Blessing of the Animals takes place at St. Andrews Episcopal Church
By Christina Stock
At the Blessings of the Animals at St. Andrews Episcopal Church, 505 N. Pennsylvania Ave., today, Oct. 6, at 2 p.m., all pets are invited to be blessed.
It is a tradition for the Roswell Daily Record to send in a reporter or editor for a preview and interviews. This time, an unusual “pet” was waiting at the steps right in front of the altar: a vinegaroon. It was rather a large one with big lobster-like claws and its typical straight tail that it uses to spray a vinegar-like acid to deter any predator. The vinegaroon is one critter everybody wants to keep nearby — but not inside one’s home — after all, they eat scorpions and roaches. Indeed, a fitting beginning for the story. After the vinegaroon was safely returned on a reporter’s notebook into the green of the courtyard, the interview could begin.
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Rev. Dale Plummer of St. Andrews said that he had ministered the blessing ever since he came to Roswell eight years ago.
However, according to Krystle Smith with the Roswell Humane Society, the local tradition goes back at least 15 years.
“It’s an opportunity where the church commemorates St. Francis and so in the Episcopal tradition and Catholic tradition, many parishes have been doing this for a number of years,” Plummer said. “It’s a way that we are able to come together with our pets and other animals and to recognize the broad diversity of God’s creation and then how God’s creation interacts in our lives. How we can share and part that creation together, showing love for each other. We do it here inside (the chapel), even though we have carpets and there has been an accident or two. We also ask people before coming in, if they think their dog needs to walk around a little bit to do so and also have them leashed or in a carrier because sometimes the other dogs are not used to being around other pets, and they can become a little territorial around the others.”
Livestock is welcome to remain in the parking lot to wait for their turn.
Asked if he ever blessed unusual pets, Plummer said, “Here, I’ve had some children bring their goldfish. I recall somebody bringing in a ferret. In other places, I’ve had different types of ferrets, they’re bringing their snake or reptile or tarantulas.”
Plummer said that the behavior of the pets inside the chapel amazes him every time when he begins praying for last year’s deceased animals and blessing their photos. “The dogs and the cats will be kind of ‘talking’ with each other, but when you start the service, they all quiet down and it becomes quiet in here. Some of the bigger dogs sit there at the pew, as if saying, ‘here I am — at church,’” he said.
Next to giving comfort to the pet owners, the event benefits Roswell’s Humane Society who receives the donations.
“It brings awareness to the shelter and the money that is donated goes to the Humane Society and that goes toward vaccinations, cat litter, supplies, paying the bills around the shelter,” Smith said. “A lot of people, when they adopt an animal from the Humane Society, they come to the Blessing of the Animals. They say that they adopted one from the Humane Society and they get a certificate. It’s something that they get to take home with them. ‘My animal is adopted from the Humane Society and was blessed at the Blessing of the Animals.’”
Earlier this year, several veterinarians in town said that there was a boom of kittens. Smith said that the Humane Society is feeling this. “We have 32 cats at the shelter right now,” she said. And we still have a waiting list from people trying to release kittens and cats. It’s overwhelming.”
Asked what individuals can do about this, Smith said, “Start spaying and neutering — if you have feral cats in your community, don’t feed them, trap them and remove them from the premises, because the more you feed them, the more they reproduce. They are spreading diseases. If the cat is feral, you can’t touch the cat to take it to the vet to treat it. Feral cats are becoming a huge issue where they are damaging people’s property, their cars, yards, houses. If you have feral cats, trap them and just remove them from the property. Call a ranch, a farm or dairy and see if they need barn cats, because a lot of times they do, but they do need to be spayed and neutered first.
“Cats will mate and the entire time they will be in heat — for a course of two weeks — once she delivers those kittens, two weeks after she delivered them, she is already back in heat getting ready to be pregnant again. When those kittens are weaned, she is ready to get her second litter. Cats can have up to six litters a year and they have six to eight kittens each time. Reproduction is quick.”
Asked what kind of animals the Roswell Humane Society takes in, Smith said, “We take in dogs; we take in cats; we’ve taken in ferrets before in the past; we’ve been taken in rabbits in the past; we take in reptiles as long as they can be handled. We’ve taken in birds, guinea pigs, hamsters. We take in pretty much anything but livestock because we have no space for livestock — unfortunately. We pretty much can take in anything as long as we can handle it.”
Next to finding new forever homes for their animals, the Humane Society always needs volunteers to keep cats and dogs while they are trying to find a home for them. This way they can help more animals. They also need food for the animals, but it has to be a specific kind of food. “We can’t use anything with red dyes because it discolors the stool,” Smith said. “We look at the stool for significant illness, Parvo, distemper or ruptured intestines. That red dye discolors their stool, so we are not sure if it is the food or an illness. We try to stick to food that doesn’t have red dye in them. Pedigree, Purina and Purina One are really good for not putting red food dyes in and the same with cats.”
Smith said that any food donated with red dye will be given to St. Andrews who has a community pet pantry. “We turn it in to them so they can help the community that way,” she said.
For more information, visit standrewsroswell.com, roswellhumane.org or call St. Andrews at 575-622-1353 or the Humane Society at 575-622-8950.