By ROBBIE WARD
TUPELO – A crowd of about 80 people standing in the All Saints' Episcopal Church parking lot Sunday heard dogs barking throughout the afternoon outside service.
But that was the point.
Area pet lovers brought their animals to the church for the 10th annual Blessing of the Pets, co-hosted by Christ the King Lutheran Church and Saint James Catholic Church.
Priests from the three churches prayed for long and happy lives for the animals brought by their owners to be blessed.
Kelley Archibald brought her 14-year-old poodle, Pompey, to be blessed. She carried the poodle under her right arm for much of the time they were around all of the dogs, cats, a horse, a camel, guinea pig and other animals in attendance.
Archibald said she wanted Pompey to have a healthy year. She said her 17-year-old cocker spaniel recently died and the loss hit Pompey pretty hard.
“He's a bit depressed,” she said, looking at the poodle with his tongue sticking out. “Maybe it'll cheer him up being around these other animals.”
Archibald said she made a donation to the Tupelo-Lee County Humane Society in memory of her cocker spaniel. Others gave donations of money, animal food and other supplies to the humane society while getting their pets blessed.
The Blessing of the Pets is traditionally held near the birthday of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and ecology. St. Francis was born extremely wealthy but later renounced his family fortune to focus on taking care of the world around him, particularly animals, said the Rev. Shannon Johnston of All Saints' Episcopal Church.
After the blessings, dog biscuits were served along with animal crackers for humans.
McGuire, All Saints' church cat, sat and eyed the abundance of animals visiting his domain.
“He's the one that gave us the idea to do this,” Johnston said of McGuire. “He attends lots of church meetings.”
Dogs ranging from teacup size to super size circled Lynda Rowland of Pontotoc. She brought only five of her 15 dogs since she needed about 10 extra hands to handle them all at once. Her Australian shepherd, Daisy, standing next to her was a search and rescue dog. Rowland drove to Tupelo specifically for her pets.
“I certainly believe in blessing them,” she said.
Not all pets barked, or made any sound.
Four-year-old Alexis Hall brought her pet caterpillar for a blessing. She said the crawly green creature loved to eat leaves. She gathered with a group of children petting a horse from the Tupelo Buffalo Park.
Less than a hour after the blessings began, many animals and their owners had gone, but not Rowland and her five dogs. She sat on the back of a red pickup resting.
“They all got blessed, and I'm give out,” she said.
A few seconds later, Hannah, Rowland's 9-year-old teacup Chihuahua yawned and sat down beside her.
Contact Robbie Ward at 323-9831 or firstname.lastname@example.org.