All good pets are blessed
October 28, 2016
"When I moved to Park City, everyone said I'd end up with a dog and a Subaru," said Rabbi David Levinsky of Temple Har Shalom. Levinsky was apprehensive about becoming a dog owner, but after rescuing an "All-American mutt" named Angus one year ago, his outlook has changed.
"Pets can open our hearts and teach us more than we thought possible," said Levinsky at last weekend's Pet Blessing Ceremony at the temple.
The ecumenical service welcomed all pet owners to celebrate their furry family members and help raise funds for Nuzzles and Co. Pet Rescue and Adoption. As the service began, Levinsky strummed an acoustic invocation while dogs of all shapes and sizes continued to sniff their neighbors. A few pups even chimed in to the Yiddish hymn with a howl.
Within Judaism, pet blessing ceremonies are new. Modern rabbis are taking inspiration from the Catholic patron saint of animals, St. Francis of Assisi, to make pet blessing ceremonies annual events.
Modern rabbis are taking inspiration from the Catholic patron saint of animals, St. Francis of Assisi, to make pet blessing ceremonies annual events.
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"That's the great thing about Reformed Judaism," says Levinsky. "We get to change how we practice so that it’s relevant and vital to our lives."
Mary McIntire said she brought her two sons and their dog Snowball to the ceremony because it's a great "family bonding experience." McIntire believes that this event is a great way for members of the community to meet new people and socialize their pets. The event reminded her of a poem about God creating the world.
According to the story, God was followed by a dog as he named all of his creations. "He named the dog last after himself," McIntire said, "Dog is God backwards."
Bringing his cat Tito to the ceremony was important for Billy Ferron-Goodwin, because "he’s a part of the family too." The only cat at the blessing, Tito sat quietly in his cage while the rest of the canine crew wagged and woofed.
One attendee confided that he brought his pet to be blessed because his dog blesses him daily with loyalty and affection.
"One of the core pillars of Judaism is respect for all life," says "Diamond" Dave Nicholls, radio host for KPCW, who has been training his service dog TJ for two years. After TJ fell out of a moving car window when he was a puppy, Nicholls didn’t know if he’d recover, but today the rowdy Rottweiler/Australian shepherd mix helps pull his owner up hills and barks to alert him of danger.
After a group scripture reading, Levinsky blessed the entire group of pets and offered owners the option for individual pet blessings. When asked jokingly about converting pets to Judaism, Levinsky said there’d be none of that. "We won’t be doing circumcisions either," he laughed.
Overall, the event went off without a single dogfight and everyone took home a bag of treats.
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