SK dogs come in droves for blessing at First Lutheran

First Lutheran Community Church went to the dogs Saturday morning — quite literally — as about 30 dogs, with their owners in tow, came to be blessed.

Creatures of any kind were invited to the gathering, but only dogs ended up attending, including about 10 Westies, or West Highland White Terriers, most of which were related.

Interim Head Pastor Joe Smith, who said he just started at the church Sept. 1, even brought his dog Hunter to the gathering.

“I have learned a lot about life from my dog,” Smith said, explaining that the dog, given to him by his wife on his 30th birthday, also taught the couple a lot about themselves. “There were a lot of things in marriage that brought my wife and together, but it was really our dog Hunter that taught us how we would work together.”

And now that the dog is 12, Smith said Hunter is also teaching them a lot about how to approach the end of life.

After Smith read passages from the Bible that describe humans’ relationship with animals, retired Pastor George Larson sprinkled water on the crowd — dogs and humans alike — with a tree branch.

Larson, who led similar blessings for several years at Spirit of Life Lutheran Church while a pastor there, then greeted each animal and blessed them individually.

Sandy Witt of Tacoma, a member of First Lutheran, helped bless the animals, and had brought her own dog, a 5-year-old pug named Max.

“He must be blessed,” she said.

The name Max also belonged to a 12-year-old beagle, who was brought to the church Sept. 26 by Port Orchard resident Donna Church.

“I think it’s a good thing,” said Church of the blessing. “And (Max) likes to meet people.”

Leah and Chris Gange of Port Orchard also brought Lucy, their 5-year-old Dachshund, to be blessed.

“She is a Parvo survivor,” Gange said, referring to the virus that attacks dogs’ digestive tracts. Gange said that Lucy’s previous owner took her to a vet hospital and asked to have her put down, but hospital staff refused.

“My sister works there, and she called us to come see her,” Gange recalled. “We fell in love with her on sight.”

Gange’s parents, Keith and Carolyn Bezona of Port Orchard, also brought two Dachshunds — Emmie and Loxie — to be blessed Saturday.

“Loxie’s getting elderly, and Emmie needs a long life,” said Carolyn, while her husband put it more simply: “Because they need it.”

Larson said the “Blessing of the Animals (or Beasts)” is held in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, known for his love not only of animals, but of all nature.

“It is a perfect fit with the Lutheran Church,” Larson said. “Lutherans have a rich history as people of the soil, including farmers, and as good stewards of God’s gifts.”

Another blessing ceremony will be held at Spirit of Life Lutheran Church on Mullenix Road on Sunday, Oct. 4, at 9 a.m.

All creatures large and small, as long as they are “clean, manageable and well-behaved,” are welcome.

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