Today JB the Bernese Mountain Dog is an award winner and a professional model, but at 8 months old he was a bullied puppy whose owners couldn’t keep him around.

“He was living with a small Boxer and the Boxer was intimidating him to the point that he was having problems as a puppy,” said Ahwatukee Foothills resident Bill Baran, JB’s current owner. “It was too much pressure on him. His owners tried to correct him, but they couldn’t do it.”

The young family decided to surrender JB to the Arizona Bernese Mountain Dog Rescue, where he was placed in the care of Bill and Lesley Baran. The couple fostered dogs for the rescue often and at the time they already had a dog of their own and weren’t looking to adopt again, but JB won them over.

“We had fostered a couple others and they had come back and I didn’t want him to go through that,” Bill said. “He had such a good temperament. I decided he’s such a good guy, let’s keep him.”

Bill said JB’s behavior problems were corrected quickly in his new home. In fact, he was such a good dog Bill decided to see what else he could accomplish and signed him up for obedience competitions. That lead to drafting, which is when dogs pull a cart, and herding of sheep.

The Barans had never taught dog herding or drafting before, but JB was a natural and has the ribbons to prove it. He’s a Master Draft Dog and has been given the title of Working Dog for accomplishment in three “performance” areas.

“In Switzerland these dogs are bread for working on farms,” Lesley said. “We don’t have farms here generally so people will try to keep the heritage of the breed alive by doing these performances like pulling the cart, drafting or herding. They do it in a competition setting as opposed to real life.”

During one competition the Barans were approached by a woman who works with an organization called Arizona Animal Actors. They were asked if they would consider allowing JB to do modeling.

JB’s photo was put online and within a few months he got a call to be part of a photo shoot for PetSmart. For two hours in Flagstaff during July JB posed with a 3-year-old girl for an ad PetSmart released in this month.

“We don’t have little ones and he is not around little ones at all so we were wondering how this would go, but he was fine with it,” Lesley said. “They would say pet the dog, hug the dog, kiss the dog and she would do it and he didn’t mind. Of course treats were involved.”

In the end JB was paid $200. Once his agent took a commission, he donated the rest to the Bernese Mountain Dog Rescue, the same organization that found him a home.

“A lot of people think rescued dogs are not quality dogs and that’s just not true,” Lesley said. “You can get purebred dogs from shelters and mutts from shelters. If you take the time to train them — look at all he has accomplished.”

The Barans say they’re hoping JB will be called for more modeling in the future, so they can continue to share the message that even rescue dogs can do great things. JB will be participating in his next performance competition in Scottsdale in January.

For more information on the Arizona Bernese Mountain Dog Rescue, visit

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or

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