Rhonda Harris and her dog, Hershey Barr, were on their usual 3-mile morning walk through Saturday’s rain when they happened upon an outdoor service at Ascension Lutheran Church on Danville’s West Main Street.
About a half-dozen other dog owners had gathered underneath the church’s front overhang for the yearly Blessing of the Animals in commemoration of Francis of Assisi.
“As we were approaching, we saw the dog blessing, and I had never seen that before,” Harris said, holding an umbrella over herself and Hershey Barr, a 14-year-old chocolate-colored Lab mix with some gray in his face. “And you know nothing is by chance. Assisi was a prayer that my mom used to teach us when we were children, and that’s just amazing that he wanted to bless the animals.”
Pastor Michael Weaver explained that Francis of Assisi died on Oct. 4, 1226, and every year close to that date, churches around the world will hold an event to honor his memory and recognize his love of animals.
“This is one of my favorite services of the whole year because normally we don’t have dogs and cats in the church, but we really believe they’re creatures of God too and it’s a time to give thanks for them and celebrate them.”
Despite showing up by accident, Harris was glad she and Hershey Barr could be included. She also showed Weaver a picture of her son’s dog, a 1-year-old Pit Bull named Bane, on her phone so he could receive recognition as well.
“These animals need blessings too,” she said.
Weaver said cat owners have shown up in previous years, but the rain might have deterred them this year.
“We had all dogs today. Usually you’ll have some cats,” Weaver said. “One year somebody showed up with a python around their neck. I was thinking, ‘How do I bless this?’”
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