BOOKS: Story of brave Saint Bernard gentle, but sad
By Jean Patrick
Republic Book Columnist
We’d call Barry a Saint Bernard.
But back in the 1800s, he was known as an Alpenhunde — one of the “dogs of the Alps.” He lived at the Great Bernard Hospice, a place that offered safety and protection to people who traveled across the snowy mountains from Switzerland to Italy.
Barry (like the other dogs at the hospice) guided the lost, warmed the frozen and found those who were buried alive.
“Barry,” by Kate Klimo, is based on a true story about a real dog.
In this book, Barry tells the story of his own life, starting with his puppy days in the cellar when he smells his first blizzard. Later, he senses the onset of his first avalanche: “something in the earth that came up through my feet and filled my body with the force of its presence.”
When just a year old, he finds his favorite caretaker buried in a snow bank. Although it’s only a game of hide-and-seek, Barry instinctively licks the man’s face and hands until pinkness returns to his skin.
From there, Barry’s life-and-death adventures begin.
In one adventure, he rescues a nearly-frozen toddler. In another episode, he warns travelers that they are at the edge of a cliff. Even when he is attacked, his desire to help others comes first.
Author Kate Klimo allows Barry’s gentle voice to stay consistent throughout the book. In a slow, common-sense tone, he presents his actions while humbly explaining his motives.
Although “Barry” is a gentle book, death is present. Not all of the travelers survive, nor does Barry’s favorite caretaker. Even Barry is a voice from the past. At the beginning, he describes the stuffed version of himself in the museum in Bern, Switzerland.
Yet his courage in the face of the “White Death” is what makes his book and his life remarkable. Barry is still revered in the Alps today for rescuing more than 40 travelers from death.
“Barry.” Dog Diaries No. 3. By Kate Klimo. Illustrated by Tim Jessell. Random House, 2013. 160 pp.