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Animals receive a proper blessing after Mass

October 03, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

karenh@herald-mail.com

HALFWAY - So far, Stuart the white rat has been lucky.

A python spared her life.

On Sunday, a Catholic priest blessed the days to come for Stuart and other pets.

Stuart - owner Jake Shank, 13, of Halfway, said he realized too late she is a female - joined more than a dozen other four-legged critters to receive the blessing of pets from the Rev. Chris Moore after Mass outside St. Joseph Catholic Church on Virginia Avenue.

Dogs touched noses, barked and stood on their hind legs to pull at their leashes, and cats mewed in their crates. A turtle named Terp swam in a plastic container held by 8-year-old Jacob Miller of Hagerstown.

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According to Moore, who led a brief prayer for the animals' good health, St. Joseph Catholic Church has celebrated the blessing of pets for about the last three or four years on the Sunday nearest Oct. 4 - the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals.

Stuart scampered across Jake's bare arms as several dogs tugged to get a closer look. A few small children who had attended services with their parents extended cautious hands to stroke the rat's fur.

Stuart has been a pet about five months, Jackie Shank, Jake's mother, said.

Jake recalled how long Stuart has been in the family a little differently.

"Since about the last time we fed my snake. My snake wouldn't eat her," he said.

Now, just like the snake and two dogs, Stuart is part of the family.

The rat was not the only animal at the blessing enjoying a second chance at life.

Little black Anni was rescued after someone saw a person throw her from a car window, said Judy Cooper of Downsville.

The skinny black dog's tail hung between her legs, but Anni showed little fear of people who approached her.

"Evidently, she was young enough that when they threw her out, she was still pliable enough that she didn't get hurt. She was definitely abused," Cooper said.

Cooper and her husband, Dale, adopted the dog about a week ago on their 15th anniversary, and Judy Cooper said she already has started a scrapbook of Anni's new life. Anni, who is about 6 or 8 months old, is adjusting well, Cooper said.

"Pretty good, because we treat our animals just like family, so she knows she's got it pretty good," Cooper said.

As most of the animals and their owners returned to the church parking lot to go home, Nancy Bradfield and her granddaughter, Lindsay, both of Hagers-town, hurried toward Moore with their dogs.

Little dachshund Jasmin barked at every creature that passed. Doberman pinscher Ala just trembled, her eyes darting back and forth before closing as Moore tossed holy water on the animals.

Bradfield said she thinks Ala was abused by previous owners, and she took the dogs to the blessing, "so they live longer lives and stay healthy."

Lindsay, 9, insisted they go, her grandmother said.

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