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Ridgefield Enjoys Bernese Mountain Dog Parade

RIDGEFIELD, Conn. – Ridgefield was the Bernese Mountain Dog capital of the world on Saturday afternoon as close to 200 Berners came to town for the 18th annual Bernese Mountain Dog Parade.

Owners walked their dogs down Main Street and returned to St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church for a picnic lunch.

The event started at St. Stephen’s, where pastor Whitney Altopp recited a blessing of the animals in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, whose Feast Day was Oct. 4. The pastor began her blessing with, “Dog is God spelled backwards,” which allowed her to elevate the stature of Berners.

The owners already knew their Berners are special. “They’re really gentle giants,” said Patti Ballard, the Redding resident who has hosted the parade for the past 13 years. “They’re loving, laid-back family dogs, physically beautiful. They don’t drool but they shed enormously and we love them for that. They’re people pleasers and so bright.”

The big black dogs with brown markings and white paws looked remarkably alike as they played with each other. “They look at each other like it’s a mirror,” Ballard said.

The event attracted Berner owners from other states. Lori Friedli, from Mamaroneck, N.Y., owns two Berners who were pulling a brace cart. “They were originally draft dogs who pulled milk carts, which was cheaper than horses,” she said.

As the Berners paraded down Main Street, residents paused to check them out. “It’s a pleasant disruption,” said Charlie Ballard, Patti’s husband. “People put their slices of pizza down and parents shield their kids because they don’t want them to ask if they can get a dog.”

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