SAINT QUITERIA, A BRIDGE IN THE PYRENEES MOUNTAINS, AND RABIES
***Ad infinitum: (From Wikipedia) a Latin phrase meaning “to infinity” “a
never-ending, repeating process” “a set of commands to be repeated on and on
forever.” For example, Doc Orzeck’s mercilessly interminable rants on
and on and on about the life or death importance of getting their pets
vaccinated against rabies.
***Ad nauseam: a Latin term used to describe something that has been
continuing nonstop to the point of nausea. An example, once again, would be
that loyal readers of this column have heard so much of Doc’s erudition
(perpetual babbling) about rabies that it’s making them sick!
The two most important concepts to keep
in mind about the disease “rabies” for you and your pets are: First,
if you are exposed to the disease either through a bite wound or an intimate
exposure to a rabid animal, and you do not seek immediate medical attention
for yourself, there is nearly a 100% chance that if you catch the disease,
you will die. Always remember, that with regards to bite wounds, your
physician is your best friend. Secondly, rabies is nearly 100%
preventable in your pet (as well as yourself) with proper vaccination.
And always remember, that with regards to your pets health, his or her
veterinarian is their best friend!
I can almost hear it out there as I write this humble article: “Wow,
Doc, what a depressing topic this rabies stuff is!” And my first
response would be: “Yup, it sure is!” But because I’m the sensitive,
new-millennial, kind of guy that I am, I’m gonna give you most-treasured
readers of this humble column a break. Instead of beating you over the
head with more blah, blah, blah about the importance of vaccinating your
pets against rabies, I’m gonna tell a travel story instead.
A couple of years back, my wife and I walked the Camino de Santiago (Walk of
Saint James). From the land of the Basque people high in the Pyrenees
Mountains, across the vineyards and wheat fields of Navarra, and ending in
the Galician city of Santiago, the Camino is a thousand-year-old plus trail
across northern Spain that has been used by Christian pilgrims to travel and
gain Grace to the tomb of the Apostle James (the Greater). It’s an
amazing experience full of good foods, delicious wines (not quite as good as
my beloved Finger Lake’s wine region), history, legends, and miraculous
Part one: One of the more interesting legends on the Camino involves a
rather plain and unimposing ancient Gothic stone bridge that we crossed over
at the end of our second day of walking. As a veterinarian, I found
this story especially interesting. The bridge, with its center pier
and twin arches, crossed the Arga river into the little valley town of
Zubiri. (Zubiri in the Basque language means “village of the bridge.”)
What caught my attention the most about the bridge was its name: El Puente
de la rabia, the “bridge of rabies.”
I know! I know! that I said I was going to skip the rabies stuff, but I’m
sorry, I just can’t help myself! But as long as I have your attention,
I might as well continue.
Part two: There is a much-venerated 5th Century Christian martyr in this
border region between France and Spain (as well as Portugal) by the name of
Saint Quiteria. Not too much is officially known about her except that
she was the virgin daughter of a Galician prince, who was beheaded by her
father because she refused to renounce her Christianity. Because it
was said that she held at bay two mad rabid dogs with her saintly voice,
Saint Quiteria’s intercession is prayed for to help in the prevention of
rabies. The good saint is depicted in paintings and sculpture always
leading a dog.
I can hear it out there now: “That’s interesting stuff, Doc. But what does a
5th virgin martyr and a simple stone bridge have to do with anything?”
Ah, dear readers, this is where it gets interesting. It turns out that
some—or maybe all—of Saint Quiteria’s relics are embedded in the central
pier of the bridge of rabies. And, for over a thousand years—and still
to this very day—local farmers believe that if they march their animals
three times over the central pier, the beast will be immune from rabies.
Also, they believe that if they walk a rabies infected animal three times
around the central pier (the river in the summer is not all that deep) that
it will be cured of the disease! I’m not too sure of the science of
all this hard work, but it must be more exciting that just getting a shot at
Copyright 2004 by Richard Orzeck, DVM.
in this article is based upon the author’s personal experiences, his opinions,
and his best interpretation of the data at the time of writing. It is not intended
to render veterinary advice or service. Specific needs and questions concerning
your pet’s health should always, always, always, be addressed by his or
her best friend, their local veterinarian.