Saturday, 08. March 2014 - 08:03
04. 12. 12. - 14:00
Anyone taking a hike in Switzerland in the current snow at the Valais mountain village of Champex-Lac will not need to worry about getting caught out in the cold after the local St Bernard foundation arranged to provide a rescue dog to accompany each group.
The Barry foundation (http://www.fondation-barry.ch) has about 30 "Great St. Bernard" dogs and every year produces about 20 pedigree puppies along careful breeding guidelines which are then sold on.
The foundation was named after Barry 1 (1800 – 1814) who established the breed's reputation after he reportedly saved up to 40 people.
And one of his descendants is often credited with being the dog that helped save Manchester United from financial ruin. In 1902 when the club owed sizeable debts, the then captain Harry Stafford was showing off his prized St Bernard at a fund-raiser for the club when he was approached by a wealthy brewery owner, J.H.Davis, who wanted to buy the dog. Harry Stafford refused the offer but managed to convince him to buy the club instead.
Now hikers in the region where the foundation is based can make trips with their very own St Bernard. A typical 90 minute walk includes about 12 people that get to walk a dog with youngsters even given their own dog with a sledge.
Rudolf Thomann, Managing Director of the Barry Foundation, said they offered the chance to meet one of the remarkable dogs in the area where they felt most at home.
Manuel Gaillard, who is in charge of the dogs, said: "Meeting a St Bernard at eye level, returning his loyal gaze, stroking him and holding him on a lead can be an impressive experience. This is why the Barry Foundation is organising walks in Champex in the company of the St Bernards from the Great Saint Bernard pass from 23rd December until the end of February.
"To make an even greater impression on participants, we have reduced the maximum size of the groups from 18 to 12 participants."
Animal carer Cécile Loye, who is one of the guides on the walks, said: "The hikes are splendid. Our St Bernards love the snow and being in contact with visitors. The participants can sense this. And the scenery up on the snow-covered Alpine plateau is simply beautiful.
Rudolf Thomann added: "Anybody who wants to find out more about the history of Switzerland’s national dog as well as taking part in a walk with the St Bernards should definitely pay a visit to the St Bernard museum in Martigny."
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