All dogs (and gerbils) go to heaven

Mary Rose offers her pet Peanut to the clergymen and clergywomen for a prayer during Bless the Pets in the Wise Center. Photo by Jane Ellen Nickel.

Mary Rose’s guinea pig Peanut rarely leaves his comfortable box filled with blankets and pellets.

But he was roused as early as the church bells Sunday when Mary Rose took Peanut to three Allegheny clergymen, who joined in prayer over pets in the Wise Center.

Bless the Pets, an event held in honor of St. Francis of Assisi’s Feast Day (the patron saint of animals and nature), offered students and faculty members the chance to have members of the clergy pray over their pets in person, or to bring photos of their pets to be prayed over.

Between 18 and 20 people attended the event. Two dogs, a guinea pig and two gerbils were in attendance. The rest of the pet owners brought pictures of their pets to be blessed.

Although some might be skeptical that animals have souls that may be blessed, pet and animal owners still gathered for the event to value their beloved pets.

“Animals are spiritual, soulful beings,” said Reverend Jane Ellen Nickell. “They look you in the eye. To me, that says there’s something in there.”

The Office of Spiritual and Religious Life and the Animal Welfare of Allegheny (AWA) Club joined forces for the event.

“We appreciate Spiritual and Religious Life contacting us,” said Brittany Bagnato, ’11 president of AWA. “We also like that they have four denominational opportunities as an option for people.”

The gathering had Methodist, Unitarian and Catholic reverends, and a Jewish rabbi.

The turn–out was small enough to allow the clergymen and women to meet individually with each pet and pet owner to get to know them, before saying a prayer for them according to their religious preferences.

Because pets are an important part of families’ lives, pet owners want their animals to be a part of their particular spiritual paths, as well.

“A lot of people consider their pets as their family,” said Liz Lennon, ’13. “They want their pets to have the spiritual avenue as them.”

The event had cookies for the owners and dog and cat treats for the little critters.