Furry friends celebrated at pet service

By Genevieve Helliwell

Having cats, dogs, a turtle and a guinea pig in the same room could have been a recipe for disaster, but they were all on their best behaviour at the annual blessing of the pets ceremony at St Mary's Anglican Church.

The animals greeted each other with a sniff and settled down for the service, which was led by priest Richard Vialoux.

The annual celebration commemorates the story of St Francis of Assisi, who loved animals.

Pet owner Mandy Sloan and her daughter Tegan, 8, brought their golden retriever Zak and guinea pig Marshmellow to the church service.

They arrived late because of daylight saving but had their animals blessed by Mr Vialoux.

Mrs Sloan said the occasion was "a bit of fun" and she enjoyed having her animals blessed each year.

Mr Vialoux, who brought his cat Ziggy along, said in all his years of hosting blessing of animal services there had never been a time when things had gotten out of hand.

"We've had lambs, dogs, cats, even a horse and a goldfish and they've always behaved themselves," he said.

"Even when there are the owners who aren't sure if their own animals will behave, nothing ever happens. I am sure [the animals] recognise what's happening and realise things are a bit different."

Yesterday's celebration was Mr Vialoux's first animal service in Tauranga after he moved from Auckland in December last year.

"People have such fondness for their pets and like to be able to express that and receive some sort of blessing from God for that in recognition. Animals give us so much and it's hard for us to give back to them, so this is an opportunity to do that."

About a dozen animals were blessed at St Mary's Anglican Church in Mt Maunganui yesterday.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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