St. Bernard dogs, an iconic symbol of Switzerland, renowned for their historic role in alpine rescues, have embraced a new mission. The Barry Foundation, a non-profit organization that assumed responsibility for breeding these dogs in 2005, has facilitated their transformation into therapeutic and educational support companions for individuals in need. As Andrea Zollinger, spokesperson for the foundation, noted during a visit to their kennels in Martigny, near the borders of Italy and France, “Today St. Bernards excel on the social front. They have evolved from their traditional mountain-saving duties to become valuable assets in enhancing human well-being.”
Dogs play a vital role in healthcare settings, offering their support to various sectors such as hospitals and nursing homes for senior citizens. These remarkable canines actively contribute to therapy sessions, bringing comfort to patients of all ages, including children and even inmates. Their impact is truly miraculous.
Annually, these dedicated dogs engage in approximately 600 activities throughout Switzerland. Their involvement extends to enhancing the well-being of individuals with autism spectrum disorders and other special needs. Additionally, they provide invaluable assistance to medical professionals, aiding in the execution of psychosomatic and psychosocial rehabilitation procedures.
Their enthusiasm for their work is unmistakable. As Zollinger affirms, "They eagerly participate, driven by their genuine love for it." These dogs embody the essence of dedication and compassion in their noble service.
Visitors can meet the dogs at Barryland, a theme park that includes a museum and facilities for the dogs.
On August 28th, Roxy, one of the Barry Foundation's dogs, welcomed a litter of seven adorable puppies into the world. This heartwarming brood consists of five females and two males, each beginning their journey of exploration in the lush grass, and savoring their very first taste of kibble.
These charming pups are direct descendants of the legendary Barry I, a St. Bernard renowned for his remarkable heroism in the early 19th century. Barry I is celebrated for saving the lives of over 40 individuals on the perilous Great St. Bernard Pass. Just like their forebear, these dogs reside at a hospice founded by 11th-century monks, where they continue the legacy of aiding pilgrims and fellow travelers navigating the treacherous Alpine crossings.
Travelers' accounts and narratives from soldiers who traversed the pass alongside Napoleon in 1800 played a pivotal role in cementing the St. Bernard dogs' reputation as dedicated companions with exceptional rescue capabilities.
Anne Hölzer, responsible for training at the Barry Foundation, highlights their remarkable olfactory prowess. These imposing canines were instrumental in clearing snow-covered paths, aiding rescuers amidst the challenging alpine terrain.
Modern alpine rescue teams have shifted towards employing smaller, more helicopter-friendly breeds. Nevertheless, Switzerland's deep affection for the St. Bernard endures, considering it a potent symbol of their nation's identity.
Zollinger underscores this sentiment, emphasizing the collective commitment to preserving the breed's integrity and adhering to stringent standards. The St. Bernard remains a cherished embodiment of Swiss heritage.