In El Alto, Bolivia, a Roman Catholic priest blessed dozens of pooches on a saint’s commemoration day.
Saint Roch is the patron saint of the Bolivian city, but he is also that of dogs, along with bachelors, surgeons and pilgrims.
On the saint’s feast day, the 16th August, owners filed through the Bolivian city with their pets. Afterwards, they attended an outdoor service, during which the story of Saint Roch and how he became the patron saint of canines was shared with the congregation. Dog owners then queued to have their loyal pets blessed by a priest.
According to legend, whilst ministering to the people of Piacenza, St. Roch fell ill, so the people of the town expelled him.
Forced to live in the forest, he became sicker. However, his life was saved when a hunting dog, owned by a local nobleman, brought him bread and licked his wounds. One day, the nobleman followed his dog. He found Saint Roch and nursed him back to health, later becoming his acolyte.
Animals are due to be blessed again on the 4th October, which is the feast day for Saint Francis of Assisi. Every year across the world, Catholic priests bless thousands of pets on this day, including many dogs.
The bond between people and their pets is a special one, which is celebrated in many different ways by various cultures and religions. Currently the blessing of dogs on the feast day of Saint Roch is not a worldwide custom.