St Bernards, A Whole Lotta Love

I love dogs, but I especially love big dogs.   The St. Bernard (also known as St. Barnhardshund, Alpine Mastiff and Bernhardiner) is one of the world’s largest.    They range from 25.5-27.5 inches ( 61-70 cm) and weigh 110-200 pounds (50-91 kg).   The are most likely a cross between Tibetan Mastiffs with Great DanesGreater Swiss Mountain Dog and Great Pyrenees. Initially, they had short hair; long hair coats collect icicles.

Augustinian Monks living in the treacherous St. Bernard Pass (the western route through the alps between Italy and Switzerland) bread the dogs.  8,000 feet above sea level, the pass is 49-miles long and is notorious for its changeable weather and high winds.

The St. Bernard pass was well travelled before St. Bernard de Menthon founded the famous hospice in the Swiss Alps as a refuge for travelers crossing the treacherous passes between Switzerland and Italy around 1050.  There are even remains of a Roman road there.  If you were a pilgrim headed to Rome, this is a likely route you would have taken.  You wouldn’t have been the only one.  Napoleon famously used the pass to cross the alps to invade Italy in 1800.

Image from Stories About Animals on http://www.zookingdoms.com

In the 17th century, St. Bernards were used to rescue people from avalanches and other dangers in snowy alpine passes.    Saint Bernards have many features that make them well adapted to this task.   They can smell a person under many feet of snow.  They can hear low-frequency sounds humans cannot, possibly alerting people to avalanches.   Their broad chests helped clear paths through the snow.  Their large paws helped spread out the weight and worked like snowshoes to keep them on top of the snow.  Their large paws helped them dig through the snow.  Upon finding someone, they lie on top them to provide warmth.

The most famous rescuer was Barry (1800-1812).  He is credited with saving the lives of more than 40 people.  Today, Foundation Barry (named after the famous pooch) works to educate people about and preserve the breed.  They also do alpine hikes with the pups!  Both Foundation Barry and the St. Bernard Museum are located in in Martingy, a village down the mountain from the pass.  Both have the adorable pups on site.

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The Cutest Post Yet (Or At Least The Furriest)

Here, people take their dogs everywhere: into restaurants (you’ll see them sitting under the table), on buses/trains, etc.  They go everywhere, but there are rules.  Dogs must be registered, chipped and in some cantons, you pay taxed on them.

I have heard that you can make it a condition of your work contract to be allowed to keep dogs in your office!  It is not unusual to see dogs quietly resting under a desk at offices or shops.  They are welcome on the tram.  Usually they are extremely well-behaved.  Once, a friend did see two dogs scuffle on the tram.  Naughty puppies.

I guess it’s cooler to have your dog in the back of your 4-wheeler than carrying it because it can’t walk anymore.  We see this embarrassing sight frequently on the streets of Geneva.

You see dogs in bars and casual restaurants.  Dogs here have to go to obedience classes and pass a test, so most are incredibly well-behaved.  Often, I won’t even realize there was a dog lying under the table until its owners get up to leave.

As I said, there are rules.  Many places, dogs must be leashed.  There are places where dogs are prohibited from doing their business.  If your dog poops, you are supposed to pick it up.  Too many people in Geneva have problems with this last one.  If you visit, watch your step.    Someone let their dog do this right by the exit from baggage claim in the airport.   You cannot be serious!

Another Fine Mess, Fines In Switzerland

In a country where personal responsibility, obeying the rules and money are all taken very seriously, fines are inevitable.  We have heard that you need to budget 1000-2000 CHF a year for fines.  Thankfully, we’ve only had one ticket thus far.

Here, a diverse array of behaviors are punishable by fine. Here are some interesting Swiss fines:

  • Highest speeding ticket in Switzerland (tickets are on a percentage of income)
  • Naked hiking (instead of banning it, they just decided to fine naked hikers…uber Swiss)
  • Entering a private drive
  • Putting your recyclables in the bins on a Sunday or holiday

A friend of ours was unlucky enough to get her car towed. Five hours = 250 CHF or $275. Ouch.

 

Jailbreak! What? Who? Me?

While we were home over the holidays, we got to see one of our dogs.  He is doing well and clearly loves his new family.  Being sweet, affectionate and very attached, he wants to be near people all the time.  He isn’t, however, the most trustworthy when left unsupervised. When no one around his new home, he gets to stay in the bathroom. He doesn’t seem to mind and willingly trots inside.
 
His new parents painted the bathroom before hosting Thanksgiving.  Since they couldn’t put him in the bathroom with wet paint, they put him in a crate.  He’d never really been crated before.  Let’s just say he wasn’t a fan.  The crate was a plastic one with a metal closure that you have to pinch.  When they returned home, he was bashful… and outside the crate.  He ate through the metal closure to get out!  Jailbreak.  No more cute bandanas, it’s orange jumpsuits for you.  No shoelaces either.
Unfortunately, in busting out, he broke one of his incisors.  The vet said it would continue to get infected and recommended removing it.  He made it out, but it is now down a tooth.  We’re trying to get his new parents to replace it with a gold grill.
 

Le Hot Dog

Sometimes, the food here is just a little bit different than what we are used to eating. He ordered a hot dog. It came in a baguette with ketchup and mustard. He asked for it without the mayonaise, otherwise it comes standard. It was good, but no Portillo’s.

 

 

Dogless

Old habits die hard.  Both of our dogs are living at our new homes.   Even though I know this, I still find myself heading straight to the back door to let the dogs out as soon as I wake, wondering whether I can take them with me when I run an errand and checking the waterbowl to make sure they have water.

We have spoken with their new mommies and daddies.  It sounds like they are both doing well.  Here is a cute picture of them out and about with their friend Dixie.  Whenever we walked the three of them together, we got lots of attention and more than a few stares.