Matina Butcher’s round-the-world journey with the majestic Saint Bernard
A journey around the world
When Matina first started exploring dog shows, she was focused on soaking up as much information as she could about Saint Bernards.
“I diligently started to study the breed and read every book that was ever written on them,” she says. “I ended up being the first person in Australia to import a champion Saint Bernard from America.”
Her thirst for knowledge led her across the globe, including a six-month pilgrimage through Europe where she stayed at the Great St Bernard Hospice in Switzerland; the birthplace of the Saint Bernard breed. Originally raised by monks in the 17th century, Saint Bernards were renowned for their sense of direction and ability to smell and rescue travellers caught in alpine blizzards.
“Saint Bernards are a wonderful breed with a fascinating history, which I think is what led me to them,” Matina says. “As luck would have it, the day I arrived in Switzerland was the first day the Great St Bernard Pass opened for the year. The nuns in the hospice took me in and I stayed there for 10 days. That’s where I learnt that all the things they say about Saint Bernards and their history is true.”
After returning from her travels, Matina went on to become the president of The Saint Bernard Club in Australia and lobbied to bring the Swiss standard for judging to our shores.
Saint Bernards are really where I developed my identity in the dog show world. They were the cornerstone of everything I did.
From powerful to pint-sized
In the 1990s, after an extremely successful run showing and breeding Saint Bernards, Matina decided to bring in some smaller breeds like Jack Russells that were more size-appropriate for her young twin daughters and son.
Today, she’s kept busy on her 50-acre property in the Southern Highlands with a team of show dogs, including three Saint Bernards and a litter of Beagle puppies, as well as Warmblood stallion studs on her breeding farm.
She also recently brought home three American champion Fox Terriers that are already winning Best in Shows around the country.
“Foxies are a really dynamic, fun little dog, and they’re heaps of fun to show,” Matina says. “It might sound corny but it’s always rewarding getting recognition and earning respect for the work you’ve done.”
A scientific approach to nutrition
A pharmacist by trade with a background in chemistry, analysing the ingredients and nutrients in dog food is a personal passion for Matina.
“When I open a bag of dog food, I pick it up and roll it around and smell it – like someone with a glass of wine,” she says.
She tried Black Hawk a few years back and found that Black Hawk Original Lamb & Rice provides the right balance of ingredients to give her dogs a complete, nutritionally sound diet.
“The puppies did so well on it and all the dogs had healthy motions. So I’ve been using it ever since,” Matina explains.
“It’s made in Australia and I know what the ingredients are. Before using Black Hawk, I’d use a base kibble and add my own ingredients to make sure I was happy with what they were getting. People used to recommend different brands to me, but they all fell short. Now I don’t have to add anything. The ingredients are all in there and they’re bioavailable.”
As for the benefits of feeding her pups Black Hawk, Matina believes the results speak for themselves.
You can see the results in the dogs. Their breath doesn’t smell, their coats are beautiful, they’re muscled, the puppies are in wonderful condition. To be able to give the dogs a kibble and know that they’re show-ready – that’s a big thing.
For Saint Bernards, Fox Terriers and anything in between, feeding your dogs a nutritionally whole diet will allow them to live a healthier, happier life.