An assortment of dogs and one peach-faced lovebird gathered on Sunday morning, at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, for the 14th annual blessing of the pets. Some in the congregation forgot themselves and growled, whined, sniffed and snarfed during the short service. Others threw propriety out the window completely and barked and leapt about joyously.
Nancy Glasscock, her bird Izzy and Mai Ling, the Pekingese, have attended almost every animal service since St. Mark’s began the tradition.
“It’s so special that we get to have this every year,” Glasscock said. “It means so much.”
Glasscock said she brought her 14-year-old dog with her because she was concerned over the little animal’s age and health and the blessing was a comfort. Mai Ling sat quietly on a pink blanket throughout the service. Izzy, the lovebird, chirped and fluffed his feathers during the hymns and chewed a paper program, adorned with St. Francis’ visage. He scattered bits of paper in the pews, which his owner diligently picked up.
Other dogs peered under pews and visited with the congregation during the service. Some sat in laps and one black Labrador sprawled out in the aisle.
Bonnie Campbell, one of the priests at St. Mark’s, presided over the service and blessed each creature individually, saying, “May God the creator bless you and keep you through all the days of your life.”
Campbell and the congregation gave thanks for companion animals, from dogs to hamsters, and also to animals that provide food, clothing and labor — especially bees who “…pollinate fruit and vegetable plants for us to eat and flowers to give us joy.”
After the service, Campbell said last year at the animal service, a parishoner brought in a pair of mini horses to be blessed. The horses were off loaded from a trailer, their hooves were cleaned and then they were led into the church to stand before the altar. Their blessing took place before the actual service, said Campbell, because they didn’t want the dogs to spook the horses.
Many churches celebrate the Oct. 4 feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals. According to the program, St. Francis took care of creation and ministered to animals, treating them all with respect. The collection taken up during the service was provided to Freedom Tails at Stafford Creek Correctional Facility and PAWS of Grays Harbor.
“It’s always fun to have panting and squealing in the pews,” Campbell said. “We should do more of that.”
Laura LaCroix, of Montesano, brought in her chocolate Lab, Buck, a rescue from PAWS and her daughter Rhonni LaCroix, brought Ziggy, a Siberian husky, shepherd mix.
“They are a big part of our family — they give us joy and comfort,” Laura LaCroix said.
April Collett, of Montesano, sat with Honey, a 10-year-old black Lab, recently rescued from Cowlitz County and who snoozed in the aisle of church. The blessing, said Collett, means that she and the many pets she’s shared her home with throughout the years will be reunited in the next world.
“It’s insurance that I’ll meet with them on the other side,” Collett said.