St Francis of Assisi is the patron saint of animals and the environment. Francis expressed his devotion to God through his love for all of God’s creation.
Pets bring so much into our lives and homes – not only do they provide companionship and love, but they also provide an emotional connection that all humans crave. For some people, the way they interact or behave can be influenced by their pets.
During this time of Covid, for many of us life seems a little surreal. Some of us work, and outside of the working day there is not much else to do; for others, the days prove long and lonely, some of us get anxious and depressed. A silver lining for many of us during this time are our pets. They have helped to ease the loneliness many of us face during this period of lockdown by providing structure for the day, relieving our stress levels and for those with dogs a daily walk or two is required with or without a pandemic! Sometimes just seeing a dog makes us smile, releasing a lot of our stress and fears. Many pets are relishing the extra attention and walks that they are getting now that their owners are home full time. Maybe we need to give them some alone time to rest up.
But it is not only dogs and cats that bring comfort, many find solace with birds, fish, horses, reptiles, tortoises etc. The bond between person and pet is like no other relationship, because the communication between fellow creatures is at its most basic and this can draw us more into the larger circle of life and into the wonder of our relationship with God.
For us it was a dog. In February this year, we were blessed to have been accepted by Seeing Eye Dogs Australia (SED) to care for and train a candidate for the Seeing Eye Dog program. Norton, an eight-week-old black Labrador Retriever bounded into our hearts and home for the next 12-15 months. As a puppy carer we experience the highs and lows of caring for a puppy including the toilet training mishaps, anything that can be chewed is given a good try, the dog hair everywhere to socialising the dog with people and other dogs, cats etc. Norton is our first SED puppy, initially we found the responsibility of training a SED puppy overwhelming and we are constantly worrying if we are doing the right thing. The SED program is well managed, and we have good support not only from the Puppy Development Managers at SED but also other puppy carers who are on their 6th, 8th or some even their 12th or more puppy. We do, of course, have mixed feelings about returning Norton to SED to finish his training but we know that he will graduate to assist someone who is blind or has low vision. What a wonderful calling. Having a pet, especially during these last few months of lockdown, has proven most rewarding to us.
Pets have been known to provide therapeutic benefits through the human-animal bond. Many hospitals and aged care facilities use Pets as Therapy where volunteers bring along their pet adding joy and comfort to those in hospital, in care or having medical treatment. Earlier this year, Xavier College adopted “Frankie” a golden Labrador Retriever pup who is in residence at the boarding house providing much joy to the students and staff. Healthcare workers are also benefiting from onsite visits from our four-legged friends. Ambulance Victoria Peer Support Dogs have been visiting ambulance stations to help support the paramedics as they deal with the daily challenges they face in response to emergencies and saving lives.
Animals are a reminder that life goes on.
This Sunday is the feast day of St Francis of Assisi. On this day the annual blessing of animals and pets is held. You may like to pray for and bless your animals and pets at home.
Blessing for Pets
Blessed are you, Lord God, maker of all living creatures.
You called forth fish in the sea, birds in the air and animals on the land.
You inspired St. Francis to call all of them his brothers and sisters.
We ask you to bless our pets.
By the power of your love, enable it to live according to your plan.
May we always praise you for all your beauty in creation.
Blessed are you, Lord our God, in all your creatures!
By Kate Baines
Please take a photo of your pet and send it to us so we may share it with our parish community.