My grandmother, Mrs Owen B. Jones, with her beloved dog, Grindle.
By Wendy Wood-Prince
My dogs: Chili, rescued from the Bahamas.
Savvy, adopted from a shelter.
For millennia dogs have played a special role standing alongside mankind as guardians and companions and now during this unprecedented time their role has been highlighted. With so much uncertainty, fear of the known and unknown and the loneliness brought upon us through isolation, dogs are being recognized as vitally important to our health and well being. They freely provide us with companionship, safety, humor, exercise and unconditional love. Our recognition of them is generally low key and personal, we lovingly post pictures of them, have dog parades and competitions but we do not necessarily celebrate (at least officially) the important emotional and physical role that they play in our lives.
One place where dogs are officially celebrated is during the Hindu festival of Kurkur Tihar or “worship of the dogs” which occurs on the second day of Diwali, also known as The Festival of Lights. Believed to be the guardians of the gates to the afterlife, all dogs, including strays are given flower wreaths, a Tika (red paste applied to the dog’s forehead) and offerings of food. It is believed that all who encounter these celebrated dogs on the day of Kurkur Tihar receive the dog’s blessing. The flower wreaths, Tika marking and treats honor the sacredness of the dogs.
To all of us who live with them, dogs are considered beloved family members and caring for them benefits us as much as it does them, especially during our current new reality. Walking them gets us outside no matter the weather and with streets and towns exceptionally deserted the beauty and quiet all around us seems so different now that we have time to pay attention to it. Our beloved companions are reveling in the extra time and attention that we finally have for them. Walking around my little town I have found that human and dog alike are happy to greet and connect for a brief moment. The love that each dog owner has for their four legged companions is obvious. (Not to negate other pets in any way but those are stories for another day).
The pandemic has forced all of us to adjust in some way, some of us have to stay home while others have to continue to go to work, but in all cases our animals have brought renewed comfort when we need it most. The unconditional love that animals freely give us in exchange for a meal and some shelter is a gift that I am appreciating more than ever.
I have been so happy to read that animal adoptions are way up, and just last month, The Friends of Palm Beach County animal care and control center was blessed with a record number of adoptions. Celebrations were in order after one of their three kennels adopted out every single animal it housed. Shelters all over the US are emptying as adoptions are spiking, bringing joy to both animal and their adoptees. Like a true love story, it warms the heart to know that we are finding renewed connections through our beloved pets. As an anonymous dog owner reminds us “All dogs are therapy dogs. Most are just freelancing”.
Atlas, manager and CEO of LakeForest Pack and Ship.