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It's World Animal Day, So Be A Good Human!

Ideas on ways to show our pets we care

It's World Animal Day! Tied to the Feast of St. Francis of Asisi, the patron saint of animals, it falls on us humans to give the day a special meaning. Here are some ideas:

Bless Your Pets. The most common way that people honor their animals at this time of year is to attend a blessing of the animals. The Cathedral of Christ the King in Buckhead, like most churches holding animal blessings, held its event on Saturday. In the courtyard in front of the sanctuary, about 100 people turned out, including a menagerie of dogs and a handful of cats, guinea pigs and a teddy bear.

Amanda and David Prince and their baby daughter, Chandler, brought their 4-year-old Vizsla hound. The Princes were married at the cathedral in 2006 and had their daughter baptized this past spring, so they said it was fitting their dog, Hudson, be blessed and sprinkled with holy water by the Rev. Richard Morrow.

The blessing from the priest was especially meaningful for the family because Hudson is receiving radiation treatments for soft-tissue sarcoma. He wears a St. Francis medallion, as well.

“Hudson is part of our family and plays such a large part of our lives. Why wouldn’t we want to do everything we can for him, including getting a blessing?” David Prince said.

The service was short, and the animals quieted down when the service with a reading from the Old Testament Book of Genesis. After the reading, Morrow made a prayer of intercession from St. Francis to bless not only pets but also farm animals, animals that live in the wild and even teddy bears. He prayed that humans all over the world will respect creation and care for animals.

While the dogs formed the overwhelming majority in the crowd, a couple of people brought cats, which they kept in carriers and received separate blessings.

In the congregation, clutching their guinea pigs, were Gabby Walsh, 5, and Olivia, 12, who live near and go to school at the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Vivianne Peralta of Sandy Springs, said her cat, Casey, will celebrate his second birthday on the Feast of St. Francis. “We’ve always had pets growing up and grew up loving them. Casey takes care of me. He’s a wonderful companion,” Peralta said.

If you missed the events last weekend, several Episcopal churches are holding blessing services in the coming week.

Holy Trinity Parish, an Episcopal church in downtown Decatur, for example, will hold two services on Sunday, Oct. 9. The first will be an animal procession and blessing in the sanctuary at the 10:30 a.m. service. According to their website, the congregation, “will thank God for the joy they bring to us and ask God’s blessing on them, including those animals who have died." Another service will be held at 4 p.m. in the courtyard.

St. Anne’s Episcopal Church in Buckhead will hold a pet blessing and parish dinner tonight (Oct. 4) at 6 p.m. (Children $3, Adults $5). There will be a memorial tree in the courtyard where individuals may place a ribbon in remembrance of a special pet that died this year. The tree will be planted on the church campus.

Also, the Episcopal Church of Our Saviour in Virginia-Highland will have one on Sunday at 3 p.m. St. Paul's will partner for one at 6 p.m. on Sunday at St. Bartholomew's. The Episcopal Church of St. John, College Park, will have theirs on Saturday, Oct. 22, at 10 a.m., along with a fall festival.

If you want to stay home to bless your pet, the website AmericanCatholic.org suggests the following prayer:

“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 this pet. 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! Amen.”

Donate to Animal Causes. The state of Georgia has a car tag, with proceeds benefiting the humane society. Thomas Drew of Marietta said he bought his tag, featuring a golden retriever and with proceeds benefiting the humane society, because he is a dog lover. He has two dogs, a Labrador retriever and a Labradoodle.

“I bought my tag as soon as they came out, I think. Domestic animals are totally dependent on humans as their caregivers, and the Humane Society does their best to care for the animals, whether it be innoculations or adoptions,” Drew said. “Animals offer unconditional love.”

Support Healty Pets. District 12 Councilwoman Joyce Shepard is spearheading several pet clinics, one of which was held Saturday. Spurred by a recent mauling in her district that resulted in the euthanization of a dog, she has become an animal advocate.

“We need pet education,” she said at the clinic, where checkups, vaccinations and microchips were administered. “Animals are good citizens. I’m a cat lover. In the eveningtime, I’m by myself, and my cat is a good companion to me. So, animals do serve a purpose.”

Pointing to the dog park next to the pool, where the pet clinic was going on, she said, “people in my community don’t know about dog parks, but they’re good places for socializing our pets so they won’t bite people. It’s good for their health, too, to get some exercise."

Get Activist. If you feel strongly about animal causes, as did the people protesting outside the Emory University gates on Saturday, find an animal cause you believe in and help get something changed. The group of several dozen were raising placards to “Free Wenka,” an elder chimpanzeee the group says Yerkes has held in captivity since 1957.

“We are not requesting that all animal testing be ended, just that the elder chimpanzees be allowed to go to a sanctuary,” said spokeswoman and boardmember Leah Garces of Decatur. “Many countries have banned or restricted the use of chimpanzees. The U.S. is far behind the modern world on this.”

An interview with Yerkes was not conducted for this article, but their website includes a page on ethics.

Don’t be an Animal Consumer. Consider taking the day off from eating meat, or even going totally vegan for the day. If you happen to be going to the drugstore and need to pick up a cosmetic, take a moment to see that animal testing or animal products weren’t used in the creation of the products.

“Bee” a Good Steward. Master beekeeper Cindy Hodges, a master beekeeper in Dunwoody, offers several ways to help the bee population. First, stop using powdered pesticides, such as Sevin dust.

“Bees' bodies are hairy, so powder pesticides stick to them and are carried to the hive this way. You can kill a whole colony with Sevin dust,” Hodges said. The best way to use pesticides is to spray at dusk, she suggested, is when the bees aren’t likely to be foraging.

Another way to help the bee population is to place rocks and pebbles in your birdbath – which also helps the birds and other small animals – to prevent bees from drowning. “Bees need a water source, just like the rest of us,” Hodges said. "People don't realize it, but bees do drown."

Fall is the best time of year to plant perennials anyway, so why not plant those which are good for the insects? Examples of plants that provide good nectar sources for honeybees are purple coneflower, butterfly bush and hollies.

Hobby beekeeping has grown tremendously in recent years, Hodges said. People are getting back to having home gardens, thinking green, wanting to give back to the community.

Walk the walk. Dog parks are springing up by leaps and bounds all over metro Atlanta. New paths, whether for bird-watching or horseback riding, are being built and blazed, as well.

Be a Pet Potato. If all else fails, just spend special time with your pet. Cuddle up on the couch and turn on the tube. Animal Planet plans a full day of programming (noon to midnight) in observance.

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