‘Life is one stick at a time’: The beautiful lesson a local dog taught his owners over nearly 10,000 miles

Tony Jacomet’s walks with his dogs Bernard and Beatrice for nearly a dozen years turned out to be much more than a daily journey.

Bernard would lead the way on walks that began at Aullwood Audubon Center near the Jacomet home when he and litter mate sister Beatrice were young and continued until days before Bernard’s death at age 12.5 on July 6.

In between, Jacomet and the dogs had walked 9,865 miles – well on their way to a 10,000-mile goal – and Bernard had built two wood sculptures, literally one stick at a time, along an Aullwood center road.

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Those driving along the road might see Bernard’s Wood Sculpture and a tribute board with photos and text placed by his owners, Tony and Donna Jacomet.

Following his death, the couple shared the story of Bernard, a 140-pound Aika, on a flier. They said Bernard not only led the walks and built sculptures but taught them valuable lessons.

“Bernard taught us that life is one stick at a time – never give up,” the Jacomets wrote.

They also vowed to complete the 10,000 miles. That happened Aug. 21 with Beatrice with Bernard’s spirit leading the way.

Early into walking the dogs, Tony Jacomet decided to keep track of the distance covered in each walk. Donna Jacomet has a stack of yearly calendars with the mileage marked on each day.

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Bernard’s stick routine began early in the walks, which started from a pull-off along a center road.

“The first couple of times we came out, Bernard would start pulling and going over in the woods and pick up a stick. The bigger he got, the bigger it got,” Donna Jacomet said. “We would try to give Beatrice one, but she said no.”

About a mile into the walk, Bernard would drop the stick and Tony would place it off the road, always in the same location.

“After they walked about 2,000 miles, I asked him, ‘Why are you doing this? He said, ‘So they would know we were here,’” Donna Jacomet said of the sticks.

At that point, she began a photo album of the dogs.

“It was so spiritual, in a strange way, when Tony said that,” she said.

The first pile of sticks was too close to the road and was removed.

After that, sticks were placed a little further back, and the second sculpture created.

“I was a minor player. I didn’t carry any sticks. Bernard did all the work. That is why I’ve always referred to the sticks as his artwork, it is his sculpture,” Tony Jacomet said.

He and Beatrice will continue with their walks and keep track of the miles.

Contact this contributing writer at nancykburr@aol.com

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