Ken and Traci Saunders’ two long-haired Chihuahuas are an important part of their family. Riley, 11, is black and white and acts like an energetic pup despite his age, while Rosco, 6, is light brown and more temperamental.
As members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Nativity in Hampton, the couple wanted their pets blessed at the church they have frequently attended since moving to the Pittsburgh area in 2006 after retiring from the military .
“We are faithful members of the church and the love our pets show us, especially when I come home from work and they are so excited, that’s why we love our pets so much,” said said Ken Saunders.
On October 1, the Reverend Jennifer Soltis, the pastor of the church, blessed half a dozen dogs to celebrate the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of creation and animals. The church also collected bags of pet food, treats and litter to donate to Animal Friends of Pittsburgh’s Chow Wagon pet food bank.
While Soltis said attendance was lower than normal due to the rain, she was still glad people showed up to thank their dogs. This is the second time she has performed the blessing at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Nativity, but she has done so before at other churches she has served. At a rural church, Soltis added that she once blessed a pet goat and rabbit.
“We have it to give thanks for creation and give thanks to God for our animals, especially our pets who are very dear to us,” Soltis said. “And just to thank our pets because pets mean a lot to people.”
Soltis first led a prayer, thanking all creatures “who feed and serve us and those who befriend, enrich, entertain and protect us.” She also thanked God for pets, vets, vet techs, animal shelters and adoption organizations.
“Help us to be true friends with all animals and to know that we are all creatures of your love,” she said.
Soltis then blessed each dog individually, including Riley, Rosco, a border collie, a husky and even a photo of someone’s dog.
“We’ve been coming to church here for years, and missed the last pet blessings, so we wanted to make sure we came today,” Traci Saunders said.