Quadripeds and holy water
The holiday of Saint-Hubert in Belgium takes place every year on the first Sunday in November. In Oud-Heverlee, the cars arrive in the early afternoon at the edge of a small romantic lake surrounded by fields of autumn colors. People take out their dogs and disappear on a path through the woods to emerge a few minutes later in front of the Van Steenbergen chapel dating from 1652. It is the day of the annual blessing of their four-legged companions. The atmosphere is easygoing and friendly, after a short mass followed by the distribution of hosts to humans begins the redemption of animals. Although open to all living things, it is mostly a story of dogs. I saw no goldfish, no cats, no sleeping marmots, barely a not very reassured horse blessed on the sly behind the church.
After a small concert of the local harmony, each owner lines up trying to calm the little monsters much more interested in hunting field mice than in the divine presence; the officiating priest, Mr. Paul de Hopere (retired missionary) sprinkles holy water on the noses of our best friends who do not appreciate this unexpected downpour.
I photographed the ceremony and made portraits of a few owners and their companions behind a small white sheet, a kind of intimacy to their love. What never ceases to amaze me about these images is the fusional resemblance between masters and dogs. Each took something from the other, their looks come together and their looks mingle.
Charles Habib, May 2021