A tale of canine devotion

 A mongrel dog has been causing curiosity and astonishment among the inhabitants of Sobrado in Portugal, by being seen walking 16 miles to attend 7.30am Mass in the church of St Rita in Ermesinde. 'Preta' (Blackie) as she is known, sometimes accompanies her owner and other Sobrado dwellers. But more often she goes alone, leaving home at about 5am. She enters the church, lies down near the altar, and each time the congregation rises or sits during the celebration, she does the same. Preta was taken in seven years ago by the Mayor's wife, Maria do Ceu, in a pitiful state of abandon. "About three years ago, she began to attract the attention of the locals with her regular trips to Mass," said Maria. "One Saturday night, we kept her locked indoors. At about 5 o'clock, her usual time for leaving the house to go to Mass, she began scratching at the door and howling to be let out. As soon as we opened the door for her, she charged off in the direction of Ermesinde" Maria said. When Mass is over, Preta returns home, sometimes on foot, sometimes accepting a lift from people she knows - she will not go in a stranger's car. Her behaviour is a total enigma to the population of Sobrado, where she is known and loved. The story has spread beyond the parish boundaries, and on Sundays, feast days and holidays, crowds come from far and wide to St Rita's church in order to witness this astonishing canine devotion. This story was discovered and translated by Jennifer Smith, from the Portuguese newspaper Correio de Manha. It was published in the latest Ealing Abbey Parish Magazine (West London)

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