It gives a whole new meaning to Saint Bernard.
If you’re a member at Smithers United Church, you’re likely familiar with a four-legged follower that’s been present at Sunday service.
Twenty one-month old Bruce the St. Bernard has become an unlikely-yet-welcomed weekly feature at Smithers United Church since the first time his owner Ian Lawson (who also plays the church piano) decided to bring him to service around a year ago.
Lawson does cross-country skiing on the weekends (something that Bruce tags along for).
He said he first brought Bruce to service to try and make it easier to hit the trails right away afterwards.
“I was worried [about] bringing a dog to church but everyone liked [him], so I brought him the next week and then I let him loose.”
From there, Bruce became a regular fixture at the church — a bit of an unconventional spot for a 150-pound St. Bernard, but Lawson said he seems to be fitting in just fine.
“We really have noticed he will go to people that are sad or just need to have a loving presence,” he said, giving the example of someone who knew one of the individuals who died in the May 4 Cessna crash north of Smithers.
“He was here and Bruce hung around him — he just stayed beside him.”
According to congregation member Roberta Buchholz, over the past months Bruce has become a staple of the steeple, which was founded in 1925.
“Walking into church and seeing Bruce sitting by the organ with Ian brings an instant smile to faces,” said Buchholz.
She adds that Bruce will wander across the church during service saying hello to people, adding that he constantly seems to know who needs a helping paw.
As for Lawson, he feels we could all learn a little bit from Bruce.
“It makes a difference to have a creature that’s not worried about anything… he had breakfast and he’s with people — what [has he] got to worry about?”
What’s more, Lawson says the gospel of Bruce has spread beyond the parish, recounting a time he went to Hazelton as a special guest to the service.
Not wanting to impose on anyone who wouldn’t be open to sharing mass with a Mastiff, he left his furry counterpart at home.
“They asked why didn’t I bring Bruce? I’d never brought him [but] they knew,” he said with a laugh.
Call it paws and effect.