Tuesday, January 08, 2013


"God Made the earth, the sky and the water, the moon and the sun. He made man and bird and beast. But He didn't make the dog. He already had one." – Native American saying.
"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." – Groucho Marx
Before I get started on the story of our other 2012 Santa Fe Virgin of Guadalupe acquisition I want to let you know that there is precedent for it.
Two years ago we also celebrated Christmas with Monica, Bram and Cheyenne (daughter-in-law, son and Greyhound grand-dog) at their home in the capitol city of New Mexico.  One of Bram’s gifts to Monica was a book of photos of and essays about Greyhounds, within which we all discovered the story of Saint Guinefort a 13th Century member of that breed.

The faithful hound belonged to a knight who lived in a castle near Lyon, France. One day the nobleman went out hunting leaving his infant son to be babysat by (at that time mere citizen) Guinefort. When the father returned he found the room covered in blood, most notably surrounding the crib, and the child nowhere in sight. The guilty-looking greyhound was sitting next to the child's bed with more blood on his mouth.
Deciding that the dog had killed and devoured his offspring the father immediately shot and killed it with an arrow – and then discovered the baby safely hidden under a cot.  And nearby the freshly killed body of a snake.  Guinefort had heroically saved the young scion’s life.
Overcome by guilt the father interred the dog and planted a grove of trees around the grave to honor it. Local villagers soon began making pilgrimages to the gravesite, miraculous events happened, and "Saint Guinefort" became an object of worship among the townspeople.
But the Catholic Church never formally canonized the Greyhound. Etienne de Bourbon, an Inquisitor, had the dog "disinterred and the sacred wood cut down and burnt, along with the remains of the dog." Guinefort was declared a heretic.
It didn't work. Up until the 1940's pilgrims continued to visit the site, praying for the protection of their children and nourishing their spirits.
And then there is The Legend of the Dog-headed Saint Christopher – a member of the African tribe Marmaritae, who were believed to be (among other things) dog-headed and flesh eating.  When Christopher saw how much the early Christians were suffering he began to worship their God.  He ultimately was given the power of human speech and went on to preach his faith and suffered martyrdom.

While these two dog saints may be extreme cases - Canis familiaris was and is highly admired in many religions.
The Physiologus, an early-medieval source of the late-medieval Bestiaries, praises dogs for "having more understanding than any other beast".  They are "are like preachers who by warnings and by righteous living turn aside the ambushes of the Devil...As the dog's tongue heals a wound by licking, so the wounds of sin are cleansed by the instruction of the priest when they are laid bare in confession."
And in the Lakota Sioux creation story First Man and First Woman are told by First Dog:
"’Take my pups. You will raise them and call them Dog. They will be your guardians. They will alert you to danger, keep you warm, guard your camp, and even lay down their life to protect your life and the lives of your children. They will be companions to you and all your generations, never leaving your side, as long as Mankind shall survive. In return, you will share your food and the warmth of your fire. You will treat my children with love and kindness, and tend them if they become ill, just as if they were born from your own belly.’
"First Man and First Woman agreed. ... Before she disappeared into the darkness, she turned and spoke once more to First Man, ‘My children will honor the pact for all generations. But if Man breaks this pact, if you or your children's children deny even one Dog food, warmth, a kind word or a merciful end, your generations will be plagued with war, hunger, and disease, and so shall this remain until the pact is honored again by all Mankind.’ With this, First Dog entered the night and returned in spirit to the Creator." 
And it probably should be remembered that Mars and I were first introduced to the Virgin of Guadalupe by an episode of the television series “Wishbone” in which the eponymous leading actor – a Jack Russell Terrier – played the part of Juan Diego, the indigenous Native American from Mexico who saw the apparition of Christ’s mother in 1531.  Now we seek out and collect all things V.O.G..

The stage was set.  So when we both spotted the greeting card with the message “In Guad We Trust” and the William Wegman-like photo of a Weimaraner Virgin of Guadalupe at “The Flea” in the Santa Fe Railyard – purchasing it was a no-brainer.
Sitting stoically, this Weimaraner (“Paloma”)– who the photographer/sales person eagerly told us, “loves to get dressed up” – is wearing a long purple scarf arranged cowl-like over its head and shoulders.  Photoshopped around this central figure are the rays of light emanating from its presence.
 But it is the face that gets me – particularly the eyes.  As a review of Wegman’s art in New York magazine describes them “A Weimaraner’s eyes are a disturbing, otherworldly amber: They appear transparent, but cannot be interpreted. They have a way of reflecting our gaze, turning us back upon ourselves until we become the subject. The dog is the viewer; we’re the show.”
Exactly what a religious icon should do.

No comments: