Happy St. Patrick’s Day! What’s that? No, no, My Doggy is not selling any green, shamrock-shaped, beer-flavored dog treats, we are honoring St. Patrick and Irish wolfhounds. (Note to test kitchen: develop some green, shamrock-shaped, beer-flavored dog treats for next year.)
There are a lot of mysteries surrounding the life of Saint Patrick, as well as the origin of Irish wolfhounds. First of all, why would Patrick, who was born and spent his childhood in Briton, not Ireland, go on to become the patron saint of the Emerald Isles, not to mention the patron saint of everything else green, from beers to milkshakes? What brought Patrick from Briton to Ireland? Let’s address the question of location first.
Patrick was forcibly relocated to Ireland in his teens by Irish marauders. In other words, he was shanghaied before most of the world even knew there was a Shanghai, and sold into slavery, where he served as a shepherd. So it was that Patrick spent the next six years of his life, with little or no company other than a flock of sheep and, of course, a sheepdog.
Patrick, the Puppy Whisperer
For conversation, Patrick spent a lot of time talking to his God and his dog. As it turns out, according to Patrick’s own writings and a bit of mythology, both of them talked back to him. In one version of the events, his sheepdog turned into the guise of an angel and advised Patrick to make his escape and find a ship on the coast that would carry him back home. Off went Patrick (leaving the dog to continue guarding the sheep, of course). By Patrick’s own words (translated from Latin) the ship was a good 200 miles away. This might be Patrick’s first miracle, or else the route was very circuitous and mountainous, because according to our atlas, Ireland only spans about 150 miles east to west and 180 miles north to south. However, Patrick’s first official miracle, which involved feeding dogs, was still a few weeks away.
When Patrick reached the coast, after logging all of those frequent walker miles, his ship was there, as promised, and was getting ready to leave. The only problem was that the ship’s crew had no intention of taking Patrick with them. They were dealing with dogs. “Dealing” as in “stealing.” Both the hold and the deck were full of hounds, big ones, as in the appropriately named Irish wolfhounds. These frantic and furious giants, taken from their old masters, weren’t taking well to their new masters. It seemed that the boat might not be big enough for the canines and the crew, and their company at sea might not last long enough to reach land. That’s when crew members noticed that upon Patrick’s approach, the angry animals were becalmed. They made him a deal, a real honest one this time. If he would soothe and care for these savage beasts, they would provide passage.
No one ever told Patrick that doing the Lord’s work was going to be easy. And, if they had, they would have been lying to him. But, then again, it probably wouldn’t be the first time he was lied to, nor would it be the last. Instead of heading toward Patrick’s home, the dog-nappers set sail for the European mainland, where their beautiful Irish booty would fetch the highest prices. To make matters worse, they were “under-provisioned” (wolfhounds eat a lot, you know) and they beached and abandoned the ship in the middle of nowhere in what is now known as France (not to imply that France, or Gaul, as it was then known to those who knew it, is anywhere near the middle of nowhere today). Soon, the meagre provisions were kaput, and the dog-nappers were starting to look like dog food to the dogs again.
The crew, unreformed criminals and unconverted Christians all, looked to Patrick for help once more. Patrick prayed. His prayers were answered. In what went into the books as his first official miracle, a pack of pigs emerged from the forest and was quickly diverted onto the dinner plates and into the dog bowls of the men and their mutts. Stomachs stuffed and suitably impressed that Pat was the real deal, the men all converted to Christianity then and there. It is not known whether any of them went to confession and returned an Irish Wolfhound or two to their rightful owners, but you never know. Some other unreported miracles may have occurred.
Do All Good Doggies Go to Heaven?
After Patrick’s escape from slaving away at shepherding, he took a sabbatical from herding wolfhounds, began working for the church, and eventually had another dream, this time directing him to return to, of all places, Ireland. Upon his return to the the land of the rising shamrock as a missionary, one of the first people he met was a powerful pagan prince, who would rather fight than switch, as the old slogan goes, when it came to matters of belief. Since powerful princes never get their hands dirty when they don’t have to, he commanded his dog to attack Patrick. What kind of dog was it, you may ask? It was another Irish wolfhound, of course! But, as the dog lunged, Patrick said something that has probably been handed down from Jedi generation to generation ever since, and the ferocious attack dog stopped in its tracks and licked Patrick’s outstretched hand. For slobbering on him, instead of savagely tearing him to shreds, Patrick is said to have allowed the legendary Irish hero, Oissain, to take his hounds into heaven with him. I guess it’s up to Oissain as to how many that’s going to be. Let’s hope he was a big dog lover and not just a lover of big dogs!