They are joined by several birds of prey, a donkey, two horses and two tortoises of varying sizes, sheep, goats, rabbits, a fox, a coatimundi, a cow, a lizard, a white peacock, various water fowl, assorted clergy members, a choir, dancers, musicians, numerous dogs of every size, tourists, photographers, puppet artists, and a variety of miscellaneous saints and sinners.
This is no long-winded joke intro. Today was the annual Blessing of the Animals at St. John the Divine—the amazing European-style church down the street from our apartment.
On the first Sunday of each October, people come to this special service dragging their furry four-legged friends to be blessed for the year.
Most of the dogs appear to be atheists or agnostics and are not too impressed by the program—nor do they seem to have a clue as to what is going on—due to the apparent overall lack of interest on their part. Except for an errant bark or two, overall there is minimal attention paid to the very long program. Singing. No response. Dancing. No interest. Prayers. Nada. It’s only when the camel and his friends show up, that the dogs go wild.
The program starts at 11:00am and it’s such a surreal event with dogs laid out in the aisles, and intermittent barks peppering the sermon. At the 12:45 mark or so, the big animals are led down the middle aisle of the stately cathedral–to complete the weird scene, and to drive the canine audience crazy.
This year, one of the animals in the front of the line—either the horse or the cow—decided to poop in the middle of the aisle leaving a long line of mess that subsequent animals and their handlers had to maneuver around on their way to the altar.
This was working fine until the llamas showed up. Somehow the three llamas and three handlers got stuck in a llama log-jam and the animals started to panic. The handlers pushed and shoved but those llamas would not budge for a couple of minutes. Suddenly they took off, kicking up their heels—and the poop went flying. Everyone sitting along the aisle let out screams and dodged the flying poop. It was quite exciting for a minute. Other than that, there were no other issues and everybody seemed to get along.
Let’s not forget the heroes of the parade.
I’m not a church goer, but I like going to this event as it gives me a chance to pet lots of dogs and hang out with them before, during, and after the event. It’s a fun way to spend a few hours if you love animals.
Tickets can be requested online a month before the event (this year it was Sept 6), or on the day of the event. If you go on the day of the event, get there by 8:30am because the tickets are given out first-come, first-served and the line can be long. We arrived at 8:40 and there were about 100 people in front of us.
At 9:15am they give out one ticket per person in line.
At 9:45am, they open the doors and begin filling the church.
The event is from 11:00am – 2:00pm. Dogs and cats are welcome in the church, and can be blessed in the garden next door after the event in the church ends.
Once entering the church, I suggest sitting towards the very back, on the right side, and directly on the aisle for getting the best photos of the animals as they line up to come up the center.
Event is free, except for a donation to the passed bucket.