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During the 11th century, St. Bernard of Montjoux established a hospice and monastery in the most dangerous part of the western Alps. He initially went there to evangelize the people who lived on the Alps, but soon established hospices to shelter pilgrims who were on their way to Rome.
Many lives were saved by St. Bernard and his monks, who have remained on the Alps to assist travelers and climbers up to the present day.
By the 17th century these monks made use of a particular breed of dogs who were experts at sniffing out humans and whose strength allowed them an extraordinary ability to help those in dire need. These dogs were named “St. Bernards” in honor of the saint who established the monasteries there.
For many decades these dogs helped save lives and there was one dog in particular who has become a legend in the Alps.
His name was “Barry” and he lived in the monastery from 1800-1812. Local records claim he saved more than 40 people from death, finding them and taking them to safety.
One story recounts how one day during a terrible storm, Barry found a child asleep in a frozen cavern of ice. Barry licked the young boy to awaken him. Then the young boy grabbed hold of the dog, who carried the boy on his back to the monastery. The boy was brought back to full health and returned to his parents.
The monks continued to use dogs for many decades, until the arrival of newer technology, such as helicopters. The monastery is still very active and assists travelers who trek up the Alpine mountains.
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