Belfast Telegraph

All creatures great and small fill Northern Ireland cathedral for special pet service

By Allan Preston

A hamster, a cockatoo and a noisy congregation of dogs were among the pets to be blessed yesterday afternoon at a special service in St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast.

Around 50 canines - including everything from pugs and beagles to Bernese mountain dogs - barked in appreciation to music from the Cathedral Girls Choir, while around 100 owners gathered to give thanks to their devoted animals.

"This cathedral is no stranger to dog collars," the Rev Canon Mark Niblock said as he welcomed the unusual flock yesterday.

Following on from Harvest and St Francis of Assisi Day on October 4, the service was inspired by the saint's well-known love of animals.

"The service is meant to be fun but it also makes a serious point about the effect our pets have on our lives in so many ways," said Canon Niblock.

"They calm us, they listen to us when we're ranting and raving, they enjoy special moments of joy in our lives and walk with us through illness and bereavement."

Although this was a first church visit for many of the four-legged invitees, Canon Niblock explained bringing pets to worship was a common occurrence in the past, with straw mixed with rosemary placed on the floor and incense used to sweeten the air.

Maeve McCavrey from Lurgan said her canine friend Laddie was overdue a church visit.

"He's nearly nine years old and I thought it's about time we got this boy christened.

"It's a lovely occasion to see inside the cathedral as well. At home he does sneak upstairs to sleep on my bed, but he also likes to sing when an ice cream van comes into the street."

Patience Bradley and Mary My Lovley
Pets Service, to which people are invited to bring their pets and receive a blessing in recognition of their contribution to society.
Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye Sunday 15 October 2017
Patience Bradley and Mary My Lovley Pets Service, to which people are invited to bring their pets and receive a blessing in recognition of their contribution to society. Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye Sunday 15 October 2017
Carol and Nichola Scott with Dexter and Penny Pets Service, to which people are invited to bring their pets and receive a blessing in recognition of their contribution to society. Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye Sunday 15 October 2017
Geraldine McKinley with Sunny and Se Pets Service, to which people are invited to bring their pets and receive a blessing in recognition of their contribution to society. Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye Sunday 15 October 2017
Victoria Surgenor and Penny Pets Service, to which people are invited to bring their pets and receive a blessing in recognition of their contribution to society. Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye Sunday 15 October 2017
Sara Kitchener with Norman the galah cockatoo Pets Service, to which people are invited to bring their pets and receive a blessing in recognition of their contribution to society. Pets Service, to which people are invited to bring their pets and receive a blessing in recognition of their contribution to society. Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye Sunday 15 October 2017
The McQuade girls with Charlie Pets Service, to which people are invited to bring their pets and receive a blessing in recognition of their contribution to society. Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye Sunday 15 October 2017
Pets Service, to which people are invited to bring their pets and receive a blessing in recognition of their contribution to society. Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye Sunday 15 October 2017
April Burns with her hamster Rosie and her dog Rosie Pets Service, to which people are invited to bring their pets and receive a blessing in recognition of their contribution to society. Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye Sunday 15 October 2017
Pets Service, to which people are invited to bring their pets and receive a blessing in recognition of their contribution to society. Pets Service, to which people are invited to bring their pets and receive a blessing in recognition of their contribution to society. Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye Sunday 15 October 2017
April Burn (7) with Rosie the hamster Pets Service, to which people are invited to bring their pets and receive a blessing in recognition of their contribution to society. Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye Sunday 15 October 2017
Pets Service, to which people are invited to bring their pets and receive a blessing in recognition of their contribution to society. Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye Sunday 15 October 2017
Sara Kitchener with Norman the galah cockatoo Pets Service, to which people are invited to bring their pets and receive a blessing in recognition of their contribution to society. Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye Sunday 15 October 2017
The St Ann's choir and their dog Rosie Pets Service, to which people are invited to bring their pets and receive a blessing in recognition of their contribution to society. Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye Sunday 15 October 2017
Pinky with her pet human Tony Flanagan Pets Service, to which people are invited to bring their pets and receive a blessing in recognition of their contribution to society. Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye Sunday 15 October 2017
Mindy Pets Service, to which people are invited to bring their pets and receive a blessing in recognition of their contribution to society. Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye Sunday 15 October 2017
James McCrudy and Sasha Pets Service, to which people are invited to bring their pets and receive a blessing in recognition of their contribution to society. Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye Sunday 15 October 2017
Allan Preston and Penny Pets Service, to which people are invited to bring their pets and receive a blessing in recognition of their contribution to society. Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye Sunday 15 October 2017
Getting ready for church Pets Service, to which people are invited to bring their pets and receive a blessing in recognition of their contribution to society. Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye Sunday 15 October 2017
Marion Kelly with Teddy, Finoula Scott and Daisy, Roselene McCrory, Have McCarbery and Laddie Pets Service, to which people are invited to bring their pets and receive a blessing in recognition of their contribution to society. Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye Sunday 15 October 2017
Pets Service, to which people are invited to bring their pets and receive a blessing in recognition of their contribution to society. Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye Sunday 15 October 2017
Dasher (2) waiting for the service to begin Pets Service, to which people are invited to bring their pets and receive a blessing in recognition of their contribution to society. Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye Sunday 15 October 2017
Rev Canon Mark Niblock Pets Service, to which people are invited to bring their pets and receive a blessing in recognition of their contribution to society. Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye Sunday 15 October 2017
Rev Canon Mark Niblock and Ruby Pets Service, to which people are invited to bring their pets and receive a blessing in recognition of their contribution to society. Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye Sunday 15 October 2017
Katie Baxter (12) and Harley Pets Service, to which people are invited to bring their pets and receive a blessing in recognition of their contribution to society. Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye Sunday 15 October 2017
Pets Service, to which people are invited to bring their pets and receive a blessing in recognition of their contribution to society. Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye Sunday 15 October 2017
Ellie taking a rest between Hyms Pets Service, to which people are invited to bring their pets and receive a blessing in recognition of their contribution to society. Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye Sunday 15 October 2017
David Stevens and Ellie Pets Service, to which people are invited to bring their pets and receive a blessing in recognition of their contribution to society. Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye Sunday 15 October 2017
Pets Service, to which people are invited to bring their pets and receive a blessing in recognition of their contribution to society. Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye Sunday 15 October 2017
Pets Service, to which people are invited to bring their pets and receive a blessing in recognition of their contribution to society. Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye Sunday 15 October 2017
Pets Service, to which people are invited to bring their pets and receive a blessing in recognition of their contribution to society. Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye Sunday 15 October 2017
Pets Service, to which people are invited to bring their pets and receive a blessing in recognition of their contribution to society. Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye Sunday 15 October 2017

