Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Mythology and Healing Powers of Dogs

Dogs have been with us a long time, estimates are as long ago as tems of thousands of years. They have provided protections of flocks, babysitting (pit bulls fulfilled this role only last century), saviors, healers, companions and many, many other roles. Dogs can provide care for people with epilepsy, by warning the person of an impending attack and guiding him/her to a safe place where he/she will not be hurt during a seizure. They have been aiding the blind for decades, as well as others with a plethora of special needs. They can pick up and bring a phone, open and close doors, turn lights off and on, guide a person to their destination, and do just about anything their person requires of them. 

Every year, millions upon millions of adoptable animals are euthanized, while many others require the patience, care and training to be rehabilitated and re-homed. So please, if you are considering a canid companion for yourself and your family, rescue an animal from a shelter. Mixed breed dogs are less prone to genetic health and structural problems, and provide companionship that is equal to that of purebred dogs.

 Basset Hounds

Basset hounds have a great sense of humourthey appear to like and sometimes give a good practical joke. This can be tripping on their own ears to get a laugh, dancing on clackety-claws across a floor, or chasing cows, which they do not actually disliike or like.
Truly, laughter is the best medicine.

 There is a myth that good hounds, or heavenly ones, may provide their person with the power to heal (not heel!).

Boston Terrier

There is a myth of psychic power that seems to have developed around the Boston terrier. Jospeh W. Wylder, in Psychic Pets, has  written of a remarkable terrier named Missie, "...one of the widest known and best documented psychic pets of recent times."  The London Daily Mail accliamed Missie as one of our generation's most prominent prophets. What did she do to earn this reputation? She developed a system where she could give numerical information to people that was inevitably correct. She is said to have been able to tell how many coins someone carried in a purse, and she would give this information by an appropriate number of barks. Her real genius, though, was for prediction, which she did by anwering questions of a numerical kind by barking her answer. Many skeptics tried to denounce her pronouncemnts, but no one could prove her wrong. She even knew the time of her own death, and she announced it before she died. Often people with these dogs will report they have a special grasp of numbers, times, and schedules. While all dogs can be said to have this gift, this breed may have more of it than any other.

King Charles Spaniel
The King Charles spaniel remains outside classification by having a selfless temperament, an ego less disposition,a fervent desire to aid the afflictions of people, and a cuteness all his own.  A comforter of women, lapdog, cozier and comforter, another practical purpose they have is drawing fleas and other tiny vermin away from their people. They hid under petticoats, to lie silky-eared and soulful on the laps of the aristocracy.

A prescription once recommended that the queen of England keep a Comforte Dog on her lap to treat a cold. In the days of drafty castles and chilly carriages, and through the uncertainty of the plague years, the cavalier was the lap watcher of monarch and lady. Pythagoras once explained that small dogs of the spaniel type were able to store the breath of a dying person and carry it with them, keeping the spirit alive. They also offered lick therapy, the tongue being a medicine. The French believed that a dog's wet tongue could cure ulcers. The Greeks thought that the dog could protect them not only from terrestiral enemies, but from evil spirits as well. If a person felt the onset of these spirits, he carried a dog with him at all times. The belief that a dog's presence would keep evil at bay is with us today, as dogs are often used in care centres of all kinds, especially with the elderly and children.

Small dogs, due to their portability, were granted much more than medicinal powers. They became spiritual advisers, silent travel companions  resting in the crook of an arm, the curve of a lap, and beside their beloved's head, on the dent of a pillow. Thus to have a dog beside you if you were feeling unwell was to have  a talisman against harm, a physician/shaman/priest/best friend who would never leave your side, no matter the condition-finanical or physical-you were in.  When Charlie snuggles, so does the heart. It is an old medicine for melancholy, but it still seems to work.  The curative powers of this small dog have been known for a long time.

The chuhuahua is used as a hot water bottle.


In keeping with their ancient tradition, they are excellent trackers, diggers, night watchers and nurses, devoted to people.  Recently, a daschund helped a lost ten year old  with Down's syndrome return home. The boy was playing in his yard when he saw two stray dogs, one of them a daschund and the other a heeler, trot past him. He followed them deep into a forest, where, as temperatures dropped into single digits, the two dogs stayed by the boy's side, sheltering him from the wind. For three days they kept him  alive, but it was the dachsy's resonant bark that led a man on horseback to the kid, whose only injury was frost bitten toes. The dogs were called 'God's angels' by the mother, who has rewarded the dachsund with a permanent home.

 The Dalmation was a sentinel in war, a draft dog, shepherd, ratter, firehouse mascot, retriever, pointer, rescue dog.  The dal appears in Tuscany on a triptych showing St Domino blessing a chalice. The dog indicated the saint's power over the disease of hydrophobia, or rabies. This is associated with the mythology of dogs' breath being sacred and dog saliva being curative.  The dalmation has dashed in to flames, the firefighter's savior.


Aboriginal people in the American West have a special fondness for dingoes, even letting them sleep with their children and act as their guardians.  Developing countries have alliances between women and dogs.

Each hamlet in the British Isles during the eighteenth century had a favorite terrier to kill rodents and burrowing animals of the community.

German Shepherd
 As one German Shepherd police dog trainer said, "He wants to experience life.... he wants to know the thing itself. The dog is much superior to the person." German shepherds are intelligent, resourceful and have made remarkable contributions as guard dogs, sheep dogs, companions, family dogs, guide dogs, rescue dogs, and army,  fire and police dogs.

Dog Myths

Dog myths delve into the realm of animal intelligence in comic and serious ways, but alwyas, they assume that all people know that dogs began on earth by having a close relationship with the elements, the deities of wind, fire and water, while people were just coming to know them. Myths tell us that Dog had teeth before people. They explain that Dog knew Fire, but person hasn't been blessed with knowledge of it yet. More importantly, the old myths imply that Dog's knowledge of God preceded person's. There are many truths taught by the cultural myths of indigenous people around the world. Dog is a ranked citizen on the plane of existence, he is often a  representative of First person. Dogs greatly surpass humans in the area of telepathy, or body reading, and can read us like an open book,  though we have a harder time reading dogs. You can't lie to an animal, they instantly break down the barriers and facades, and see how we truly feel, who we really are.

Dogs, kindly characters that they are, usually have the grace to keep silent about what they know, while clearly humans are incapable of such. They can see how they stand in relation to us, and we to them, as their pack leader.  They know us as we do not know them.

Golden Retriever
 The golden retrieber is one of the most popular dogs in guiding the blind and helping the physically challenged.  They have a preference for good deeds, problem solving. They love offering someone a helping paw, even if it causes a distressing moment for themselves. They are unselfish and unrestrained in their love of companionship and their offering of guidance.  They will go out of their way to aid a human in distress. There are myths of ghost dogs coming back to save loved ones from burning bulldings and the like, some of which star goldens.

Dog Star, Dog Days
To a traveler upon the trail, the Dog Star was a lantern, a beacon against the darkness that surrounded them. Mohammed called God the Lord of the Dog Star. Some ancient civilizations-Greek and Roman, for example-saw the coming of the star as the onset of madness, the dawning of dog days, a term we still use today. What this meant was that the Dog Star, which came during the hot months of July and August, was bound to bring more heat. This, of course, could be destructive to crops. The Dog Star is a myth, giving a heavenly spirit to the earthy body. Within each of the heros and prophets, there resides a dog, who, whether heavenly or hellish, kindly or crazy, keeps an eye out for humanity.

Lhasa apso

The Lhasa apso is often identified with Buddhism and the Dalai Lama. They may have followed the old rounds of the Buddhist monks, following the Bodhidharma, the Patriarch who brought holiness out of a cave in India and it to the world. In the myth of the dog, they watched over an emperor or a Lama. In Peking, there were the Pekingese; in mountains of Tibet, Lhasa apso. Males were given as gifts by the Dalai Lama; sacred animals had a spiritual identity with the lion of the sakyas, or the Buddha himself. They are trained to turn the prayer wheel for the Lamas. They are known as Prayer Dogs. Chysanthemum Dog is another nickname. Apso seng kye, means barking lion sentinel dog. In England, he was known as the Talisman Dog, in view of his brining of good luck to any and all who may come to have him. in their home. Some Tibetans beleive him to be a reincarnated lama, who has not yet ascended to heaven. Thus, a spiritually potent being, and a lucky dog.

She is at home in the monasteries in the remotest mountain retreats of Tibet with lamas.  Dogs in the old Buddhist tales are in a constant state of satory, or watchfulness; humans can attain this themselves, but it is difficult and not an easy path for the average person. A dog is a guide to satory, with their eyes and ears, he is in a constant awakened attention to those around him; he is what the Buddhists sometimes call a realized being. Lhasa were used to guard the inner court of the Dalai Lama. When he looks at a person, he immediately knows whether he looking at a friend or a foe. They have acute hearing, quick reflexes.

The name comforter derives from the dog's use as a hot water bottle and as an extractor of pain and illness drawn out of and away from the stomach.

They have been doing sea rescues, horse guarding and have been ships' dogs and heroes for centuries.  A famous Newf, during a raging winter storm, saved one hundred people off the coast of Newfoundland. He braved the white capped waves and blizzardlike winds to fetch a lifeline back to shore so that the ship could be stabilized.

There is a myth that the Pekingese were at Buddha's heels. In Japan, the mythhs of the Buddha were further refined. The Lion of Buddha became the Dog of Fo. In native art, this dog was represented as a Pekingese. An eleventh-century Japanese painting shows the entry of Buddha into Nrivana. Beside his praying discipeles, there is a sacred Lion Dog. He is shown lying on his back, feet in air-the familiar pose of the Pekingese.  Kubla Khan, grandson of the greatest warrior monarch of all time, Genghis Kahn, knew the symbolism of the Lion Dog. His thirteenth-century court, heavily influenced by Lamaist Buddhism, contained both lions and dogs. The lions, apparently lay in attitudes of courtly feline apprehension, while thee tiny companions, the little Lion Dog Pekingese, played fearlessly around their curved claws.

In 1861 during the invasion of Pekings, British and French officers came upon the body of the imperial princess, who had gathered about her five sacred lion dogs before her death. These ancestral guardians, whose distant relatives had once guarded her ancestors, were so small and yet so noble as they kept their loyal, circular watch.

Spitz Dogs
Spitz dogs were part of the religions in the North. In the North American indigenous tradition,women treat pups the same as their own children, suckling them. This was not unusual to Northern people; in Italy it was common in the eighteenth century for women to suckle fox kits.

The early settlers in Canada were greeted by Spitz dogs who had a large amount of wolf blood. Such pack animals were described as pointed faced dogs and were considered fox dogs, though it was clear they were really domesticated wolves. They howled like wolves and were unable to bark. They were treated as family members and often seen walking into tents at night and eating out of the peoples' porridge bowls, as if used to eating like people.

Lapplanders and Dogs
The Native Laplanders are the Reindeer people, Europeans considered them to be wizards and sages, whose shamanic power came from the spirit of the dog. A household spririt always watched over the hearth of the Russion Lapp families, they offered her food at each meal. Lapp dogs guarded house, family and reindeer herds. They have musical signals, melodies for their dogs. Fox-dog myths are as numerous as the customs which accompany them. The Lapps believe that they were descendents of the dog clan, each individual of the clan had his/her own dog spirit.

Toy Poodles
 Toy poodles are delicate diggers of truffles in the damp, fragrant forests of France.

   Pugs were most skilled in the healing arts, skilled at pulling out fevers, relieving headaches and drawing off serious illnesses, atrracting the sickness unto themselves. Today, experts agree that the medicinal aspect of these dogs has something to do with the common comfort and empathy they offer, but it's also been shown that they can reduce the symptoms of high blood pressure and stress, as can any dog, just being there.

Finely bred pugs were suckled and treated and mothered as finely bred children.

It's the medicine we seem to need, if nothing else pleases, at least we, as frustrated humans, can be pleased by a dog. Since the earliest times, the pug and all dogs have always tried to please us.

Rhodesian Ridgeback

They are excellent watchdogs, especially on the prowl at night. They were on African farms to protect the farmer's sleeping animals. The love of dogs stands above parental care among the Zulus of South Africa.


She is a companion whose passion is to protect the property and person of her person. An outstanding recent example of the rotty's dedication as a guardian appeared in the Associated Press news story of the dog called Samantha. This legendary rotty saved the life of three year old Blake Weaver by remaining at his side for twenty hours. Barefoot, wearing only shorts and a T shirt, Blake had strayed off into the deep woods of the Ocala National Forest of Central Florida. During the cold January night, Samantha, the family rotty, stayed close and kept him warm. Through the night, as a wind chill factor brought a 30 degree temperature, she stayed on guard and blanketed the boy. The next day, Samantha led Blake to the dirt road where four hundred searchers were plying the woods, searching for him. He was found unharmed, owing, the physcians claimed, to the dog's care. Today, Samantha the rotty is an honorary County Deputy.

St. Bernard

St. Bernard: guardian, companion and search and rescue dog. Right from the start, she naturally took to the snows and demonstrated a desire to seek out avalanche victims. Case histories from the earliest times show that this amazing dog, with little or no training, went to her work with professional ease and rugged determination. The result, is 300 years of rescue services in the Alpine mountains, and elsewhere, saving thousands of human lives.

The St. Bernard's capacity for adoration is even larger than the dog herself.

In Mohammedanism it is believed that a mysterious power inhabits certain beings and things, this gentle force that flows from the natural world is present within the silky saluki, and is known as baraka. The swift el hor, saluki. The dog's telescopic sight is the gift of Allah, and so is his fleetness of foot. Both are said to have baraka. He can outrun an Arabian gazelle, one of the fastest creatures on earth;  he is driven by the force of baraka.  One of the myths around the dog is that he/she is the emissary between the world of life and death.  Mataphorically, to be eaten by one so holy as a bleesed dog is to be reborn, to enter the force of baraka, to be one with Allah.

This dog shepherds reindeer and guards herds against wild animals in Europe, Asia and Siberia. What the Natives of the Siberian steppes have always known is that this dog is very loving and considerate of humans. European dog myths include the white dog of death-the sight preceded the death of a family member.  In some parts of Wales the vision of  a white dog means that a dying person or someone soon to die unexpectedly, will be saved from hell and will go to heaven.

The giant schnauzer is a cattle driver, household guardian, police dog, companion dog in Europe and America. All three types of schnauzer make excellent watchdogs and ratters.

  Chinese provinces still celebrate the old myth of Pan Hu, a Shar-pei god. He is worshiped as an ancestral being at the New Year and at other sacred seasons.

Brittany, A beautiful rescued Nova Scotia ducktoller

Dogs and Rescue
Dogs have inner alarms which go off, saving their families before they are aware of fires.  We have all heard stories of dogs who have saved people from fires. Once bred to ward off evil spirits with a bark, smoke in many Chinese myths was not only associated with fire, but the familar of dangerous ghosts.

Rescued dogs at CAPS, above, a mixed breed, below, a husky who I walked.

The most famous race of 1910 was the Serum Run, in which huskies carried life saving serum through minus 50 degree gales to where there was a dyptheria epidemic.  The most common myth of the North is that of the Dog Ancestor. The Siberian Mongols believe that their ancestor was a dog, or was nourished by one, and this corresponds to the fact that some Inuit women suckle puppies as if they were their own. The Bruiats, another Siberian people, claim that long ago all men were born as dogs,  while all females were born as women.  Just as life came from dogs, it also is said that 'life went to the dogs' meaning that these wonderful creatures were credited with the gift of life and death.

The Yenisei Ostiaks of Siberia tell how they found their first 'dead' and when the Creator heard the peoples' wail, he sent Dog to comfort them and show them how to turn death into life. In many such tales, though, Dog is proven to be quite forgetful, and in their care he didn't remember his real purpose. Instead of teaching resurrection, he taught the art of earth burial, giving death a ceremonial existence and rationale.

A Siberian Shamans' song celebrates Dog's funny memory,. Here is a great animals who cannot forget what he once did, or what he is, or what life and death really mean. The Shaman, seeing Dog look upon the grave of a man, sings out 'Oh, look at this dog. He stands crosswise and looks back.' So do we, regarding our long and prosperous history and mythology of the Dog.

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