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Animals Blessed in Vienna

Antioch Christian Church holds its third annual blessing for family pets.

Faith and Daniel Dougherty of Great Falls brought the remains of their two sheepdogs to be blessed. Daniel Doughery said the couple feels the dogs are still “alive” in their hearts.

Faith and Daniel Dougherty of Great Falls brought the remains of their two sheepdogs to be blessed. Daniel Doughery said the couple feels the dogs are still “alive” in their hearts. Photo by Donna Manz.

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To each pet, Reverend Randy Beeman said, “ … You are cherished and treasured. Receive the love of your creator and your kindred creatures.” Reverend Beeman bestows a blessing on Chance, companion to Nan Sanders of Vienna.

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Pal, a Chihuahua/fox terrier mix, had a “hard year” physically, said his guardian, Jennifer Claussen of Reston.

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Reverend Randy Beeman bestows a blessing on Topper, now deaf, who was adopted from an Iraq war veteran by Dawn and Steve Dailey of Vienna. Topper knows sign language.

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The blessed animals and the humans who love them gather for a photo after the blessing program. Reverend Randy Beeman started the blessing of the animals ceremony when he came to Antioch Christian Church three years ago.

— Antioch Christian Church, the quaint white clapboard church on Beulah Road, hosted its third annual pet blessing on June 2 and pet parents came from throughout the area to have their pets blessed by Antioch’s pastor, Randy Beeman. Any family pet, of any species, was welcome.

While more than a dozen living dogs were each individually blessed by Rev. Beeman, some were blessed in memoriam or in absentia. The animals’ presence or lack of made little difference to the people whose lives were enriched by a pet’s presence in their lives. Participants chose little medals, offered at no charge, for their pets to wear on their collars. Each pet was awarded a “certificate” that symbolized that the pet had been specially blessed “by the hands of God through Reverend Randy Beeman. This companion animal has been honored for the love and joy it has given.” And that is what the pets’ guardians recognized. The stories behind the pets were sad, uplifting and memorable.

One pet had difficulty walking. His companion had brought a wagon to pull him along in but he hopped out. Another dog, adopted from a James Madison High School Iraq war vet, is deaf. A Chihuahua-fox terrier mix, had a “hard year” his guardian, Jennifer Claussen of Reston, said. Pal has just gotten off a feeding tube.

Faith and Daniel Dougherty of Great Falls carried with them urns with the remains of their two much-loved sheepdogs, Miss Fancy Pants and Thundercloud, both around 9 years old when they died. “Just to know they’re in the comforting hands of the Lord who created all of us” is why the Doughertys brought their pets’ ashes to be graced by the hand of God, Faith Dougherty said. “We tell funny stories about them. They’ve been with us through everything.”

The blessings program began with a welcome from Antioch volunteer Shirley Elliott, who greeted guests—human and canine—and hosted the gift table. Rev. Beeman offered a prayer for the pets and their families and led the guests in a song dedicated to “all creatures.” After a reading of Psalm 104:10-25, Beeman invited each guardian and pet to come up for an individual blessing. Guardians repeated a commitment vow, a pledge to care for the pet entrusted to the guardian. When all the pets had been blessed, Beeman closed with a blessing prayer, whose words included, “We ask you, Lord, that we may be good to our pets always, so that they may be happy also. Help us always to take care of them so that they will be healthy.”

Elliott gave out the blessing cards and the medals. Maybe, next year, they will accept donations that will be sent to an animal rescue organization. For now, the church is happy to be providing a service to families touched by a pet’s companionship or by the memory of a beloved pet.

“To us, they’re still alive,” said Daniel Dougherty, speaking of the pets who died in 1995 and 2008. “We talk about them all the time.”

Faith Dougherty had a response for those who question that animals have souls. “God wouldn’t have created a living thing without a soul.”