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Dogs, xoloitzcuintles and Mictlán: pets on the Day of the Dead

They say that we should always be kind to animals, dogs in particular, because one must accompany us to cross the river that leads to Mictlán after death. Hairless dogs or xoloitzcuintles (“itzcuintli” means “dog” in Nahuatl, “xólolt” “deformed”) have a lot of prominence in Mexican culture: the native pre-Hispanic breed links the country with its ancient roots. And in Day of the Dead, perhaps even more so: hence Dante, the animated Pixar version, in the film Coco.

Have you already wondered how to celebrate the love we have for the dogs and cats that are no longer with us? Should we put up a pet altar? When? In this month of legends and traditions, discover curious facts about the Day of the Dead and dogs.

photo of dog on pet altar

The best companion in life as well as in death

Did you know that in Mexico, the first domestic animals were the dog and the turkey ? Unlike the bird, the dog has been considered man's best friend since time immemorial. This importance has been evidenced by funerary rites , as dogs have been found buried with the deceased as if they were just another human, explains Raúl Valadez Azúa from the UNAM Anthropological Research Institute.

They are never confused with wild wolves or coyotes despite their morphological resemblance. Companions or guardians , the Mexican codices document their presence next to man and the close relationship that united them. The mythological dog is the god Xólotl , who according to legend was the first to reach the underworld, accompanying Quetzalcoatl. Valadez Azúa explains that the dog is one of the animals associated with the afterlife , like moths or owls.

In pre-Hispanic Mexico , death was part of a natural cycle, which culminated in the renewal of life. Dogs were considered a sacred link between worlds, guides on the journey of humans who died of natural death (warriors and women who died in their first birth did not need them). Although the xoloitzcuintles could accompany the souls, the “common dogs”—preferably brown in color—also participated .

When do we celebrate our dogs?

The Day of the Dead festival , with all its cultural richness and regional variations, has been part of UNESCO's intangible heritage since 2003. The tradition of altars does not include pets, however, their importance in families has long been some years that various animal associations promote dedicating a date to them: October 27.

Following this framework, the offering for deceased pets should be placed on the night of October 26 , a few days before the reception of the souls of children and adults. But you should feel free to include—or not—your pets in your own celebration, in whatever way feels most natural to you.

What to put in a pet offering?

Just like human souls, it is believed that pets come to visit their homes during the last days of October, an ideal time to honor their memory and treasure their memory. The altar for pets is similar to that of humans: with shredded paper, marigolds, skulls, copal and candles. To have everything ready for their arrival, you can place your dog or cat's favorite foods, treats, and toys around a photo of them.

offering with toys and dog food bowl

Remembering those who gave us so much during the life we ​​shared together can be beautiful and help with the grieving of our deceased colleagues. At EPIC pets, we dedicate an offering to Bolillo , one of the dogs that inspired the brand's first products , and who left us a few years ago, with the toys and treats that he loved so much.

Don't hesitate to celebrate the pets in your life as they deserve it: there is no rule, any way is correct, even serving them a pan de muerte on the plate where they ate their croquettes! We would love to discover your offerings, don't hesitate to tag us if you make one. One last detail: when you make your altar, be careful if you have a dog or cat with the candles or food that could be stolen from the offering to avoid any accident 🙂.

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