Blessing of the pets

Sunday was a good day for pets to go to church, though it might have been better without the rain.

“It’s supposed to be a nice fall day,” said Mary Duro, who had come for the annual pet blessing with her two dogs.

The ceremony, held this year at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, alternates every year between St. Mark’s and Grace Lutheran Church. It draws large crowds on sunny days, said the Rev. Matthew Martins, pastor of Grace Lutheran.

“We usually have about 30 to 35 people,” he said.

The event is done as close as possible to the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, on Oct. 4, said the Rev. Richard Graves of St. Mark’s church.

“St. Francis is largely considered the most significant saint in Christian history,” Graves said. “He’s remembered, today especially as we bless animals, for having a great love for the created order.”

In honor of the patron saint of animals and the environment, the pastors read prayers about caring for creation, and led the congregation in hymns like “All Creatures of our God and King” and “All Things Bright and Beautiful.” Then they prayed over the cat, rabbit and eight dogs in attendance.

The most common prayer request was for better manners.

Rod Poppinga, a member of Grace Lutheran, wore a shirt that said “The Dogfather” as he brought forward his dog Vinny.

“I’m going to give him a blessing he can’t refuse,” Graves said.

Poppinga said he’s come every year his church has done this.

“It’s part of our church,” he said. “It’s something to get involved with, and it’s a chance to show our dogs off.”

Chuck and Leslie Reetz brought their 8-year-old dog, Molly, whose trachea collapses when she gets excited. Leslie Reetz said they’ve come every year.

“Especially with our little dog, with the coughing. We thought it was a good idea to have her blessed,” Reetz said. “She’s a really sweet-tempered little dog.”