A chief priest of Chodenji, an ancient temple in Matsusaka, Mie Prefecture, has found a novel way to cheer up bereaved family members after a funeral using his pet dog.
Bride, a 7-year-old female mixed breed, has learned how to fold her front paws together in apparent prayer.
“Turning (the visitors’) sadness into smiles is not a job that I can do,” Gijo Enomoto, 67, said.
As soon as Enomoto gives the command “Palms, Bride,” the dog immediately places her front paws together in front of her chest and bobs up and down.
Bride, along with another 7-year-old male dog named Groom who also lives in the temple but has not learned the trick, were given to Enomoto by his second son in the fall of 2008.
A Buddhist parishioner taught them some tricks and Bride somehow mastered the move of placing her front paws together seven years ago.
Enomoto has witnessed countless deaths over the years.
After the end of a funeral, he would invite the grieving family members into a reception room at the temple. After a while, the two dogs would enter the room and play with the guests. Enomoto would normally scold the dogs for interrupting, but in this particular case, he remained silent.
When the mood in the room lightened, Enomoto eventually gave the order for Bride to perform her trick, inevitably drawing smiles from the grief-stricken family members.
After living with the dogs, Enomoto began to realize that his “job in the temple should be more than just saying prayers for the deceased.”
“I want the bereaved family members to forget the pain of losing a loved one even if it is just for a moment. The dogs have taught me the importance of doing that.”
This section, appearing Tuesdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on April 26.