Pastor Bill Humphrey of St. Marks United Methodist Church in Kittery blesses 10-year-old Bonita, held by Illana Johnson during the church's annual blessing of the animals on Sunday. Credit: Karen Dandurant | Portsmouth Herald

KITTERY, Maine — All creatures great and small were welcomed at St. Marks United Methodist Church on Sunday for the 8th annual Blessing of the Animals.

Pastor Bill Humphrey said the idea was the brainchild of parishioner Katherine Davis. Modeled after a similar Catholic tradition done in honor of St. Francis of Assisi. Davis said the parishioners are pretty big lovers of dogs and other domesticated animals. She proposed it — and Humphrey agreed.

All animals are welcome, dog, birds, cats, reptiles and rodents, as long as they under control of their person. Animals cremated ashes can be blessed, or even a collar or other item if the animal would not do well among all the others. After a small service by Humphrey, he began to move among the pets, blessing each individually.

“It started small, but somehow the word got out and now participants are growing,” said Humphrey. “We are trying to do what God would want us to do, for all his creatures.”

[Pig, hamster among pets blessed at local church to honor St. Francis]

Davis said donations of dog and cat food are welcome, as are cash donations, but are not required. Whatever is raised will be donated to the Foot Prints food pantry in town.

Vivian Morrison brought Jax, a 10-year-old dog she has had since 2009.

“He’s a wonderful dog,” said Morrison. “He seems to know what to do even if we just point at something. We adopted him after our son could not keep him in his apartment. He was a year old and we have had him ever since.”

Davis brought her own dog, a pug. Eleven years old, Ginger was happy to be around so many other dogs. She was well-behaved, acting almost like the hostess of the event.

“My son Ryan is in the Coast Guard and needed someone to babysit his dog,” said Melinda Williams, explaining how she came to have Duncan, a 10-month-old French bulldog. “Grammy is babysitting so I get to bring him here today.”

An offshoot of the blessing is the Ministry of the Caring Blanket. David said the blankets are hand-made and are for dogs who need a good blanket.

“Maybe they are sick,” said Davis. “Maybe they need a little security, especially those who are rescued from a bad situation.”

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