Thursday, 15 December 2016

Patron Saint of Dogs

Garth, 2016 watercolour by Barbara Lewis

Motivated by a youtube video, Christine Tarrant suggested we should have birthday party for Garth when I am back in NZ (February-March 2017). Chris and my son Richard are looking after my dog Garth while I am on my extended gap year. We call Garth the wonder dog, (and Garthalicious, Garthicus and a few other names too saccharine to be owned to!) and he is definitely worthy of a story or two, and definitely a write-up in a veterinarian journal. But that's a story for another day.

I decided to research to find a suitable day. As Garth is a rescue dog, we don't even know his age for sure, let alone his real birthday. Although thinking about it, next March will be the tenth anniversary of welcoming Garth into our lives as a fully grown but still knawing dog.

The first thing I looked for was a patron saint of dogs. I guess St Francis would work as a general animal lover too. His feast day is 4 October. But yes, there is a specific patron saint for dogs: St Rochus, Roch, Rocco or Rock, depending on your language preference. I bet you have never heard of him. I didn't think I had either, until I remembered that Rochusgasse was one of the stops I used on the Vienna underground. Of course the church the street is named for the church dedicated to St Rochus, patron saint of dogs and ... invoked against the plague. Traditionally he is portrayed displaying the plague buboe on his thigh, along with the dog who brought him bread (must be a retriever) when he was cast out for his infection. His feast day is August 16, appropriately enough in the dog days of a European summer. But not a useful date for me either with my tickets booked to return to UK by end of March.

St Roque by Francisco Ribalta
The Viennese church I am familiar with from the street was built in 1643 by Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand III in gratitude for the preservation of Vienna from the plague. Unfortunately the intercession of St Rochus was not so effective in 1679 and 1713 when Vienna suffered devastating epidemics.

So far I have not come up with a suitable date that falls in the appropriate time, but whatever day we choose it will be a great party... now to think about themed cocktails for the guests. Suggestions welcomed.

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