West Chicago's First United Methodist Church hosted its first Blessing of the Pets service Saturday morning. And you thought keeping a child entertained in church was rough.
More than a dozen dogs, including the Rev. Timothy Mitchell's two Small Munsterlander hunting dogs, as well as two guinea pigs, a parakeet and some caterpillars being raised by the church's youth group all received special blessings and thanks for the joy they bring their owners. Some of them got treats for behaving at church, although there was a fair amount of barking, whimpering and leash-tugging.
"He was much better behaved than I anticipated considering how many other behinds there were to smell and animals to see," West Chicago resident Susan Crusta said of her Shih Tzu Butch. "He's definitely earned a treat."
Mitchell, a dog-lover, said he was pleased the church decided to open its front lawn to the pets.
"God is the creator of everything and we're so blessed to have these animals in our lives," Mitchell said following Saturday's half-hour service. "This was a blessing for our pets and their owners to allow our pets to know how special they are to us."
In addition to the blessing, Mitchell also played Fernando Ortega's rendition of Francis of Assisi's "All Creatures of our God and King."
"It's just a beautiful hymn that really sums up why we're here today," he said.
West Chicago resident and church member Mike Horsley was happy for the opportunity to allow his 19-month old Airedale Terrier, Tegwen, to receive her first blessing.
"She's still a puppy and a work in progress but she means the world to us so this seemed appropriate," Horsely said. "This was a great idea that I hope we continue."
Based on Saturday's turnout, Mitchell said he foresees the blessing launching into an annual event for pets of all kinds.