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What: Allegheny Unitarian Universalist Church Animal Blessing Service
Where: West Park, along Resaca Place
When: Sunday, Aug. 29, 10:30 a.m.
How: Bring your pets, celebrate and bless them.

Jane Dirks, worship coordinator for AUU, started the animal blessing service about 10 years ago, and holds one each year.  She started it after she fell in love with Bamse, a rescue dog she adopted.

Bamse seemed to open up the whole world of animals to me, and I wanted to offer an opportunity for our congregation to celebrate our seventh UU principle, “Respect for the interdependent web of all existence, of which we are a part.” So our Animal Blessing service honors our connections to the Web of Life and to all creation, giving thanks to those with whom we share the planet and whose lives literally make our lives possible, and infinitely richer.

Usually about 30 people bring their dogs or cats, but she said they’ve had a rabbit, a guinea pig and a turtle once. Each participant blesses his or her animal with water and “whatever words feel right.” It’s okay, and even encouraged, to bless absent or deceased pets too, Jane said. She shared this story about the service:

A woman perhaps in her fifties, began talking about a dog she had had as a child, and how very much the dog had meant to her throughout some difficult life experiences … she seemed, as she talked, to be reliving the warmth and acceptance and trust she and the dog had shared, so long ago. She told me afterward that she had never talked about her childhood dog before, and she hadn’t really realized until she had the opportunity to do so what the dog had meant to her.

The service is open to congregants and any community member who would like to attend.