Blessing of the Beasts

Our chapel congregation conducted its annual blessing of the pets this last weekend. The liturgy praised God for creation, and the actual blessing ritual asked for God’s blessings on both the caretaker and the cared-for in the owner-pet relationship. We blessed dogs and cats, and even a couple of hermit crabs, for owners young and old. There was even a blessing for “Wolfie,” the animal puppet of a young man with special needs.

These creatures, with whom we share not only this planet but our homes, enrich our lives. The truth is that my wife and I see our Labrador Retriever “Molly” as a part of the family – not a child, but something more than mere chattel. She has her own personality – a dog personality, but a personality nonetheless. She is a blessing from God and we feel fortunate that she is in our care.

The chaplain pointed out that we can learn some important things about our relationship with God through our relationships with our pets. Of course, you can push that analogy too far. God is much farther “above” me than I am above Molly. And dogs aren’t usually as mean as people. But my ability to care for and understand this creature in my home (even more than she can know or care for herself), does say something about God’s ability to care for me, this bit of flesh on a cosmic speck of sand.

Molly is nine years old, and late last week she stopped eating. This was highly upsetting, as Molly is normally the most regular eater in the animal kingdom. She eats precisely at 0700 and 1700 every day. Her internal timekeeper is more regular than the atomic clock at the Naval Observatory, and she always devours her food in a matter of seconds. Now, she left her food in the bowl and lacked any energy. Our vet was closed for the long weekend and we feared the worst.

Molly went with us to the blessing of the pets, and she recovered. She is now her old self. Could God hear a prayer for a dog, while we still wait for the answers to so many other life-and-death prayers in this world? As I thank God for Molly’s life, I also thank him for her recovery. Someday we will part ways, but I value the time we have together. I pray that we are a blessing for her as well.

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