The Blessing of Pets

I have always loved the Anglican hymn All Things Bright and Beautiful.  The text of the hymn was written by a English woman named Cecil Alexander in 1848 and he refrain, is fairly well known. All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, All things wise and wonderful, the lord God made them all.

There are several beautiful musical settings for this hymn, including one by John Rutter that you can enjoy by following this link:

This hymn will be sung at churches throughout the world this coming week as people gather for the annual tradition of the Blessings of the Animals.  All creatures great and small will attend church services with their owners as young and old alike bring their pets to church, either as part of a Sunday morning service, or at a special service set aside just for the blessing of animals.   While serving as the pastor of a church, I had the honor of blessings beloved dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, birds, fish, and even a few stuffed animals that children lovingly brought with them to church.  I have friends who have blessed horses, cows, goats, rats, and snakes!

It's not just a coincidence that churches everywhere hold this type of  service in the first week of October.  October 4 is the day on which people in the church remembers Francis of Assisi, otherwise known as St. Francis, who died on October 3, 1226.  Francis was well known for his love of nature and of animals, and he regularly preached about the importance of learning to be good stewards of all of God's creation.

One of the things I loved most about blessing peoples' pets, was that when they introduced me to their pets and told me a little bit about their special animals, it provided a window into their souls.  Pets have a way of touching our souls and bringing out the very best in us and so it only seems right to have a service for blessing pets.  A gathering of pets and their human families for a blessing is simply a way to celebrate the way in which pets bless our lives everyday.

Our pets give back to us in so many ways.  Years ago I remember hearing Episcopal priest and author Matthew Fox say that his dog was his spiritual director and that he had learned many important lessons about how to live  from his dog.  In that spirit, I conclude this week's column with a list of 20 things we can learn from a dog.  I'm sure other pets have much to teach us as well, so I invite those of you who own others kinds of pets to share what you have learned from them by emailing me you list.  We will share some of the lists on or Facebook page.

Twenty Things I Learned From My Dog

  1. Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.
  2. Allow the experience of fresh air and wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.
  3. When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
  4. When it's in your best interest, practice obedience.
  5. Let others know when they have invaded your territory.
  6. Take naps and stretch before rising.
  7. Run, romp and play daily.
  8. Eat with gusto and enthusiasm.
  9. Be loyal.
  10. Never pretend to be something you are not.
  11. If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
  12. When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close and nuzzle them gently.
  13. Thrive on attention and let people touch you.
  14. Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
  15. On hot days, drink lots of water and lay under a shade tree.
  16. When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
  17. No matter how often you are scolded, don't buy into the guilt thing and pout, . . . . run right back and make friends.
  18. Bond with your pack.
  19. Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
  20. Long after you are gone, remain a memory in your master's dreams.

Whether we attend a Blessing of the Animals service this week or not. and whether we are pet owner's or not, we can all take some time this week to notice the animals around us and be grateful for their innumerable blessings.