I am sad winter is winding down and I will express it in these three words – “saint bernard fun.” Alright, maybe I’ll add three more words – “with Phoebe and Nellie” my saint bernards.
One of the most endearing characteristics about saint bernards, especially when lumped together with all they are famously known for – the drool (think Beethoven), the tendency toward a determined/stubborn personality, the endless shedding, and the uncompromising infatuation with the sound of their own voice, they love, love, love winter. Their joy in winter is so infectious that when I watch them play and hang out in the snow, I can’t help but enjoy winter myself!
As soon as the back door is opened, they run into the yard, and romp around each other, happily playing and wrestling until one or both falls into the soft, cold comfort of the snow. It’s like having polar bears in my backyard!
Out on a walk (or even sometimes in the yard), something deep in their DNA signals them to climb up any new snow piles that appear in their immediate view. From atop the little hill, they freeze and become serious, listening and gazing over the postage stamp sized land. Are they harkened back to the high, desolate St. Bernard Pass in the Alps, scanning for stranded hikers?
Haphazardly, their big heads will swing down and up as they use their nose to push a gulp of fresh snow into their mouths. Then, often and with no desire to quench, they will quaff the snow, until their muzzles are foamy, and their eyelashes are white. After a time, it’s back to business- as they search their horizon with the laser focus of a lighthouse beam.
I would best describe the personality of the saint bernard as a rover. It roves back and forth and hither and yon between an oversize commitment to duty, and the ability to play. On a walk, the duality of their mind becomes evident. Nellie will earnestly track a path where no person has gone before. She needs to chase the important scent of something invisible (you think). She takes her walk into the far and remote reaches of untouched field. When she finally stops to look up with a contented and satiated smile on her face, she seems to be saying “Ooops, I forgot why we’re here?” It’s then you realize- she was just pulling you along into deeper and deeper snow because she could.
Phoebe doggedly mines along, giving the appearance of high alert status while walking, as if she is truly seeking the lost and buried. Once she finds her spot, I realize – it’s her perfect spot to dive into the snow – she rockets forward, head first of course. Sliding like a seal, she slips over onto her back and celebrates with sets of wiggling and more wiggling. Is she making a dog snow angel? When her wiggle-ation is complete, she will flip onto her feet in an instant. Back from her reverie, she lands into army crawl mode, and pauses for a second or two, to scan the world around her with delighted eyes. She has found a way to mix business with pleasure!
Coming home from some of our walks, there would be mild days when I would make a fire in the yard. Talk about two happy campers! These two girls would be busy the whole morning.
Patrol-play. Check the fire. Patrol-play. Check the gate.
When the fire was finished so was the saint bernard morning. Time to head inside for a good long nap and dreams of more fun in the snow.
This winter provided me with many awesome memories and moments of gratitude for being retired. Spending time in the winter with these two dogs has been heaven, a cold, snowy, joyful heaven! They really made my winter more fun!