It was the loving care a dog gave that led to St. Roch being named the Patron Saint of Dogs.
Saint Roch was born the only child of a wealthy French nobleman around the 14th century with a red birthmark in the shape of a cross on his chest. At age 20, after the deaths of his mother and father, Roch renounced his nobility and gave his inheritance to the poor. He then went on a pilgrimage to Rome, caring for people who suffered from the plague and miraculously healing many by the sign of the cross.
Roch eventually contracted the disease, and not wanting to infect others he set off into the forest to die. While he lay dying, a hunting dog belonging to a count found him and began to care for him. The dog, who Roch believed was a gift from God, would bring him bread every day and lick his wounds until he made a full recovery. The count, who later discovered what his dog was doing, befriended Roch and let him keep the dog.
Roch, with his dog beside him, returned to France where a civil war was going on. Roch was mistaken as a spy, and instead of revealing his family's nobility he and his dog went to prison. The two spent five years in prison, where Roch died, caring for other prisoners.
After his death, people discovered who he was by the birthmark on his chest. Roch was officially declared a Saint 100 years after his death.
The dog with a loaf of bread in its mouth has become Saint Roch's emblem, appearing beside him in virtually every picture or statue of the saint.