Thanks for pets who give us joy

TACOMA - They lined up holding their poodles and schnauzers, joined by a few cats and a hamster.

All had gathered Monday in the parking lot at Holy Rosary School so the Rev. Cal Christiansen could bless the dozen or so animals with holy water.

The dogs squirmed in the brisk morning sunlight.

“Oh, she loved it,” said Sister Marie-Emmanuel Lyon, after the drops fell on her 7-year-old Yorkshire terrier, Maggie.

“And then, she gave me a kiss,” said Sister Lyon, a physical education teacher at the Catholic school at 424 S. 30th St.

The blessing of the pets is a long tradition at Holy Rosary School and parish. Catholic and Protestant churches have the blessings around Sunday’s feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals.

Holy Rosary had its blessing Monday so the school’s 150 students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade could take part.

Christiansen, a priest at Holy Rosary, told the children and their parents that the blessing celebrated St. Francis, “someone who loved creation, who loved animals.”

“We’re out here to bless these animals because we love our animals,” Christiansen said.

“We thank you for giving us these pets who give us joy,” the priest prayed in his white alb and purple stole.

Flanked by two altar boys, Christiansen also prayed for God to help the group “to take care of our pets so they may be healthy.”

Robert Mitchell watched as Christiansen sprinkled the water on Koda, his 16-week-old Pomeranian-Yorkie. The splash didn’t seem to faze the tiny puppy.

“Very nice,” Mitchell said after attending his first pet blessing at Holy Rosary. His two children at the school, Tala, 5, and Taima, 9, looked on.

“The kids were excited all weekend,” Mitchell said.

And Koda? She loved the company of the other dogs, Mitchell said.

Cat owners let their pets out of their carriers momentarily to be blessed. Unlike some past animal blessings at the school, a teacher didn’t bring a cow this year.

Before the 20-minute ceremony, Sister Lyon clutched Maggie in her habit. The terrier was a little nervous around the children but loved the attention, said Sister Lyon, a Carmelite nun.

“Her happiest place is in my arms,” she said.

Once all the animals were blessed, Christiansen sprinkled water on photos and drawings of pets that children lining the ceremony held out for him.

Madeline and Jeff Zevenbergen of Tacoma brought two of their three dogs, Kandy, a 10-year-old French poodle; and Rambo, a 2-year-old toy poodle.

A third dog, a schnauzer, was at home.

“The other one wasn’t behaving,” Jeff Zevenbergen said. “He wouldn’t let us put his harness on.”

The couple’s 12-year-old daughter, Jessica, eagerly anticipated the blessing.

“It’s fun,” she said.

While Jeff Zevenbergen wanted the dog blessed to be healthy, his wife had a more earthly goal in mind.

“So they can behave,” she said.

Steve Maynard: 253-597-8647