100514 beast blessing11Reverend Ophelia Laughlin blesses a dog, during a past St. Francis Day event at St. George’s-by-the-River in Rumson. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

It began several years back as a simple observance of St. Francis Day; a “pet blessing” ceremony conducted in the spirit of the patron saint of those furry, finned, feathered and variously phylum’d creatures with whom we share this planet and, often, our lunches.

But such was the response to the annual Blessing of the Animals at St. George’s-by-the-River, that the Episcopal church in Rumson soon found itself  accommodating some 200 dogs, cats, hamsters, turtles, birds, goldfish and numerous other species; up from “30 to 40” at the event’s onset — even flirting for a time with a monthly pets-welcome service in the church’s Parish Hall.

On Sunday, October 2, the historic house of worship on Waterman Avenue again welcomes pets of all shapes, sizes and breeds to be blessed individually by the clergy — with dog owners requested to keep their pets leashed, and even those without an animal companion welcome to attend the service that commences at 2 p.m. Call St. George’s at (732)888-1194 for additional information — and read on for more about another St. Francis observance here on the greater Green; one that’s grown this year to encompass a separate satellite event.

This coming Tuesday, October 4 (the official Feast Day of St. Francis), Reverend Debbie Cook of All Saints’ Memorial Church (the historic “Old Stone Church” at the crossroads of Navesink and Monmouth Avenues in Middletown) visits Happy Tails Veterinary Hospital in Shrewsbury for a special remote edition of that Episcopal church’s own annual St. Francis observance. Between the hours of 6 to 9 p.m., animal lovers are invited to bring their pets (on a leash, in a box, cage, tank or represented with a photo if they’re unable to travel with you) to the veterinary practice at Gerard Plaza on Broad Street, for a brief service with individual blessings and special prayers for those who lost pets this year.

Then on Sunday, October 9, Rev. Cook is joined by the staff of Happy Tails once again at All Saints, for the 1 p.m. Blessing of the Animals, during which attendees are encouraged to bring monetary or pet food donations to be distributed to local animal shelters and food pantries. Call (732)268-8180 for additional info on the Shrewsbury evening event, or (732)291-0214 for more about the Sunday service in Navesink.