Marshall started the tradition when he arrived on Longboat Key in 2019.
Life would be ruff without man’s best friend, and All Angels by the Sea Episcopal Church took the time to celebrate all that pets provide on Oct. 7 at the church's third annual pet blessing.
Father Dave Marshall started the church’s pet blessing tradition when he was installed as rector in 2019. He had come from a church that had been doing the blessing annually for years and wanted to rectify the blank looks he got when he first mentioned it to his new congregation.
“We bless the humans every Sunday,” Marshall said. “Why not bless the pets?”
Ginny and Ed Upshaw brought their Labradoodle, Reba, for her blessing. The 7-year-old was one of the first pets Marshall blessed and she hasn’t missed a year since. She’s a retired therapy dog, but needs her blessings and forgiveness for the lizards from which she can't stay away. Dog mom Ginny said rambunctious Reba had caught two that morning.
“She’s just hot on those lizards,” Ginny said.
Soon after, three more dogs made their way to Marshall’s setup on Bay Isles Road, eagerly pulling on their leashes to make it to a new person they could beg for belly rubs. Tiny Clemmie, wearing the purple-and-orange Clemson collar of her collegiate namesake, hopped onto Marshall as soon as she could. Marshall blessed her last year when she was just a puppy. She’s another year older, but no less excitable.
Chloe and Callie, two poodles who belong to senior warden Cathie Wilt, showed up for their blessings, too. Marshall said he had been hearing them on Zoom all year and was glad to finally meet them in person. No cats came to be blessed this year, but Deborah Duffey said hers need a blessing after a bird attack they committed last week.
“We just want to make sure these dogs get all the love and blessings they can get,” said Dave Bishop, who brought his dog, Clemmie, as well as poodles Chloe and Callie, who belong to a friend. “We know how much we love our dog and Cathie and David (Wilt) love theirs. They’re part of the family.”
Marshall held each pet close (with the help of a pumpkin dog biscuit) as he gave them their blessing, asking for the continued protection of each pet and thanking them for being such good companions.
“Pets became very important during the pandemic,” Marshall said. “I think they have become a blessing for so many. Pets certainly help with isolation and loneliness. One day a year we get to bless them instead of them blessing us.”
Panting pups got a blessing of another kind as they lapped up cold water that Marshall and Linn Torres had put out while their paw-rents chatted. Bishop ran around with the two poodles he came with, getting their extra energy out and letting them sniff all the sticks they wanted, while Clemmie hunted around for extra belly rubs to be had.
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