The Coastal Star

View photo slideshow of local pet blessings | Pets' letters to God

By Arden Moore

Have you ever wondered if your dog or cat prays? Believes in a higher power? Will your beloved departed pets be waiting for you with tail wags and purrs in Heaven?

Life on Earth poses far more questions than answers. But what is certain is this: Never underestimate the power of prayer — or paw power for that matter.

The Rev. Aaron Janklow of the First Presbyterian Church of Delray Beach certainly doesn’t.

Nor does Dee Zlatic, children’s minister at the St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church in Boynton Beach.

Rivaling Christmas and Easter services in terms of attendance has to be the annual blessing of the animals that takes place in churches and synagogues throughout
Palm Beach County during October. For history buffs, the annual blessing of animals dates back to medieval times. Credit St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, for making sure that God’s furry, feathered and finned flock is never overlooked.

Predictably, attendance — and attentiveness — soars when congregations open their doors to dogs, cats, birds and the occasional alligator, goat or hedgehog.

“This year’s blessing of the animals service was our biggest and best one yet,” declares Zlatic, whose husband, the Rev. Martin Zlatic, presided over the 15th annual special service. “We celebrate creation and part of God’s creation involves all the unique and diverse animals in the world.”

This year’s four-legged flock even included police horses too towering to trot through the church’s doors. They received their blessings outside.

Janklow, who still has vivid, fond memories of his childhood dog, looks forward eagerly to presiding over this annual service.

“Last year was my first year here and there was a lot of barking and noise, but the second I came to the lectern in the outside courtyard where we held the blessings, all noises stopped and everyone, including the animals, became calm,” he recalls. “Our pets can be such blessings to us, so I say, why not bless them? They sense when we are sick, unhappy or sad and try to lift our spirits. They bring us comfort and joy.”

Alexandra Harris, Ph.D., a deacon at the First Presbyterian Church and a licensed psychologist, helps oversee the annual blessing of the animals. And that includes Boo Bear, her “social butterfly” Shih Tzu, who gleefully dishes out tail wags to any and all who approach her.

“She is a very happy soul,” Harris says. “Pets represent such a spiritual meaning that is hard to express in words. They are truly blessed gifts in our lives.”

I happily agree. Our pets unleash unconditional love, prove to be superb listeners and confidants, and deliver that needed tail wag or purr when we need it the most. They could not care less if you are a plumber named Joe or a guy named Bill Gates. They don’t care if they live in a mansion or an RV trailer. All they care is that they get to spend time with you.

The late Roger Caras said it best: “Dogs are not our whole lives, but they make our lives whole.”

And that goes for cats, birds – and the occasional hedgehog.

Arden Moore, Founder of Four Legged, is an animal behavior consultant, editor, author and professional speaker. She happily shares her home with two dogs, two cats and one overworked

vacuum cleaner. Tune in to her Oh Behave! show on Pet Life and learn more by visiting

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