Roch, and the Roch Society, are named for Saint Roch, venerated as the Patron Saint of Dogs. The story of St Roch’s journey from nobleman to saint is an interesting one, and tells the tale of an enduring relationship between dogs and humans that has resonated with people across countries, and across cultures, for centuries.
St Roch was born Roch de Montpellier into a wealthy French noble family of the 14th century, but he decided to turn his back on his his privilege. He believed in the importance of helping those in need, in living a life of humility and service, and decided that spiritual growth and selflessness would be the focus of his life.
He became an orphan at the age of 20, and reacted by giving away all of his possessions, donning the simple clothing of a pilgrim, and setting off on a pilgrimage to Rome which at the time was afflicted by the plague. Along the way he came across plague stricken Italian towns where he stayed a while to help the afflicted, he used what have been described as miraculous healing abilities to heal many of them, and it is because of this work that Saint Roch is venerated and famou throughout Italy as San Rocco.
During the course of his duties tending to others Roch contracted the plague through sustained contact with the infected, so he withdrew into a forest, built a shelter, and waited to die, unable to cure himself as he had done for others.
Roch was about to die alone of the plague in a forest, but suddenly a dog appeared, it had smelt him out and found his shelter. The dog seemed to understand the dire condition Roch was in and regularly began to bring him bread stolen from his owners table in order to sustain him. The dog licked his plague wounds, and through his unwavering support and loyalty, provided Roch with the emotional support and hope that he needed to survive his illness and find a way through a very dark time in his life.
The companionship, care and devotion that the dog gave Roch were critical factors in his eventual recovery, and it is this story of a miraculous bond between Roch and his faithful canine companion that resonates with people globally, and is a powerful testament to the spiritual connection between humans and their loyal pets. This spiritual connection forms the foundation of our vision, and we at Roch work in support of our canine friends, and in service to their owners, work with them to make the world a friendlier place for dogs, and create an inclusive community for dog lovers that transcends borders, languages, and cultures.
St Roch’s Dog
St Roch’s dog is himself considered a saint by many, and his story continues even after the death of St Roch himself. The dog was called Guinefort and was owned by a local nobleman called Count Gothard. After Roch had recovered the dog led him back to its master, who after becoming a friend and student of Roch, gave Guinefort to him. Once Roch had fully recovered he and his dog made their way back to Montpellier in France, but Roch was somehow arrested for being a spy along the way, and spent five years in jail before dying behind bars in 1327.
Guinefort somehow survived all of this and went on to be owned by yet another noble family, and became a legend for himself in his own right. One day the family went out, leaving Guinefort, their baby, and their nanny alone in the house. While the nanny’s back was turned a snake appeared and attacked the baby so Guinerfort in the baby's defense killed it, leaving its blood and gore all over the floor and the baby. When the family returned they at first thought that Guinefort had hurt their baby and emotionally killed the dog, before then realizing their mistake afterwards, and that Guinefort had saved their baby.
The nobleman buried Guinefort in a well, planting trees around it to mark his grave, and local women from the nearby villages began to visit with their own babies, and began praying to Guinefort for protection, bringing their babies clothes and candles as an offering.