Animal Blessing Ceremonies Honor Pets, Saint Francis

Many churches are hosting animal blessing ceremonies in honor of St. Francis of Assisi. Here's how one city celebrated

San Francisco (Oct. 1)--What looked like a pet show was actually a blessing in disguise.

About 100 pet owners brought their dogs, cats, birds, iguanas, and yes, even a cashmere goat, to Saturday's 11th annual animal blessing at St. Boniface Church in the Tenderloin to honor St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of San Francisco and caretaker of the ecology.

"We are all one family under God," said the Rev. Floyd Lotito, who sprinkled holy water on dozens of animals gathered outside St. Boniface Church with their owners holding on tightly to leashes and cages.


Lotito extended special blessings to those pets too ill to come, wishing them a speedy recovery and good health.

"Every year I'm impressed by the animals," Lotito told the crowd. "They really are, like St. Francis said, our brothers and sisters.... The way you treat animals reflects the way you treat others."

Along with the blessing came a request by church officials for donations to finance a city-ordered seismic retrofit. So far, the church has raised $10 million of the $11.6 million needed.


Mounted police arrived Saturday looking for blessings for their horses. German shepherds arrived with the police K-9 unit.


San Francisco Police Officer Gene Kalinin brought Karlo, a 6-year-old German shepherd who works in the K-9 division and sniffs out bombs and criminals.

"He finds the bad guy," said Kalinin, who works with the bomb squad, SWAT team, and K-9 divisions.

Karlo is Kalinin's third police dog in 12 years.

"They are the best partners we have," Kalinin said.

Typically, police reserve Labradors to sniff out bombs and German shepherds for chasing criminals, but Karlo can do both, Kalinin said. The husky German shepherd looks for explosives in executive hotel suites of dignitaries before they check in.

On Saturday, Karlo wasn't feeling too friendly and growled at a golden retriever passing by.


"He's usually not like this," Kalinin said apologetically to the owner of the retriever.

San Francisco Police Officer Bruno Pezzulich, who works with the mounted police, was tying up his horse, Shadow, a 12-year-old Tennessee walking horse, who received his second blessing of the day--the first one from St. Paul's Church in Noe Valley, which held its third annual animal blessing.

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