Animals

Beloved and Blessed

Our regional breed club held a Fun Day today, which included Berner Olympics, Paw and Ear fur-trimming, Canine Good Citizen testing and a Fun Match, which is the user-friendly version of a dog show. Our Sam won a second place ribbon in the Adult Male Pet category. The judge commented that he was a little taller than the standard, and that he seemed to “like his cream puffs.” Oh, well. The ribbon is proudly displayed on the refrigerator, which I suppose is appropriate! Molly enjoyed meeting everyone, especially the people with good-smelling treats in their pockets. Yes, we all like our cream puffs around here…

I used the last day of my Study Leave week, a day off from worship leadership, to perform another sort of pastoral task today: a Blessing of the Animals. Along with Rhode Island Rabbi, I was asked to bless the Berners. RIRabbi and I worked up a service via e-mail. We gave thanks for animals, reflected on God’s word to us about their care and prayed for animals who are ill as well as those who are poorly treated by people. Then we invited people to bring their dogs forward for an individual blessing, if desired.

And forward they came: old dogs, rescue dogs, sick dogs, puppies. Some came in pairs; one owner told me, “They are a team,” and as they stood beautifully still next to each other, I blessed them together. Some young dogs circled their people as I reached after them. Each one was touched by RIRabbi or by me, and we prayed these words over them:

Beloved Creature, Friend and Companion, may God your Creator bless, defend and keep you, this day and forever. Amen.

#2 Son helped me make a remembrance card for each dog. The club’s logo shows a Bernese Mountain Dog pulling a cart, and beneath this image we included today’s date and the words “Beloved and Blessed.”

Emma is 11 years old. She was abandoned by her family at 10, left at the vet to be “put to sleep.” But there was nothing really wrong with Emma that a little medical treatment could not address, and the vet sought a new home for her. Her new mama had lost an older Berner and was outraged to hear that Emma had been discarded. She has been happy to make Emma part of her family. Emma, left so carelessly, has now become a therapy dog, making weekly visits to Alzheimer’s patients. She is beloved and blessed and blessing.

After everyone had cleared away, heading to the Parade of Rescue Dogs, I waved to #2 Son who had our dogs, and he joined us. I asked RIRabbi if she would bless Molly and Sam. We stood there, The Princess and #2 Son and I, while she blessed our blessings. Surely, they are beloved.

You think dogs will not be in heaven?
I tell you, they will be there long before any of us.

~Robert Louis Stevenson

15 thoughts on “Beloved and Blessed”

  1. No matter how much anyone ever loves us, no one in the world is ever happier to welcome us home than our dogs.
    One of my fave dog quotes is much like the great one that you posted:
    “Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.”
    – Mark Twain

  2. The annual blessing of the animals at TinyChurch is one of my favorite days! We do it during September and use the church side yard. We actually had a pair of infrequent visitors finally make the commitment to join after experiencing the blessing of the animals.
    I have blessed dogs, cats, birds, lizards, gold fish, hamsters, and–though I did use a different blessing–I blessed one of those stuffed animals a lady kept on the back dash of her car. (That was truly bizarre.)
    Last year the weather was bad so we were in the basement…and while there were a couple of altercations…and a little mess here and there…it went surprisingly well.
    The Girl Scouts help out every year…handing out snacks (human and pet) and getting their faces painted like animals.
    I have a couple of liturgies if you would like them…

  3. Oooh, that sounds lovely…I love the blessing you used,- may I borrow it when we bless pets at OpenHouse on St Francis Day this year? I’d love to see ChicagoRev’s material too…

  4. Made me smile, I think it is right that we remember and bless our pets and working animals before God…. but I remember a disastrous pet service… posting now!

  5. Hi there!
    Thanks for your comments below (love being a cute clergywoman with my friends!) and I am so happy to have met you rock stars in person.
    Our shirts were much discussed that day by our server at lunch and lots of people sitting around us. “What’s a pulpit?” was a frequent question. Hello, postmodern ATL culture!
    Anyway, sounds like your blessing of the animals was beautiful. I did a similar service when I was serving a midtown church and it was some of the most important ministry I did there, I think.
    Blessings to you.

  6. Sheba, our lab mix, has several dog friends who were abandonned by their humans and have found good homes.
    One is Twister, who is a Shi-tsu and was a show dog until his humans decided he was too old to show. He was due for euthenasia on that basis alone, but neighbours of ours adopted him and he is one happy dog. In fact, Sheba, who is 3 times his size, taught him that bigger dogs can be OK. Fun, in fact.
    Sheba is also an adoptee–at 8 weeks of age, from the Humane Society. She’s going to be 8 this December, and we see her already beginning to age. I can’t help but pre-emptively grieve a little…
    Bless the beasts and the children.

  7. I have only heard of a Blessing the Animals. I would love to bring my fellas. My Simba, in particular, is feeling low. We got him about 7 years ago…we joke about getting him from the Second-hand Dog Shop.

  8. You’ve reminded me I need to call the shelter. The biggest crowd we have had at the little country church I serve came about on the day we invited everyone to the “Blessing of the Animals.” (I’ll have to admit, however, living in a farm community meant I had a wider variety of critters to bless.) We coupled our blessing with an adoption day for animals at the shelter.

  9. Did you ever read “Lovely Bones”? It has my favorite account of dogs in heaven. Or heaven for humans for that matter.

  10. Questing Parson, that is a great idea. I had considered taking an offering for the Refuge League here, but I will have to ask if we can do more than that.
    Lisa V, yes, I loved that aspect of the book very much. When she saw her dog, I sobbed, first time I had cried over that book.
    p_m_p, thanks for the reference.
    NotShyChiRev, I would love to see what you have.
    Mata H, great quote!
    Thanks, all, for your stories. If you haven’t read Sally’s yet, go and do so!

  11. We had a St. Francis Day blessing of animals in October. We were having a week long teaching series with a Franciscan brother and of course he performed the blessing.
    A more secular way of blessing animals, but one I love: my absolute favorite event of my small town, is coming up: The Dog Days of Denton, June 3 2006.
    It’s a festival all about and for dogs. It’s a blast!!
    http://dentonmainstreet.org/Events.aspx?Date=06%2f03%2f2006
    I can’t wait!

  12. We do one in our outdoor chapel in October. It’s a delight. So many loving wonderful animals and their humans, gifts to the world from our loving Creator. Lizards don’t necessarily like being sprinkled with holy water, we learned.

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