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Animals blessed in Woodstock

by: Elizabeth Ussher Groff Rev. Constance Hammond blesses the pet chickens of Simon and Peter Thatcher, Sellwood residents and members of Woodstock’s All Saints Episcopal Church. Pets throughout the city were blessed during the week of October 4th in remembrance of St. Francis of Assisi’s love for all creatures.

Seventy-five animals - dozens of dogs, three cats, three chickens, a guinea pig, and a hermit crab - were blessed under sunny skies on the lawn in front of All Saints Episcopal Church, at S.E. 41st and Woodstock Boulevard, on Saturday, October 8th.

With sixty-five people attending - sitting in chairs, or standing with their pets - a lighthearted, humorous, and poignant Blessing of the Animals service was led by assisting priest Rev. Constance Hammond.

'Blessing of the Animals' services are held each year, throughout the country, close to October 4th - a day of feast marking the death 785 years ago of St. Francis of Assisi, whose love of all creatures gained him recognition as the patron saint of animals.

This fourth annual pet blessing at the Woodstock church included service dogs and rescue dogs to be adopted. After the service, Oregon Dachshund Rescue, newly relocated to Sellwood, made arrangements with one congregant to adopt a piebald - half-white, half-dappled - Dachshund.

Remembrances for deceased pets were also spoken as part of the service.

Following a group-sing of 'All Things Bright and Beautiful', praising all creatures large and small, Rev. Hammond read 'Why God Created Animals'. By an unknown author, this short tale whimsically describes itself as 'A newly-discovered chapter in the Book of Genesis [that] has provided the answer to 'Where do pets come from?'' One sentence in it reflects what many people love about their pets: 'Regardless of how selfish or childish or unlovable you may be, this new companion will accept you as you are, and will love you as I do, in spite of yourself.' (Spoken in the voice of God.)

Next in the service, Family Choir Director Belinda Nissen sang 'God and Dog' (to see a video of Wendy Francisco singing her own song, 'God and Dog', go online to: www.wendyfrancisco.com). After that came Rev. Hammond's invitation to participants: 'Now, if you will come one by one, rather than two by two, we will have the individual blessing of animals.'

Why bless animals? Susan Hanks, who was present with her granddaughter Rowan and her rescue service dog Samantha, made an analogy to the baptism of her children and grandchildren. 'You have your kids baptized, and your pets blessed. Animals are a part of the family too.'

These days, all kinds of animals, including chickens and rabbits, are becoming more integrated into family life, as they were in farm generations past - but today, the setting is often more urban. As this trend grows, the strong bond between all animals and humans will continue to be recognized and honored, especially in these annual Blessing of the Animals services, filled with song, poetry, and prayer.