Dogs make the best pets. There is no doubting that fact. While small dogs like Pugs and Pomeranians are definitely cute and adorable, the large breeds like the Great Dane and Mastiffs have a different kind of beauty about them. Some of the best looking big dogs are Saint Bernards. Just have a look at how majestic this canine looks.
But why did people name this dog after a saint? And does it live up to its name?
St. Bernard wasn’t actually their name in the beginning. Until the middle of the 19th century, they were known as “Saint Dogs”, “Noble Steeds”, “Alpenmastiff”, or “Barry Dogs”. But again, you’ll notice, they always had words like ‘Saint’ and ‘Noble’ in their names. So what have these dogs done to earn such names?
Let’s go back in time a little, about 1000 years back. St. Bernard of Menthon established a hospice (a dispensary plus a shelter) for travellers, at a treacherous pass in the Alps, near the border between Italy and Switzerland. Soon, because of this hospice, the pass came to be known as the St. Bernard’s pass. After St. Bernard died, a group of monks took care of guests and helped and guided the travellers that were lost or injured. The harsh weather in the hills meant that people got lost often.
Then sometime in the late 16th and early 17th century, the monks began bringing dogs from the valley and started training them for rescue purposes. These dogs, with their strength, could help clear paths, and their excellent sense of smell meant that they could detect bodies buried under 20 feet of snow. And once they found a body, they could dig up the snow with their big paws. They also carried packets of food and water with them to help the rescued people. In cartoons and work of art, St. Bernards are often shown wearing a barrel around their collar, giving rise to the myth that they carried alcohol to warm people trapped in the snow. But that is all it is, a myth. The dogs never actually carried any barrels with them.
These dogs are inclined towards good. They like to help people. And although planes and helicopters have almost eliminated the need for rescue dogs, it’s estimated they have saved about 200 lives. And to this day, monks continue to raise them, out of tradition.
So yeah, these dogs have certainly done enough to be called ‘saints’. They’ve earned their name, and they’ve surely lived up to it too.