My Dog is Blessed

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A few weeks ago was the day of San Lazaro, the patron saint of dogs. Reminders of this holy day came in the form of pyrotechnic rockets the past few mornings around 5 am or so. One morning there was even a band playing the standard Nicaraguan parade song “Cacophony.” Anyway, Liceth and I were ready and agreed to take our new pup “Goofy” to mass this morning to try and get him exorcized, I mean blessed, with rest of the Roman Catholic dogs here in our town.

Reaching the Cathedral, a mere 2 blocks away, the place was filled with people and only a few dogs malingering outside with their owners. Liceth left us outside so she could get her fill of the Padre’s fiery rhetoric that seemed to be concentrating on typical themes of too much drink and resisting promiscuity.

Goofy and I hung around outside as more and more dogs of every shape, description AND dress showed up with their owners. Some pups sported caps, others dresses and some leis crafted out of fresh bougainvillea flowers. Goofy wasn’t thinking much of this and varied his responses from barking aggressively to sitting on his tail. There seemed to be a correlation between his stance and the size of the opposing party.

As the Padre started to really get his wind, kids of about 12 years of age, standing on the front patio of the cathedral, punctuated his sermon by lighting off rockets which would WHOOSH into the heavens and explode once or twice. There is some serious black powder in these rockets which are about 10 times the size of a Fourth of July bottle rocket and look as if they are half as well made. Goofy didn’t care for these either and started cowering and trying to bolt away, simultaneously.

Then comes the Chi-cha. Chi-cha is a standard Nicaraguan drink made out something or other that looks like curdled sour cream (or tapioca) is almost always served in a plastic bag and if often colored hot pink, following the Latin American adage for food and drink: “if it’s hot pink, it’s got to be good.” Young men show up with barrels of chi-cha bags. I am thinking they are enterprising youths trying to make a cordova off the crowd that is soon to be released. I am wrong, the bags of chi-cha are being dispensed for free. I guess the church ponys up for some free chi-cha and not just the rockets. Cool enough. I see a gentleman who had been waiting with me stuffing 3 bags of chi-cha into a bigger bag and then I see his poor dog. The tiny thing, the size of a chihuahua with lots of hair, had its entire head covered in hot pink gobs of chi-cha. I see the mess on the floor and think there must have been accident. Wrong again. Apparently this is a form of doggy baptism and San Lazaro used chi-cha as his baptism juice. Goofy will not like this. One would think Goofy is receiving surgery without anesthesia as he howls during a simple bath. I can imagine what flumes of chi-cha raining on him will be like. We are now waiting by a short wall that I am sitting on. Goofy is hiding between the wall and legs when the first chi-cha bearing boys arrive. The say: “Mister, your dog looks scared.” I say: “Yeah.” They offer: “Chi-cha!?” while motioning towards my hiding pup. Certainly a denial would be contrary to local custom and we did bring him here for his own good, so I push him out into the open while the 2 boys delightfully empty their bags of pink sticky sweetness all over Goofy. Goofy sort of collapses for a moment as if he has endured the final indignity.

The church empties and permission is granted to douse Goofy a few more times. All the other dogs are covered in sticky pink and increasing so are the parishioners as the crowd and the animals rub against one another. There is to be a procession through the streets bearing a statue of San Lazarus, the band playing Cacophony, a few hundred folks and dozens of chi-chaed mutts. Off we go en masse through the streets with the rocket boys announcing our arrival just ahead. Different houses are visited and different gifts of food are distributed to the crowd. Goofy receives a bag of dog food. He is now fairly indifferent to it all, as the chi-cha cakes in his hair, he barks at the occasional bigger dog. He barks at the rocket boys too, no longer flinching. A rocket goes astray, narrowly arcing over the crowd. No one pays it any mind. We tour for several blocks this way. The band playing that familiar song, the rocket boys lighting away, the sticky masses swaying to and fro.

Finally breaking away, Goofy pulls hard on the leash for his own turf. Apparently a fresh bath was better then the hardened chi-cha in his hair for he let out not a yelp. He now sleeps soundly in the sun. Maybe the chi-cha and San Lazaro are having the desired effect.

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  1. Jonh's Avatar
    standard Nicaraguan parade song “Cacophony.”
  2. Richit's Avatar
    Any pictures of the parade...
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