Terracotta figure of an animal
Neo-Babylonian dynasty, 700-500
This animal was probably sacred to a god or a goddess and was part of a larger statue or temple ornament. The sitting dog occurs first as a divine symbol in the Old Babylonian period and continues through to the Neo-Babylonian (550 BC). Inscriptions identify it as the symbol of Gula, goddess of healing. King Nebuchadnezzar II (reigned 604-562 BC) records the placing of gold, silver and bronze dogs as offerings in the gates of Gula's temple at Babylon.
In the Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian Periods (1000-539 BC) the dog, sitting or standing, was also used as a magically protective figure, not attached specifically to any individual deity. Such models may have become increasingly important because it has been suggested that the disease of rabies was present in Mesopotamia by the beginning of the second millennium BC and more widespread during the first millennium BC.
J. Black and A. Green, Gods, demons and symbols of -1 (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)