By JESSICA KRAMPE
A crisp breeze rustled the trees around the courtyard Saturday for the sixth annual pet blessing at the Unity Center of Columbia, 1600 W. Broadway. The fall morning was set aside to honor and connect with furry friends.
“(The pet blessing) is another way to validate the human-animal bond,” said Barbara Michael, pet ministry team leader. “It’s a blessing to honor the pet for all the joy and love they give to their caregivers.”
The ceremony included an opening prayer, a reading from the Daily Word, an inspirational publication, and six short readings. Animals received their blessings with holy water. The service ended with a closing prayer.
Gary Smith attended the pet blessing with his dog, Tasha, a 16-year-old Pembroke Welsh Corgi. Smith said a blessing seemed like a graceful approach to aging for his dog.
“I want to connect with other people who love animals and see what kind of pets they have,” he said. “We come in here all the time on Sunday but we come without our animals. It is kind of fun to connect that way.”
Carol Schultz brought a picture of her cat, Mister Misty, a Lavender Point Siamese. She spoke about the visioning and meditation that Unity uses in service.
“For me, when you are trying to conjure up that feeling of love, one of the best images is to think of a beloved pet and let that love build up in your heart,” Schultz said. “Then you can extend that love to yourself and all humanity.”
Michael is a certified pet chaplain. She took a course in 2005 when studying to become a licensed Unity teacher and became curious about animal blessings. The ministry is meant to provide spiritual support for animals and their caregivers.
The pet ministry team participates in Paws in the Park, a 5k run/walk put on by Columbia Second Chance, and sponsors a dog kennel cage at the Humane Society through the Shelter Me program. There is also a pet memorial service in the spring for those who have lost their pets.
“It’s okay to feel sad when your pet dies,” Michael said. “It provides an avenue for that. It’s okay to love your pet.”
In conjunction with the blessing and memorial services, the pet ministry also holds a supply drive for the Humane Society.