Dozens of animal lovers lined up on the Chueca street in downtown Madrid bringing their four-legged friends,, some decked out in coats, jumpers and ribbons, to receive a dousing of holy water from the priests at the Church of San Anton.
“My dogs are elderly now but I bring them every year,” explained Juan as he pushed a trolley containing two pint-sized Yorkshire terriers in flamenco dresses and bows in their hair.
“It’s a very special thing to have them blessed, to bring them health and keeps them safe for another year,” he said.
One woman cradled Vullet, a tiny Chihuahua in her arms, its face peeking out of a pink fur-lined hooded jacket. “The queues are long because everyone who has an animal wants to come for the blessing. It’s great fun to include our little friends,” she said.
Not all dogs seemed keen on the priests sprinkling water over their heads. “Mine has to wear a muzzle today because he is old and a bit grumpy and I really don’t want him to bite the priest,” explained one nervous owner of a cross-looking Corgy.
And dogs weren’t the only animals to be brought to church. Although less visible, and kept safely away from canine appetites, some brought cats, rabbits and even lizards to for a benediction.
Parishioners lined up outside the church to buy specially baked bread rolls for San Anton in packets of three, with one traditionally kept all year alongside a coin to bring health and prosperity.
The festival dates back to the 19th century but grows in popularity each year at a church which has won fame for its outreach projects, including a Robin Hood restaurant for the poor.