The Healing Power of Pets

by Christine Sine
Jonathan Myers blessing our dog Bonnie

Jonathan Myers blessing our dog Bonnie

This last Sunday we held a pet blessing at our church. We probably had at least 30 dogs and a dozen cats in the church – all amazingly well behaved. This has become a popular practices for St Francis Day. Even our local zoo does a regular animal blessing. People who never come to church at other times, love to bring their pets in to be blessed. And we were right there in the midst with our Bonnie.

Keeping pets is increasingly understood to be good for us. Did you know that having a cat around the house can cut the risk of heart attack by almost 50% and that dog owners tend to have lower blood pressure and cholesterol? Those of us who are animal lovers have known for a long time that animals buffer us against stress and anxiety. All this from a recent ABC News article . Interestingly kids who have pets when they are young are less likely to get allergies too.

Animals are not just pets however, they are increasingly used for therapy and service. They act as eyes for the blond, ears for the deaf, and in the case of diabetics, glucose monitors. They are also being used as therapy in hospitals and hospice care centres. Pets as Therapy is one organization that provides this service. They are not just good for preventing strokes and heart attacks but often assist in people’s recovery after these illnesses. They even help kids learn to read and are increasingly appearing in classrooms around the world.

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Several people at St Albans Episcopal where we used to attend, trained service dogs. I particularly loved to see them wagging their tails up at the altar rail for communion. Once a year we did a special dog blessing before the dogs are sent out to their service assignments. I think this is a wonderful ministry – another one of God’s hidden mustard seeds. Imagine how many people a ministry like this must bless.

So my recommendation for the day – go out andtalk to the animals, bless them as they pass by, pet your dog or cat,  – and if you don’t have one of your own borrow your neighbour’s.

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