There’s a very good reason that dogs are called “man’s best friend.” Not only do they provide comfort, entertainment, and a great reason to exercise, they’re also incredibly faithful.
So in honour of our four-legged friends, we wanted to share two beautiful stories of how dogs have truly earned their moniker as a “man’s best friend” throughout history.
The Domini canes
If you look at the iconography of St Dominic, you’ll often see him accompanied by a dog. When his mother, Blessed Jane of Aza, was pregnant, she had a dream in which a dog had a torch in his mouth and was running around the world setting it on fire. She went to a preacher to talk about the meaning of this unusual dream and he told her that it meant she would give birth to a great preacher “who would set the world ablaze with the fire of his word,” according to Catholic News Agency.
In fact the name of the Dominican Order itself makes a pun on the importance of this dream, with Domini canes being Latin for “dogs of the Lord.”
Interestingly, the dog that appeared in Blessed Jane’s dream is sometimes believed to be a greyhound, a dog bursting with energy that can run around spreading the Word of God at great speed. This would tally with the work of St Dominic, who was said to have converted over 100,000 people throughout his missions.
The dog that saved St Roch
The 14th-century St Roch is actually the patron saint of dogs. When the Frenchman caught the plague, he went into the forest to die. However, he was saved by a dog who not only licked his wounds to help him heal, but also brought him food from the table of his master, Count Gothard Palastreslli.
One day the nobleman followed his dog into the woods and discovered the frail St Roch. He brought him back to his home and helped him regain strength. Sadly, not long after Roch returned to his native Montpelier, he was arrested for being a spy and put in prison where he died five years later after wasting away.
The compassionate dogs of Lazarus
You will no doubt remember the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. We hear of the wretched Lazarus, who’s lying in the streets having his sores licked by dogs. This act is open to interpretation. Some people think that Lazarus’ plight was so terrible that the behaviour of the dogs can be viewed as a final insult to him.
However, other people interpret the story to mean that the dogs took pity on Lazarus and tried to heal his wounds by licking them. The compassion of the dogs was even greater than Lazarus’ fellow man, emphasising the meaning behind the parable. (Adapted from Aleteia)