Katie Baxter (12) from Belfast has had her rescue dog Harley for a year.

"We're not sure of his age. He was on a puppy farm most of his life," she said. "I wanted to bring him because he's never really been to our church before and we thought it would be fun to have him along to see all the other dogs.

"His greatest sin is probably peeing on the carpet multiple times and his best quality is that he's not crazy and he'll just snuggle up and hug you."

Katie's mum Cheryl recalled: "When we first got him he couldn't walk up steps or play with toys and he didn't even have a name.

"He would still be timid but he's spoilt now and follows me around everywhere. He's a lovely wee thing."

James McCurdy's eight-year-old dog Sasha lost her sight last year after suffering from diabetes.

"Sasha doesn't have very many naughty habits - if you left your dinner on the table you could go away and it would still be sitting there," he said.

Despite being blind, Sasha easily made her way down the cathedral steps yesterday.

"The challenges are when you take her somewhere new," said Mr McCurdy.

"Where I live on the north coast, she's familiar with all the places like Ballintoy where she knows her way round very well and with her excellent hearing can actually manage very well following me without a lead on.

"Today she was a bit disorientated with lots of other dogs barking, but she soon got used to it.

"The service itself was an excellent idea."

Three-year-old hamster Rosie attended yesterday with her Belfast owners April Burns (7) and dad Raymond (51).

"I just thought it would be nice to get her blessed. She's so nice and fuzzy," said April.

Raymond added: "She does a poo where she shouldn't now and then but she's a good hamster. Rosie actually lost her little hamster brother Harry aged two not too long ago. That's why we got her blessed. We didn't expect her to live as long as she did."

Choirmaster David Stevens was there with his Bernese mountain dog Ellie, aged almost one.

"She's here fairly often anyway as they come to choir rehearsal," he said. "But it's lovely to bring them officially to the service."

Belfast Telegraph

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