tampabay.com

'Bless all the creatures'

To honor the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, many area churches will hold blessing of animals ceremonies Oct. 1 or 7.

By ABHA BHATTARAI
Published September 27, 2006


ST. PETERSBURG - Ginny Doane has it all figured out: She'll wait until Mittens is in the middle of breakfast. Then she'll grab her from behind and haul her off to church.

But it won't be without a fight. There may be some clawing, some confusion, some mean looks.

If she can't get the 12-pound cat into a carrier and out the door in time, she'll have to take a picture instead.

It'll be Mittens' first time in church and her first time being blessed.

Doane, who lives in St. Petersburg, has been going to Pasadena Community Church for about six years. When the church decided to have its first Blessing of Animals on Oct. 7 this year, Doane knew she'd take Mittens.

"It's just a neat thing to do for our treasured pets," Doane, 64, said.

Pastors will bless pets in front of the church and give them blessing certificates. Each ceremony will take "just a moment or two," coordinator Megan Knighton said.

Then pets and their owners can wander from booth to booth to scour local pet groomers, pet sitters, pet quilters and veterinarians.

There will be a company that makes ramps for aging dogs, and another that provides pet cremations.

Pastors are expecting mostly dogs and cats, but they're prepared to bless "a couple of snakes and birds and a lizard or two," Knighton said.

Other area churches will offer similar blessing ceremonies in celebration of the Oct. 4 feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the saint of animals and the environment.

Barbara Kalevich is taking her two horses, 17-year-old Reflexx and 3-year-old Kanaan, to St. Alban's Episcopal Church in St. Pete Beach.

"They're part of our family," said Kalevich, who lives in Seminole.

"My children had their confirmations and now my pets are being blessed. It's just something special that shows them they're important."

She'll bathe the horses the night before, then groom and brush them in the morning. Reflexx, a certified police horse, may come dressed in his uniform - a special saddle, bridle and breast collar.

"They'll be immaculate. They'll look their finest," Kalevich said.

Dixie McDonald, who moved to Gulfport from Atlanta two years ago, is most excited about mingling with other pet owners.

"It's a nice reason to get out and make new friends," she said.

McDonald is taking her daughter's pug, but her two cats, 3-year-old Sweet Pea and 4-year-old Louie, will stay home.

Last year, Louie was kicked out of a vet's office for being too loud. So instead of wrestling with two screeching cats, McDonald will get their photographs blessed.

Meanwhile, Doane is hoping her indoor cat will cooperate. She can't remember the last time Mittens left the house.

"Sometimes we step outside the condo and look around, but she's never been in a public place before. I just hope she behaves."

Blessing ceremonies

Oct. 1

Sacred Heart Academy, 3515 N. Florida Ave., Tampa. 1 p.m. Information: (813) 229-1595

Good Samaritan Church, Davis Field, 61st St. and 76th Ave., Pinellas Park. 4 to 5 p.m. Information: 544-8558

Oct. 7

St. Mark's United Methodist Church, 6801 38th Ave. N. 10 a.m. Information: 345-8863

Pasadena Community Church, Pasadena Avenue and Second Avenue S. 9 a.m. to noon. Information: 381-2499

St. Alban's Episcopal Church, 330 85th Ave., St. Pete Beach. 10 a.m. Information: 360-8406

St. Paul Catholic Church, 12708 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa. 10 to 11 a.m. Information: (813) 264-3303