Wednesday, October 20, 2004

St Bernard's Infirmary

The news that the alpine monks of the St Bernard's Pass are selling off their biggest, furriest, most slobbery assets has largely passed Lulu and Lucy, our two St Bernard sisters (not nuns, dogs) by. They remain more concerned with eating (almost anything, though Lucy for some reasons detests eggs) barking at anyone who looks vaguely threatening to them, the house or the family (straggly beards, dodgy hats and glasses usually suffice to inflame canine rage) and sleeping.
Indeed, Lulu and Lucy sleep more than any dog I have ever come across. You can just about persuade Lucy to go out for a morning constitutional, but Lulu has to be dragged off the sofa and then hauled out of the door on her back before she groggily shakes herself more or less awake.
Of course, once they are sentient and active, they can be a bit of a handful. Apparently the St Bernard's genes go back to Hannibal's fighting mastiffs, and when they get frisky, it's best to stay well clear. Not that they will do you any intentional harm. It's just that having 14-odd stones of fast-moving dog cannon into you can be somewhat discombobulating. And break bones.
The monks are flogging off, it seems, 18 fully-grown St Bernards and 16 pups, on condition they have them returned every summer so tourists can pat, coo and give money. The legendary ability of the St Bernard to find travellers lost under snow has been superseded by helicopters, complex electronic equipment and "smaller, more mobile dogs" like labradors and Alsatians.
Hmm...nothing sniffs out out humans like a St B. Our two, as pups, excavated centuries-old human bones from the back garden, much to the discomfort of the lawn. And their well-attested habit of cuddling (there's no other word for it) avalanche victims to warm them up is hardly what you expect from a German Shepherd.
Still, we won't be taking on any of the Swiss refugees, I'm afraid. Because, lovely though Lulu and Lucy are, they are providing as much cuddling, sniffing and slobbering as the Morton family can handle. Or the lawn. And we won't go into their other bodily functions...

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