl would lead me onto! Within 7 months, her younger step-brother, Ciaran, warmed his way into my heart, and life has never been the same. The two introduced me to CKC conformation, CKC obedience, Rally Obedience, Agility, St. Johns’ Ambulance Therapy Dogs, sheep herding, and titles earned for being “Good Neighbours”! We spent many happy years training and competing in these various sports. The only limitations were health concerns, which sadly took their tolls. Vixen developed acute panceatitis and had to retire, and Ciaran was diagnosed with cardiac disease at the tender age of 7. Being Belgians, though, these two sweethearts weren’t done with teaching me new things. Instead of training halls, our home and hearts became the foundation of their life-lessons. With Vixen, we had to learn about the disease that made her super-anxious and how to deal with things that caused her the slightest of stress. Ciaran, diagnosed and given 6 months to live, made us grateful for each and every day beyond that original diagnosis. We packed in memory after memory, picture after picture, video after video. We hugged, we cried, we dreaded the inevitable, and we reveled in each and every face-wash he gave us. We rejoiced in every stolen milestone – another fall, another Christmas, his 8th birthday, another summer…..Not willing to part too early, Ciaran gave us another year and a half to soak up every memory we could, God bless him! Not a day goes by that we aren’t reminded of everything he gave us. He has left behind very big paws to fill – which, by the way, are permanently imprinted in the new cement in the barn!
With Vixen in early retirement, and soaking up life being the house princess, it became time for the border collies to step up to the plate. Meg, a very pretty black and white rough-coat, joined the pack several years ago and is responsible for re-connecting me with my farm roots. After spending a few years training in sheep herding, we purchased a 4-acre property on the north side of Bradford with the intent of building up a small flock of sheep…eventually. Like all things in our lives, though, eventually usually happens quicker than expected. Three years later, I enrolled in, and completed with honors, a 9-month grooming course, took on a new border collie pup named Luke, acquired a small flock of 4 suffolk ewes, experienced my first season of lambing, and began working on training Luke, a blue-eyed smooth border collie, to herd sheep. He took to the task like a true border collie and is currently filling in for Meg who’s arthritis sometimes gets the better of her. When I need help moving the sheep, Meg and Luke have proven themselves invaluable!
Paws to Claws has grown into a full-time business for me – and I’ve been so blessed to meet many people who have the same passion for their fur-kids that I have. I spend my days being greeted with such love and enthusiasm from my fur-clients. I just can’t imagine getting a similar reception in retail or an office career! No matter what is going on in my personal life, my Paws to Claws fur-clients never fail to bring a smile to my face and a warm feeling in my heart! I am truly blessed to be able to spend my days feeling so rewarded!