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Blessing given to pets

April Lofton said her Rottweiler/Lab mix, Paysley, may haveneeded a blessing a little more this year than in her previouseight years.

When Paysley’s companion, Poker, an Akita/Lab mix, was hit by acar last week, Lofton said Paysley quit eating and began to showsigns of listlessness and sadness.

“You can see she’s grieving,” Lofton said.

So Lofton took her to Sunday’s Blessing of the Animals at theEpiscopal Church of the Redeemer, where Father Gene Bennett put aspecial blessing on her and several other dogs in attendance.

“This is perfect timing,” said Lofton, adding that it wasprobably Poker’s influence that made Paysley able to handle beingin a room with a bunch of other dogs.

“She wasn’t one that could warm up to other dogs,” she said. “Awhile ago she wouldn’t have warmed up to any of these dogs likethis, but he made her love him.”

It is those things that make animals such a blessing to eachother and to their people that make it important to have a day tothank God for them, Bennett said. Each year, many churches acrossAmerica celebrate Oct. 4 as the Feast of St. Francis, who isconsidered the patron saint of animals and nature.

“Francis largely taught us to bless the animals, and he didn’thave the trouble some Christians have today with people debatingabout whether or not the animals have souls,” Bennett said.

And during the ceremony, Bennett also blessed the relationshipbetween the dogs and their owners, saying a special prayer overeach one individually.

“You made us and our pets and all living things, and we’re hereto give thanks for these pets that give us joy,” he said. “By doingthis we know we can share in Your love for creation.”

Bennett told the owners of a passage in Job 12 that says, “Askthe animals, and they will teach you,” and the group sharedanecdotes about situations in which they had been taught speciallessons by their pets.

“They seem to have a special sixth sense that we don’t have,”said Kay Carner as she told about Beck, a dog that had known justhow to comfort her husband David, a doctor, when he had had a longand tragic day.

“When Beck died, I just prayed to God that he would send us apuppy,” she said. “Then when we got Pax, we always said Beck senthim.”

Bennett told the group that they can definitely learn from theiranimal companions, just as Job had said. He pointed out that petscan be a clear example of unconditional and Christlike love.

And, he said, that’s a reminder of the words of St. Francis ofAssisi, “Preach the gospel, teach the gospel, and when absolutelynecessary, use words.”