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Bless the Beasts: Church service gives pet owners a chance to show animals a little love
“Last year we had 99 percent dogs and one turtle,” recalled Pastor George Larson. “This year it’s 99 percent dogs and one llama.”
All told, Larson estimates about 60 pets — and their owners — participated in First Lutheran Community Church’s annual Blessing of the Animals service on Sept. 25 at the Mitchell Avenue location.
Larson began performing the blessings about a dozen years ago while pastor at Spirit of Life Community Church in Port Orchard.
Since retiring, he has affiliated with First Lutheran and has brought his dog and pony show to its congregation.
“The idea is to recommit to the cycle of blessing,” Larson said. “In the Book of Genesis, animals were literally the first creatures to receive God’s blessing. In a very profound way, they continue to bless us every day. This is just our way of recognizing how much they mean in all of our lives.”
In previous years, Larson has blessed cats, guinea pigs, gerbils, rats and tropical fish.
“People have the option of simply bringing a picture of their loved one,” he said. “But they usually bring the animal in person, although one year I did have a woman ask me to bless her dog by cell phone.”
The ceremony on Saturday involved Larson and Associate Pastor Orv Jacobson fanning out through the crowd, with Jacobson dipping a palm branch a pan of water carried by Larson and using it to douse the animals — and anyone sitting nearby.
Larson says the church’s ultimate goal is to create a year-round ministry that focuses on the needs of pets.
They have already recruited and trained around a dozen volunteer animal blessers, he said.
Larson also envisions expanding the yearly blessing service into a full-fledged animal fair.
This year’s event featured displays from the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Department K-9 Unit and the Kitsap Humane Society, among other agencies.
“People these days seem to love things and use their fellow creatures,” Larson said. “A service like this reminds us it should be the other way around.”