Holly Klintworth has never owned a big dog – until now. Her puppy, Gilbert, is one and a half years old and weighs 75kg. If Gilbert’s dad is anything to go by — he weighs 100kg —Gilbert still has some growing to do. It was Holly’s partner James’s idea to get Gilbert; he’s owned big dogs before and knows how to handle them. “Gilbert is probably the most beautiful creature I’ve come across,” says Holly. “His personality and cuddles . . . I can’t imagine life without him around.”
Gilbert is a Saint Bernard-Newfoundland cross. The fun name for this cross breed is Saint Bernewfie, and there are whole Instagram pages dedicated to these heavyweight, big-hearted dogs. Gilbert’s found Instagram fame on Bass & Flinders Distillery’s page where he is the resident distillery dog and brand ambassador.
Holly is a second-generation distiller. Her dad co-founded Bass & Flinders Distillery and Holly carries on his legacy distilling award-winning gin, spirits and brandy. You can expect to see Gilbert wearing a brandy barrel around his neck. Saint Bernard dogs have been depicted in art throughout history wearing wooden barrels that were rumoured to contain brandy for weary travellers or people they rescue in the snow.
The Newfoundland side of Gilbert comes out in his love of swimming and desire to rescue people in the bay. Newfoundlands were originally bred as working dogs for fishermen in Newfoundland in Canada. They have webbed feet and a water-resistant coat. “If you’re standing out in the water, Gilbert thinks he needs to rescue you,” says Holly. “You can grab his tail and he’ll tow you back to shore.”
For a dog of Gilbert’s size you’d think he would be hungry all day, but that isn’t the case. “He eats eight cups of food once a day but he loves drinking water, probably more than eating.” Gilbert has a sensitive stomach so Holly needs be careful with his diet. “We had a bit of a disaster late last year when his tummy twisted. He needed surgery to untwist it and sew it into place. It’s a bit of a common danger with bigger dogs.”
Holly says Gilbert is a gentle giant. “Because he’s a puppy he wants to bounce around and play, but he’s aware of his size. If he sees another dog he lays down on the ground to make himself seem smaller. He’s thoughtful and considerate.”
And it’s not surprising Gilbert attracts a lot of attention. When Holly takes him to work, he spreads out on the back seat of her SUV. “He likes the drive. I put the windows down so he can hang his head out the window. I used to think people in other cars were smiling at me but they smile at Gilbert, who is in bliss with the wind blowing in his face.”
Would Holly recommend getting a big dog? “I would recommend it, but you need to learn how to handle a big dog. Gilbert has pulled me over a couple of times because he is so excited.”