Pat Shingleton: "The St. Bernards..."
The southern provinces of Canada reported snow overnight with sections of northern Michigan also getting a "dusting." Whiteouts are extreme blizzard conditions where blowing snow creates a situation where sky, air and ground are indistinguishable. Whiteouts are common in Switzerland and the village of Grand St. Bernard, located in the Swiss Alps, and at 8,000 feet sits the highest church in the world. Once the most dangerous pass in Europe, the monastery of the Grand St. Bernard was a lifesaving refuge for many. In the 1600s, the St. Bernard monks needed assistance in rescuing snowbound travelers and bred a burly, sturdy dog that bears their patron saint's name. It is believed the dogs saved 2,000 lives over the years with one male, Barry, setting the record with 41 rescues in the early 1800s. The barrel of brandy, around their neck, was a myth but these dogs could climb with ease, smelling victims buried under deep snow. They could sense an avalanche and when encountering a hiker or stranded skier, they would instinctively lay on top of them while a partner dog would seek help. In 2004 their role as lifesavers was replaced with helicopters and electronic sensors. The last litter was born in October, 2004, but the dogs of St. Bernard are pets to many.