“I have a soft spot in my heart for animals,” the Rev. Gregory G. Perez said outside Trinity Church as more than a dozen dogs circled around his vestments while their owners waited for him to give them his blessing.
Many who attended were parishioners of the church, although not all. Some had heard about the blessing from prior years and decided to bring their dogs this year, providing a lively interchange as dog met dog, and owners talked about caring for and raising their animals.
This is the second week in a row that a local church has engaged in ceremonies of blessing animals, a tribute to St. Francis of Assisi, who was known for his love of animals.
The feast day of St. Francis is Oct. 4 and memorializes the impoverished conditions in which he and his early brothers lived.
The tradition emphasizes the biblical belief that humankind must serve as stewards of animals, and are responsible for their care.
Local residents who flocked to Trinity Church had numerous reasons for seeking blessings, sometimes looking to calm skittish animals, sometimes simply seeking thanks for blessings already received.
Phil Benson, who owns three rescued greyhounds, brought Apollo to get blessed. Greyhounds are usually raced and often mistreated or overextended, and yet make one of the best pets even after a grinding racing career.
Apollo won more than $1 million in prize money for his owners before being rescued. One of the other dogs, Benson said, won more than $2 million.
But like many other owners of greyhounds, Benson said the dog is mostly a couch potato, loving to relax more than anything else.
Kathy Leahey brought her three-year-old cockapoo Joby to get blessed.
He’s been nervous so I thought a blessing might calm him down,” she said.
Some of the dogs had classic names such as Buddy or Lucky, ranging in ages from 2 to 10.
Debbie DePolalo said her four-year-old Dachshund Lucky is part of the family, so naturally she wanted him blessed.
“He’s a wonderful animal,” she said.
Jennifer Charles said she just started attending Trinity Church and brought her three-year-old dog to get blessed.
Rev. Perez brought in the tradition of animal blessing after he became pastor of Trinity Church in 2009. A dog lover, he owned two cocker spaniels for a long time. Last year one of them fell ill and eventually died. He had owned those dogs for about nine years, calling them his children.
“We need to take care of our animals,” he said. “We have many people in our church who have animals.”
He brought his newest dog, Rita, to get blessed.
While there were no cats or other creatures at this event, Cindy Rosmus, a local writer, brought her cell phone with a picture of her two cats.
“I couldn’t take them out,” she said.
Rev. Perez blessed the phone image with a wave of his hand.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.