May 9th – St Bernards

St Bernards

These two St Bernard’s are regulars at one of the cafes at Pier 3/4 in Walsh Bay. Always together, beautiful coats and those adoring eyes.

And then there’s the booming bark that reverberates in the small hollow space if you get within a handful of metres. It’s enough to scare the banana bread out of my little bloke. So much so that we now take a wide-berth around them.

The St Bernard is an alpine dog believed to have come from the north of Italy/lower Switzerland. Bred for rescue, the St Bernard was often depicted with a barrel of brandy under it’s chin. The theory is that a St Bernard could reach an avalanche victim and alert searchers, while administering brandy to keep them warm.

Subsequently cartoons and comics regularly characterised the St Bernard as a cheerful drunk.

The name itself is derived from the Great St Bernard Hospice in the Western Italian/Swiss alps. The hospice itself dates back to the 11th Century, when the Monk Bernard of Menthon who established the alpine station.

The most famous of all St Bernard’s is Barry. Legend has it that Barry performed between 60 and 100 rescues. Barry’s body has been preserved Phar Lap style, and can be viewed at the National History Museum in Berne, Switzerland.

Perhaps Barry probably took a liking to the brandy.


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