When the girl dropped the mice into the minister’s hand, the look on his face was priceless. He kept it together long enough to bless the tiny creatures, but he was reaching for the hand sanitizer almost before he got to the second syllable of “amen.” To my sister, it was comical. To the minister, it was distasteful and slightly embarrassing. To the little girl with the mice, it was a wonderful day: her pets had been blessed.
I didn’t have to bless any mice. I did bless two rats, but they were big and very clean-looking and in their own little carrier. One dog was too wild to bring to me, so I went to it. The dog’s owner was so fearful about the dog’s behavior that she wouldn’t open the door to the car. I reached through the slightly-open window (a little “respectfully,” shall we say) and touched the dog’s flank and said, “we are grateful for your companionship, and your protection; we ask God’s blessing on you for a long and healthy life.”
I repeated that same basic blessing for another 70+ dogs, and two cats, during the 4th annual Pet Expo, presented by the church’s Friends of Paws & Claws. The people with the pets seemed quite happy with it, except for a few. One said, “that’s not gonna happen. She was just diagnosed with cancer. I’m going to have her put down next week. That’s why I came.” I told the human I was sorry for his loss, and re-blessed the dog, with tears threatening in my eyes: “may your journey be easy and swift. Thank you again for the good times you provided.”
I heard similar stories about several animals—the little dog who had had a leg amputated, only a few days before; a cat with cancer; another dog with paralyzed hindquarters… There were many more sick animals this year than last, and I figured it out when somebody mentioned they’d heard about the blessing on TV. I am glad these folks had a chance to come get their animals blessed, and a chance to express their grief with somebody who would understand. I am happy that some people learned a little about how to train their dogs; I am pleased that some got to investigate adopting a new pet; I am most glad that some grieving pet lovers received a little pastoral care. First Church does a lot of good for its community—and that includes this important animal ministry.