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Thursday, October 10, 2013
The Feast Day of St. Francis is on Oct. 4, and every year animals around the world are blessed in tradition. At The Church of the Holy Trinity, the Rev. Rob Hartley, along with Theopholus Iwuji, blessed roughly 20 to 30 animals – mostly dogs and cats – but also a squirrel and a guinea pig.
“The squirrel was definitely the most interesting,” Hartley said following the event. “Animals are a part of God’s creation. God’s creation is ongoing in this world and the next, and the Bible is silent on the issue of whether we will see our animals in heaven or not. However, that matters very little. I think in this life, we are stewards of our pets – pets become icons or symbols, and they become a symbol of our stewardship of all creation. The fact that we love our animals so much shows something about humans and our pets. I think there’s a God thing there, that we are really attracted to the animals and that we understand our love and care for them. I think God is involved in that.”
Hartley said the blessing is an “acknowledgment that God is in that relationship.”
Rich LeCount and his wife, Donna, brought their three dogs to the event. The ride included Sonja, a 3-year-old Siberian husky, Meghan, a 6-year-old American Eskimo, and Sadie, a 5-month-old Yorkshire terrier.
“That’s not counting the chicken; I don’t do the chickens cause they’re too much of a pain to catch,” Rich said with a laugh. “The Lord’s blessing on them is important to us. They live with us, and they’re just as much our children as the four children we have. They’re part of God’s creation.”
Madison Coppernoll brought her guinea pig, Marcus, to the event.
She said she brought Marcus, “because I love him so much. I think he was a little scared.”
She said that having Marcus blessed made her “happy,” but she didn’t really know why.
Her mother, Laura, works with wildlife rehab and brought a squirrel to the event. Madison dubbed the squirrel “Rosebud.”
“I’ve been rehabbing for about 15 years, and I’m listed with the local vets,” Laura Coppernoll said. “ ... I’ve probably raised 200 squirrels over the 15 years. Any kind of wildlife that I can help give a second chance. After we get them big enough where we think they can fend for themselves, we put them in a flight cage. We give them food out there, but we don’t mess with them – we don’t touch or talk to them to get them used to life in the wild. Then, when we feel like they’re ready, we open the door and let them go.”
Hartley said that the event attendees included parishioners as well as members of the community.
“I enjoyed meeting people and meeting their pets,” he said. “There were no aggressive animals, they were all relatively docile. That’s the way it always is. I’ve done this service for years, and I’m always amazed at how there’s a blanket of calm. I would get down, face-to-face, put my hands on their hands and anoint them with holy water. They were mostly fine with that, and none of them were scared of me. I always find that interesting, and I think God is in on that, too.”
Scott Rodgers is the news editor at the North Augusta Star and has been with the paper since January 2013 after previously working at the Aiken Standard. He is a graduate of Alvernia University and currently attends Drexel University.