THE GREAT ST. BERNARD PASS, Switzerland - The only dog right now at the 950-year-old hospice of St. Bernard is a very nice golden retriever named Justy.
It's those other dogs - the famously huge and heroic ones, that toted brandy barrels in legend, that lived here for centuries and sniffed scores of stranded travelers out of the snow - that people care about.
Last month, it became public knowledge that the monks at St. Bernard were looking for a buyer for the 18 St. Bernards that still belong to the hospice. The St. Augustine monks say the dogs are distracting them from their work of ministering to actual people.
The hospice, founded by St. Bernard himself in 1050, predates the dogs. Their earliest mention at the hospice was in 1695.
While they were once unparalleled in helping people through the pass - some 200,000 soldiers reportedly crossed without a single one lost during the Napoleonic wars between 1790 and 1810 - the big dogs have not actively worked in rescues for at least 50 years.
Still, the news of the sale struck the European press as if Switzerland itself were disowning chocolate or secret bank accounts.
Dog lovers worried that the descendants of the dogs who gave the breed its name, and this nation a symbol, might be put down or not find proper homes.
According to the plan, the monks and dogs will go on as they have for decades, with the dogs still spending summers up here - still on view for thousands of tourists. They will still spend winters, as they have for decades, away from the bitter cold and snow that was such a killer for pilgrims to Rome, and soldiers and merchants passing over the Alps.