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Bolivia: Honoring Dogs on the Feast of St. Roch

Each year on August 16, Bolivian households celebrate the Feast of St. Roch (or San Roque in Spanish), who was the patron saint of dogs. The story of this French saint may not be well known across the country, but nevertheless, Bolivians take this opportunity to provide extra special attention on their pets.

Even though the life of a dog may not always be easy, as one blogger reminds his readers. Alberto Medrano of El Alto Noticias [es] writes that “we should not forget that in El Alto and La Paz there are a lot of street dogs, who are sick that pass away at any time.”

There are many dogs throughout the country that are beloved by their owners, and this day is a chance for bloggers to express that through citizen media. However, to begin, the blog of the Archbishop of La Paz provides a bit of background information about the Saint [es].

Seguro que tus padres o tus abuelos te habrán ya contado la preciosa narración del perro de San Roque. Si te fijas en la estampa, nuestro santo va acompañado de un simpático chucho. ¿Quien fue este perro?. Pues … fue su salvador. Cuando hoy en día, sobre todo en verano, se abandonan por las calles tantos perros que nos han mostrado su cariño a lo largo del año, bueno será explicarles a aquellos que hacen este tipo de salvajadas la historia de este animal que le salvó la vida a un santo tan importante como fue Roque.

Se explica, que cuando nuestro santo se trasladó al bosque para no infectar de esta manera a los vecinos de Piacenza, recibía cada día la visita de un perro que le llevaba un panecillo. El animalito lo tomaba cada día de la mesa de su amo, un hombre bien acomodado llamado Gottardo Pallastrelli, el cuál, después de ver la escena repetidamente, decidió un día seguir a su mascota. De esta forma, penetró en el bosque donde encontró al pobre moribundo. (…) Cabe decir que otras versiones populares afirman que fue el mismo perro quien le curó, después de lamerle la herida de su pierna varias veces cuando el santo estaba en el bosque.

Surely your parents or grandparents have told you the precious story about the St. Roch's dog. If you look at the stamp, our saint is accompanied by a nice dog. What is the story behind this dog? Well, it was his savior. In today's times, especially in summer, many dogs that have showed their kindness throughout the year are abandoned in the street. It would be nice to explain to the people who do this type of savage actions, about the story of the animal that saved the life of an important saint like Roch.

As the story goes, our saint went to the forest in order to not infect the residents of Piacenza, and each day he was visited by a dog that took him a piece of bread. The animal took the bread from the table of his owner, a well-to-do man named Gottardo Pallastrelli, who after seeing the same scene day after day, decided to follow his pet. In this manner, they went into the forest where they found the poor, dying man. (…) It is worth mentioning that in other popular versions, it was the same dog that cured the man, after licking his leg wounds in the forest.

Photo of Tomoyo by Edwin Velásquez and used under a Creative Commons license.

Photo of Tomoyo by Edwin Velásquez and used under a Creative Commons license.

Some Bolivian bloggers took this opportunity to write about their own pets, and share stories about how they impacted their lives. Edwin Velásquez writes about his dog and whose company is always enjoyed [es]:

Tomoyo, tenia otro nombre, otros dueños y otra vida. Tenía que ser sacrificada por sus anteriores dueños, porque estos tenían muchos perros y ya no podían cuidarlos a todos, al saber esto, mi padre la compro, y después me la regalo. Yo le puse un nuevo nombre, la bañe, le corte el pelo y le dí de comer. Tomoyo, estaba aterrorizada y por dos días no quiso comer, esto me preocupo mucho, pero con paciencia y cariño, Tomoyo, se adapto a su nueva vida.

Tomoyo had another name, another owner, and another life. She had to be given up by her previous owners because they already had too many dogs and they couldn't take care of them all. Knowing this, my father bought her and later gave her to me. I gave her another name, bathed her, cut her hair and gave her food. Tomoyo was terrified and for two days did not want to eat, and this worried me. However, with a bit of patience and care, Tomoyo adapted to her new life.

Another blogger, Maria Cristina Moreno in Santa Cruz also takes the opportunity to wish her dog, Danilo, well. She writes about the best way to celebrate the day:

Asi que hoy más que nunca hagan felices a sus mascotas con caminatas, buena comida, agua fresca y muchos mimos… porque los perros son los mejores amigos del hombre…

Today, more than ever, make your pets happy with walks, good food, fresh water and a lot of attention… because dogs are the man's best friend…

She also took the following video:

Finally, José Luis from the city of Yacuiba stayed up late one night researching stories about St. Rocco and writes [es] that “(honoring dogs) shouldn't be a questioning of celebrating on only day, but a question of celebrating every day.”

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