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Service honors bonds between owners, pets

Isabella Griffiths holds her dog Ginger Snap while the Rev. Sallie Schisler gives the pet blessing at Christ Episcopal Church in Ironton Saturday evening.

If you listen to the political pundits, the president might want to consider getting a priestly blessing before the next debate. But on Saturday afternoon it was another Obama that was front and center at the annual Blessing of the Pets at Christ Episcopal Church.

Obama, the chocolate brown Shih Tzu of Judy Conroy of Ironton, was among the cats and dogs that filled the garden of the church as the Rev. Sallie Schisler, priest in charge at the church, placed her hands on each one to bless them.

Conroy got the Shih Tzu about the time the President was campaigning for his first time in the White House.

“I named him that because he’s cute,” she said.

This was the fourth year for the blessing, always held the first Saturday in October in remembrance of St. Francis of Assisi, called the patron saint of animals and the environment. The actual feast day for the saint is Oct. 4 and Christ Church holds the pet blessing on the Saturday nearest that day.

Schisler spoke the half-hour service at times in competition with a chorus of cries from a trio of cat carriers whose cargo owned by Karen Noble of Ironton seemed not in the mood for a church service.

“Let us give thanks to God for all God’s gifts so freely bestowed upon us,” Schisler said in the prayers. “For the beauty and the wonder of Creation in the earth, sky and sea, and for the animals, birds, fish and plants that fill this world. For your mercy and comfort to all animals who are suffering including those that are abused, hunted, lost, deserted, frightened, hungry and dying. And for entrusting us with the care of our pets and for gifting us with compassionate hearts, gentle hands and kind words.”

Then Schisler made the rounds touching each animal and saying

“May you and your owner enjoy life together and find joy with the God who created you.”