“Noble Steed”

“Barry,” was the most legendary St. Bernard in history, a dog born the same year that Thomas Jefferson became the third president of the United States. He was credited with having rescued between 40 and 100 mountaineers during his vaunted career, but his most celebrated rescue was of a small boy who had wandered onto a ledge so narrow, the slimmest of monks from the Saint Bernard monastery could not have managed it safely. At risk to himself, Barry edged his way onto the ledge as snow fell at an alarming rate.  Barry dug towards the child and licked his face until the boy got his wits about him enough to climb onto the dog’s back and be carried to safety.

This is why a nickname for the Saint Bernard is the “Noble Steed,” and why the oldest pet cemetery in Europe found outside of Paris, the Cimetière des Chiens, includes a monument of a Saint Bernard with a child on his back. The piece was erected in 1900 with epitaph that went like this: Barry the Saint Bernard. He saved the lives of 40 people. He was killed by the 41st.” It was a reference to the legend that says the 41st person Barry would have rescued was one of Napoleon’s soldiers who mistook him for a wolf and bayonetted the dog to death. In fact, Barry retired and died of old age. He is now part of a permanent exhibition at Bern Natural History Museum which opened 200 years after his death.

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