Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Where did the "Barryvox" get it's name? Barry the rescue dog!

Picture yourself in the Swiss Alps in the year 1810.  Small farming villages dot the landscape below the high, glacier-covered Alps.  In fall, farmers move their herds from the high alpine meadows full of  grasses and flowers, to the lower elevations to escape the first snows of the season.  Travel between valleys means crossing the high passes at altitudes up to 8000feet, on paths and rough roads, some of which, like the Great St. Bernard Pass in Southwestern Switzerland, were built by the Romans.  Unlike the modern paved roads and tunnels underneath the passes we see today, simply going to the next valley was a difficult and sometimes risky journey subject to sudden storms, snowfall in any month of the year and frequent avalanches.  When a traveler or a herder went missing in the high alpine, if they were lucky one of the rescue dogs was turned loose to perform a rescue.  These dogs, the ancestors of today’s St Bernard, were able to follow a person’s scent through deep snowdrifts and hopefully make a rescue.

The most famous of these dogs was Barry Der Menschenretter or “Barry the people rescuer” from the Great St. Bernard Hospice.
Barry the rescue dog is the namesake of Mammut Barryvox avalanche transceivers 
Barry, who lived from 1800 to 1814, is credited with about 40 rescues, the most well-known
of which was a young boy found in an ice cave that Barry supposedly carried back to the monastery where he was reunited with his family.  This story is possibly not quite true, but is probably based loosely on fact.
Barry is the subject of Swiss folklore, as well as several books

If you ever wondered about the St Bernard dogs in cartoons carrying a flask of brandy around their neck, that's a modern interpretation of Barry Der Menschenretter.  The St Bernard Hospice has maintained rescue dogs since Barry's time, until 2004 when the dogs were moved to another nearby town.  Visitors to the Swiss city of Bern can see Barry the famous Swiss rescue dog, at the Natural History Museum where his taxidermy likeness still stands.  There is also a monument to Barry in the Cimitiere Des Cheins in Paris.
Although the real rescue dogs didn't carry flasks of brandy around their necks, apparently sometimes you gotta' live up to your reputation.  Barry is seen here in the Natural History Museum in Bern, Switzerland.

Barry lives on today as the namesake of the Mammut Barryvox S and Barryvox avalanche transceivers.  "Barryvox" literally means "Barry's voice".  The beeping sound of the original transceivers was likened to Barry barking as he followed the scent of a wayward traveler through the snow, both being "the sound of rescue on the way".  Today, even with the steady evolution in transceiver technology since the first Barryvox was introduced in 1968, there is still a place for rescue dogs in organized rescue, especially if the victims may not be wearing transceivers.  Despite modern avalanche forecast centers and sophisticated avalanche mitigation programs, today many ski resorts in the Rockies augment their avalanche transceivers with rescue dogs, since many of their guests don't wear transceivers even if they leave the resort boundary.
Today, ski resorts like Jackson Hole still have a role for avalanche rescue dogs in addition to the Mammut airbag packs and avalanche transceivers the patrol carries .  Photo courtesy of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort