Today I was invited to an event hosted at the Lucky Lab Pub that was to benefit companion dogs, a majority of which were rescued. As a pastor, they invited me to do “pet blessings” during the event and so I had a table and spent about 2 1/2 hours blessing dogs. I would estimate I blessed 20-25 dogs over the course of that time and met some really cool people. I’ve never done this before but thought it’d be a great way to get to know some people outside the church and be a good Jesus-y presence in the community.
This wasn’t a church event so having a dog blessing table was an intriguing addition for people. Some scoffed at the suggestion, others went straight for my table as if that was the one thing they were really there for, and others were more guarded and suspicious and asked what it was all about.
I essentially rooted the blessing in the legacy of St. Francis (as everyone does), and got to talk to people about the two things that St. Francis loved: Jesus and nature. He believed that nature was the mirror of God and animals were his favorite. It’s hard to differentiate between reality and myth in the life of St. Francis, but chances are he really did preach to birds, although I’m not as convinced that he saved a town from a rabid wolf! (nor did he say “Preach the gospel at all times, use words if necessary…” But that didn’t come up 🙂
It was an exhausting afternoon, but I’m glad I did it and will probably do it at future events. Many people were interested in hearing more about our church, some others talked about some of their past bad church experiences, and others just wanted to talk about why they named their dog something in Klingon. The entire afternoon was memorable and fascinating.
Here are some observations I had:
- EVERYONE knows who St. Francis is and most people have a statue of him in their car, garden, or house.
- People are still very superstitious. I think some individuals got the idea that somehow having an “ordained minister” bless their pet could potentially heal their dogs illness or make them better behaved. In fact a few mentioned that they were hoping the “blessing” would heal their dog.
- Everyone thinks their particular dog NEEDS blessed. I got the sense that everyone thinks their dog is evil in some sense.
- Those that were there that went to church were either Lutheran or Presbyterian. Apparently the mainliners love their pets and want them to go to heaven!
- There seemed to be a dominant belief that dogs have souls and will be with us in the afterlife.
- People LOVE their dogs and consider them a part of the family.