Many of us may recall the marvelous and fun stories of the great St. Bernard dogs, hiking through the blustery, snow filled mountains to save the lives of those who became victims' of catastrophic winter elements. Or what about the many fun movies to where a St. Bernard played the role of Beethoven, entertaining millions of families as he out wits his vengeful vet. So what happened?
How did the St. Bernard become a victim to neglect, abuse, and abandonment after spending hundreds of years saving the lives of many, and spending many years entertaining families?
Unfortunately, and as with all breeds of dogs who gained popularity from folk stories and T.V., the St. Bernard became a household staple as the result of a fad. Many people were naive to the fact that the St. Bernard, a solitary and laid-back creature, wanted nothing more than to be trained and socialized to become a loving, loyal, and primarily indoor companion. However, when St. Bernard's are not trained properly, allowed to rule the roost, they can become unruly, aggressive, and at times, dangerous. Rather than receiving the obedience training to help them become the loyal, eager, and willing to please creatures they are, uneducated and impatient pet owners throw up their hands in defeat only to surrender their dog to animal shelters or animal rescue groups.
Sunny Saints, a Southern California nonprofit St. Bernard rescue was founded by a group of friends with much experience in St. Bernard rescue. The mission of the organization is to rescue adoptable St. Bernards and provide them with the necessary medical care, spay/neuter treatment, and re-socialization skills as may be deemed necessary to place them in loving, and forever homes. Their philosophy is "to treat the dogs that we save and the people who foster and adopt them with kindness and dignity" (Sunny Saints).
Pam Henry, CEO of Sunny Saints is very compassionate about her role and the responsibility she and her team carryout to ensure the St. Bernards they foster are ready to join a family. Important, she says "we do not adopt dogs out. We adopt families in. We do not want families to feel alone once they adopt a Saint. Their dog is one of our dogs and they are part of our family."
During a conversation with Pam, we asked why so many St. Bernards are surrendered. Her answer was no different than information shared from various resources on the internet. When St. Benards do not receive the proper training they can become insubordinate and aggressive. They are people dogs and should live indoors. St. Bernards need to have a leader as they are followers. And contrary to common belief, this breed of dog is not high energy. As long as they receive adequate exercise, they make great apartment companions. Therefore, when people fail the St. Bernard they have no choice but to surrender him because they cannot control him. In some cases, as with all types of dogs they become victims of neglect, abuse, abandonment, and they cannot be rehabilitated to become adoptable pets (Pam Henry, 2012).
Happily, Pam and the Sunny Saints team have saved the lives of 170 St. Bernards since 2010. During 2012 the team has saved 101 St. Bernards and the number continues to grow. But do not think this has been an easy task for the team. Saving lives takes much money, medical treatment, time, numerous volunteers, foster families, patients, and insurmountable amounts of unconditional love from all involved; all of which are not easy to obtain. In order for the team to continue their mission they rely heavily on donations and foster families.
To learn how to become a team member of Sunny Saints please visit Ways You Can Help at http://www.sunnysaints.org/ways-you-can-help.html. Please be assured that just a little love or small donation can make a difference between life and death for a St. Bernard in need.