Toddler William is teeny tiny compared to his three huge dog friends. At 32 pounds he weighs far less than St. Bernards Vinny, Teddy Bear, and Millie, who together total hundreds of pounds. The best big siblings a little boy could have, these gentle giants take their job of looking after him seriously.
Parents John, 31, and Victoria, 30, share their Birmingham, Alabama, home with three big and beautiful St. Bernards. In a scenario reminiscent of the famous animated film Peter Pan, the family’s eldest dog, Teddy Bear, has earned the nickname “Nana” due to her caring nature. Teddy Bear is nine years old. “She is very protective and watchful of all family members,” Victoria told The Epoch Times, “but especially our son!”
The couple, young professionals who met in high school and went on to marry, have also been happy to see how their two other dogs, five-year-old Vinny—whose nickname is ‘Bubba’—and two-year-old Millie, have bonded with their two-year-old boy. It started, says Victoria, when she was expecting. At the time, the family hadn’t yet adopted Millie, but they told the two older dogs they would be getting a baby brother.
“I truly believe they understood what was happening,” Victoria said. “Vinny was really interested in all the baby gear, especially in the bassinet. He would constantly inspect it like the baby would appear if he stared long enough.” As the expectant mom’s stomach began to grow, both St. Bernards behaved more cautiously around her, going slower when on walks and being gentler. Whereas before Vinny would “lay right on top of me for cuddles” Victoria says, during pregnancy, he was very mindful about not using all his weight, instead just resting his head softly against her.
When William was born in 2020, Teddy and Vinny were extremely excited to meet the new addition. As soon as the new parents arrived home from hospital, Vinny came straight outside and jumped in the car. “They wanted to meet him immediately and were trying to smell him before we could even get him out of the car seat,” Victoria said.
Once they’d settled their son into his bassinet, Vinny got on the bed to watch over him. Any noise William made, he would be right there. Every morning when she went to take William out of his crib, Vinny would follow Victoria into the nursery, keen for the baby to appear so they could play.
Teddy, for her part, wasn’t entirely sure what to make of their baby’s crying but loved carrying out her babysitting shift during nap time. “Teddy prefers peace and quiet, and for the household to be in order. If we start getting too excited while playing tag with our son, she will bark and let us know we need to quiet down,” Victoria said.
“Vinny definitely became the fun ‘big brother’ who is more willing to play and get into trouble, while Teddy loves to cuddle on the couch or lay next to him when he’s sick.” Soon after William learned to walk, his mom recalls finding him cuddling with Teddy, having gone off on his own to find her. He also fell in love with baby St. Bernard Millie.
“When we leave the house we always tell each other ‘I love you.’ Without being prompted William started to say ‘Bye-bye Nana, Bubba, Millie, Dada. Love you’ before walking out the door,” his mom said. Living with three giant dogs is wonderfully normal for the toddler but there are a couple of things he’s had to learn, such as keeping his food out of reach so they can’t swipe it, although, according to his mom, he does sneak them treats from his high chair.
“Their bond has strengthened as they have grown together,” Victoria said. “Now William feels comfortable enough to command and direct the dogs because he knows they will listen. Sometimes he will be the one to tell them to come inside or sit for treats. I don’t think he realizes how much power he has over 425 pounds of dog!”
The family regularly posts their adorable pets’ fun adventures on Instagram at @thesouthernstbernards.