The story of Guinefort the greyhound takes place during the Middle Ages in a region of France near Lyon. One day, a knight and his wife had to leave their castle for a short time, so they left their infant son under the care of the family's greyhound, Guinefort. When they returned home they found the crib knocked over, the child missing, and Guinefort’s mouth covered in blood. The knight assumed the dog had killed the baby, and in a fit of rage drew his sword and killed Guinefort. Moments later the husband and wife discovered the baby safe behind the crib, and a dead poisonous viper nearby that was bloody from dog bites. Guinefort had risked his own life by attacking the venomous snake in order to protect the child.
The knight buried the dog and planted trees in Guinefort's honor, but God avenged the innocent dog’s death by destroying the knight's castle. When the local people heard of Guinefort’s heroic deed, they sainted the greyhound. It was not uncommon for regions to declare their own saints without consent from the Vatican during the early centuries of the Church.
A Roman Catholic Church authority who was passing through the area discovered that the locals had sainted a dog, and had an edict passed against anyone seeking help from St. Guinefort. Despite the ban and risk of fines, the local people remained loyal to their beloved St. Guinefort and a healing rite for sick children developed where people would knot tree branches in St. Guinefort’s Woods, thus "binding" the child's ailment. This healing rite continued into the 20th century, as did the legend of St. Guinefort and his heroic deed.
Learn more about the story of St. Guinefort at www.TheGreyhoundSaint.com
Saint Guinefort, O holy dog, slain by thy master’s hand.
A martyr made of this good boy, most brave in all the land.
You saved a babe from venom’s fate brought forth by viper’s bite.
Protect us please, like that small child, throughout the day and night.
We vow henceforth to do our best to never act in haste,
for as your master struck you down, God laid his home to waste.
But vengeance never rights a wrong, the past is carved in stone.
Yet dogs forgive their master’s faults, and faultless dogs atone.
May humans strive to have pure hearts so generous and true,
thus echoing God’s boundless love, exemplified by you.
Please guide beloved pets who pass to heaven up above,
when God's creations are called home to share eternal love.
For in each creature’s gentle soul dwells part of the divine,
and beaming forth, for those who see, a miracle doth shine.
The above Saint Guinefort Prayer is dedicated to all animals who have passed away. May it bring solace to pet owners who have lost a beloved companion until they are reunited with them in heaven, and may the prayer inspire all of us to be kind to every living being.