The flooding and landslide devastation outside Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is unfathomably sad no matter how you look at it, but this photo of Leao, the mixed breed dog that refused to leave his owner Cristina Maria Cesario Santana's grave, puts a face on just what a tragedy the country is facing.
For two days, Leao sat beside his owner's grave in Teresopolis, near Rio de Janeiro, the area hardest hit by the flooding. Brazilians are now expecting more rain and more potential landslides. It's the country's worst flood disaster on record and, according to CNN, the death toll has now reached 655 in this mountainous region of Rio de Janeiro state, northeast of the city.
And while countless efforts have been made to help the humans in this flood, somehow this image of the loyal dog that will never fetch a ball with his owner or sleep on her feet again is one of the most gut wrenching.
To get an idea of how bad it is, see below:
At some point, Leao, the loyal puppy, will have to leave his owner's side, but for now, any of us who have dogs can relate to this story.
Sometimes the sheer magnitude of a news story like this -- hundreds of deaths, thousands made homeless, $72 million worth of rebuilding efforts to come -- can be hard to fathom. It doesn't make it any less tragic, but it's just hard to wrap your head around the devastation in a country far away. Somehow the dog brings it home.
The loyalty of dogs can't be overstated. Even though my dog sometimes makes me insane, the sight of this dog sitting so patiently, waiting for his beloved owner to scratch his ears or rub his belly or give him food and water, is so painful and pathetic, it makes the tragedy tangible.
I remember sitting in a horror movie once and being shocked when the entire theater -- having just watched multiple scenes of mayhem committed against humans -- erupted in screams when a dog was the victim. There is something about dogs and children. They are vulnerable and loving and no one ever wants to see tragedy befall them.
So, yes, it might seem trite to cry over a dog when so many humans have lost their lives. But anyone who has ever loved a dog knows different. Leao puts a face on this tragedy and his broken heart and undying loyalty is a symbol of all the pain and tragedy in the region.
Our hearts go out to everyone and especially to this dog that will hopefully have someone to take care of him.
Have you been following the flooding?