MARCO ISLAND — Our little corner of the world was the place for blessed events this past weekend. In addition to the blessing of the stone crab fleet in Everglades City, Marco Island hosted not one but two Blessing of the Animals ceremonies.
Both San Marco Catholic Church, and St. Marks Episcopal Church, gave parishioners the chance to bring their pets to church and have them blessed. You could say that any pet whose owner cares enough to bring it to have it blessed is already blessed – with a caring caregiver – and any owner whose pet is well-behaved enough to mingle with dozens of others is blessed as well.
San Marco held their affair Saturday morning, outside on the lawn outside the parish hall. Father Tim Navin read a benediction, saying, “animals are God’s gift to us. We pray through the intercession of St. Francis that you will make them available to us.” The animal blessing ceremonies are held now because the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi is celebrated on October 4.
“I’m not a pet owner myself,” Nagin told the three dozen or so around the canopy. “Poor thing, you gotta take it out, and I’m not around to take it out.” After his remarks, he strolled among the animals and their people, blessing the animals by sprinkling holy water with a silvery implement, from a vessel carried by Kim Adamson, San Marco’s director of religious education and youth minister.
“This doesn’t substitute for a bath, you know,” joked Father Nagin.
Gerry and Vera Gibbons had Paco, their cockatiel, blessed.
“He’s 23 years old. We want to keep him around,” said Gerry.
Jan Miniutti gave a different reason for bringing Alfie, her labradoodle. “We came to get the devil out of him,” she said.
Parishioner Kim Gates, whose family brought a variety of pets to be blessed, as well as several stuffed animals, counted all the live animals, and came up with 36 dogs, two ducks, two cockatiels and one macaw. Even the collars of two dogs recuperating from surgery and not present were sprinkled with holy water.
Sunday afternoon, the Blessing of the Animals at St. Mark’s was a noisier affair, held inside the church’s fellowship hall. Dogs vocalized during Rev. Kyle Bennett’s benediction, and during the animal songs sung by Shane Totten, including “Dog Breath,” with lyrics including “I wanna run in the street, get mud on my feet, and jump all over your clothes.”
Shane’s wife Peggy Totten, youth minister and director of the St. Mark’s preschool, said she enjoyed having the dogs join in.
“I love it when all the dogs start singing. That’s my favorite part,” she said. The ceremony included recognition of pets gone to doggie heaven; names read included Chauncey, Bonbon, Tandy, Studley, Boozer, Bandit, Molly, Harley, Abbey and Cold Beer.
Another Harley, a golden retriever who came with Ronnie and Christy Marino, was on hand, behaving as good as gold. Joan Perrine brought her Australian labradoodle, Nina, as well as her daughter Gabby, age seven. Melanie, Kay Lorinc’s Shihtzu, works as a professional dog model, and wore designer couture to the event.
Rev. Bennett’s blessing was a hands-on affair, as he spent a little time with each pet and their owners, stroked and mussed up hair, and got a few doggy kisses in return. He cut a colorful figure, with a brightly colored, clerical collar calypso shirt, plus sneakers with orange, black and yellow accents.
As always, it was mostly dogs, but there were a few other creatures, including a gerbil and a leopard gecko brought by Ian Campbell. Ian’s dad John was heard to propose a way to amp up the excitement level.
“I say close the door, and let the cats out,” he deadpanned. The cats were on hand courtesy of For the Love of Cats, looking for homes, and were not interested in getting to know a roomful of dogs any better. The Humane Society, which received all donations from the event, was also on hand, and the Critter Café passed out goodie bags to all four-legged guests.
In a blessing to pets and humans, the weather cooled off a little over the weekend, so no one had to pant quite as hard.