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Pet lovers come out for blessing

The Rev. Sallie Schisler give a blessing to Max, a member of the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office canine unit as his handler, Randy Rogers, looks on. THE TRIBUNE/BENITA HEATH

Even a blue-tailed salamander knew something special was happening at the garden of Christ Episcopal Church on Saturday as it darted across the stone steps of the church into the grass.

That creature, who came by himself, was the smallest to show up at the church’s third pet blessing, although he kept his distance and his anonymity at the event. The blessing was a celebration of the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, known as the patron saint of animals, birds and the environment.

Liturgical churches mark the feast as close to the actual feast day — Oct. 4 — as is possible.

The outdoor afternoon ceremony attracted cats in their carriers and dogs on leashes dragging their owners through the gate of the wrought iron fence around the garden. There, their owners participated in a half-hour ceremony.

“You have chosen humankind of a position of special responsibility in your world,” the Rev. Sallie Schisler, vicar of the church, said in the opening prayer to God to those in attendance. “We have failed to respond in awe at your wonders. We have misinterpreted our role of dominion and abused our power. We have caused the animal kingdom needless suffering. Forgive us as we seek anew the vision, which you set before us.”

Then Schisler read a portion of the story of Noah from the Book of Genesis and asked the audience to join her in reciting verses from Psalm 104. After prayers, she went from pet to pet asking each owner for the animal’s name, blessing the dogs and cats that they may live long and joyful lives with their owners.

There was Max from the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office’s K-9 unit with his handler, Randy Rogers. Debbie Rogers brought Dixie, a vigorously tail-wagging Golden Retriever mix that she rescued from the Lawrence County Animal Shelter around Christmastime a day before the animal was scheduled to be euthanized.

Tina Barker came up from Franklin Furnace with a black and tan Chihuahua that she kept in her arms as Karen Noble’s cats chirped through the door grates on their carriers.

“May you and your owner enjoy life together and find joy with the God who created you,” Schisler said to each animal.