Carbondale Unitarian Fellowship held special service Sunday to bless members’ pets

By Gus Bode

Several children took a break from scampering around a large maypole at the future site of the Carbondale Unitarian Fellowship Sunday to gather around Venus, who is sitting calmly in the shade of a large tree.

Venus, a greyhound, is far from hyper, despite the playful atmosphere, and is handling herself very well considering the amount of attention that is being devoted to her this particular day.

Although, according to Lauri Geiger, many are under the misconception that Venus is somewhat wild, but her quiet, relaxed behavior contradicts this theory.


“She’s always very well-behaved,” Geiger said, glancing down at Venus who, in return seems to respond with a grin showing appreciation of the compliment. “A lot of people think of greyhounds as wild animals because they race, but that’s not the case.

“They only race for 30 seconds, and then they rest for four days. They’re actually the best, most gentle dogs.”

It is not an unusual occurrence for babies, but rarely do people hear of pets being blessed. Although this is a ceremony performed fairly regularly in the Catholic Church, it is not as common in the Unitarian church. In fact, this was the first year that the Carbondale branch held such a service where they were given the chance to stand up and say a few words in praise of their respective pets.

As Geiger continues to praise Venus, various children abandon their play to interact with her. While dancing around the maypole, the large pole put up to signify the coming of autumn, is tempting, the children attending services at the Carbondale Unitarian Fellowship Sunday recognize that today is Venus’ day, along with the 20 some other animals who have come to be blessed.

Some members had brought along their actual pet for the blessing, while others simply displayed a photograph of their extended family.

“We try to hold an outside service each year at the site of the new church,” said Bill Sasso, pastor of the Carbondale Unitarian Church. ” Usually this is on Mother’s Day, but it rained all day this year. So since we decided to hold this service for the pets this year, it would be the perfect one to have outside.

“It also gives us an opportunity to put up the maypole and gather around the Social Action Garden one last time.”


The garden Sasso referred to was a project of the church’s children. The children planted various fruits and vegetables that they donated to shelters such as Good Samaritan Shelter and the Women’s Center.

But Sasso realized Sunday was not about the garden, but the animals sniffing curiously around it.

“The whole ideal of the ceremony falls under the seventh principles of Unitarianism, which is respect for the interdependent web of existence,” Sasso said. “It’s good for people to remember how they feel about their pets. And, when we do this, we think about what they mean to us.”

Although some were shy about discussing why they brought their particular pet to the ceremony, Maggi Mosley had no trouble presenting a reason for bringing Feisty, Spike and Morbid to the event.

“I just think it’s a real good opportunity for people who see their pets as more of friends than animals,” Mosley said as tries to contain three ferrets in her arms. “Also, I wanted to bring them out because people have a misconception about ferrets.

“They’re really good pets if they’re trained correctly, and it’s not that often people get to see friendly ferrets.”

While Mosley’s ferrets were certainly in the minority among the many dogs attending the service, there was also a hamster in attendance as members took the time repeat the words of Bill Sasso:”Look deeply into the eyes of the pets in attendance and ask that they continue to be treated well by those who love them.”

The words are particularly relieving to Lauri Geiger considering the recent trials and tribulations Venus has faced.

“She just had major surgery and a stroke,” Geiger said while staring at the peaceful dog relaxing at her feet. ” She’s an older dog too, so the ceremony gives me a sense of a comfort and Venus some recognition – She definitely deserves it.”

Reporter Jessica Yorama can be reached [email protected]