PET CORNER
 Ojibwe Herb Sam and Blessings of the Animals
 By Allen and Linda Anderson

 

 

We were asked to do a presentation about pet loss at the Home For Life 4th Annual Memorial Garden Event at the organization's sanctuary in Star Prairie, Wisconsin. On a mild autumn day, with the sun peeking through clouds, we joined about one hundred people to remember all the animals who lived out their lives in this amazing place.

The ceremony also included Herb Sam, an American Indian elder and spiritual advisor to the Mille Lac Band of Ojibwe. Herb Sam spoke about the relationship between Native Americans of his tribe and the animals. In essence he reminded all of us that his ancestors had respected animals and did not view them as separate from humans. The Great Spirit connects all life.

With a quiet focus Herb Sam officiated a Native American memorial service speaking in the Ojibwe language. This was followed by his reading an inspiring poem in English. We sat together amidst the sanctuary's rolling hills with volunteers who held dogs and cats in their laps, while he offered a blessing. He gently waved sacred tobacco smoke over the holy ground where Home for Life Animals are buried and sang a native chant.

Home for Life Sanctuary
Prior to the presentation we toured the sanctuary. We were greeted with many white-whiskered muzzles of dogs and cats. Their people had left bequests for animal family members to make sure they have a safe and loving home here. Many of the younger animals had been rescued from abusive situations or with threats of euthanization hanging over their short lives.

In addition to dogs and cats the sanctuary houses birds, rabbits, a turtle, and a goat. Perhaps most touching were the disabled animals. They scooted around in whatever ways worked best for them along soft green turf.

Each enclosure at Home for Life consists of a cooled and well-ventilated building with an outdoor area where the animals mingle and exercise. Volunteers cared for and played with the residents with much love and attention. Everything gleamed clean and orderly.

Lisa LaVerdiere, founder and executive director of Home for Life, had asked us to also do a blessing for the animals who were present with their people. We designed a participatory blessing. It included wise quotes, chanting HU (pronounced hue), a sacred love song to God that animals respond to with appreciation, and closing with an ancient prayer, "May the blessings be."

Afterwards, many people told us how much they had enjoyed our comments about the importance of remembering and honoring the life and death of an animal family member. Their hearts had been opened by animals who shared their lives, enabling them to soar on wings of unconditional love.

Here are the quotes we used in the animal blessing:

"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened."
- Anatole France

"Not to hurt our humble brethren is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough. We have a higher mission - to be of service to them wherever they require it."
- St. Francis of Assisi

"If I spent enough time with the tiniest creature - even a caterpillar - I would never have to prepare a sermon. So full of God is every creature.
 - Meister Eckhart

Blessing of the Animals
In our book "Angel Animals: Divine Messengers of Miracles," we wrote about a special occasion when we brought our yellow Lab Taylor to a local church's Blessing of the Animals' ceremony. This service is conducted by many churches all over the country on or near October 4, the feast of Saint Francis, patron of animals, to honor the sacredness of all of God's creatures. Below is an excerpt from our book.

"One year Taylor sat in the pew between us. Her face held a look of curiosity and amazement. She had never been in a church before, and Saint Mark's Episcopal Cathedral in Minneapolis was a magnificent one to host her first visit. Beautifully detailed stained-glass windows reached up to the high ceilings, conveying solid tradition. Taylor seemed to sense that something special was about to happen. She sat spellbound, or maybe just overwhelmed. After all, this was not the usual destination of her morning walk.

"Hundreds of dogs, cats, birds, hamsters, iguanas, and ferrets waited inside boxes, sat next to their cherished people, or were draped over human shoulders as the sermons, songs, and barking resonated throughout the massive cathedral. To close the church service, a zebra, a falcon, and a camel led the procession down the middle aisle to the front where a minister intoned the liturgy for the Blessing of the Animals.

"After singing some hymns and reading the liturgy in the cathedral, all the people and animals walked across the street to Loring Park where we followed white-robed priests and joined two other churches that had had similar services. We walked with Taylor close behind the priests with hundreds of animals and humans. Smiles on the clerics' faces conveyed their obvious joy and the love they felt at giving service to the animals in this way. When we arrived in the park, a musical group from Ecuador played wind instruments accompanied by an occasional howling dog.

"The priests and ministers dispersed to tents with people and animals lining up to receive their blessings. As the priest blessed the dog in front of us, Taylor scooted out of her collar and ran to where Allen stood, preparing to take her picture. He explained to her that the blessing is a special event to honor her and that she might enjoy it. She settled down and returned to where Linda stood in line. When it was her turn, Taylor stepped up to the priest, who looked amused. He leaned over and gently touched Taylor's forehead while offering a blessing that brought tears to Linda's eyes. He said, ŒMay the God who made you bless and keep you.' Taylor solemnly accepted the gift with her eyes wide open and her tongue hanging out.

"As Linda and Taylor left the line, a woman with a thick European accent said, ŒShe will always be with you now.' And so she will. Our love for each other is the forever kind."

Be like Herb Sam and the Ojibwe tribe: Bless the animals and your sacred connection with them, not only on special occasions, but every day.

Allen and Linda Anderson are founders of the Angel Animals Network and authors of a series of books published by New World Library about the spiritual connection between people and animals. "Angel Dogs with a Mission: Divine Messengers in Service to All Life" is their tenth book in the Angel Animals series published by New World Library. It contains a story by Lisa LaVerdiere about Home for Life's Renaissance project where at-risk teens train dogs to serve the community. Subscribe to the free, online newsletter at www.angelanimals.net and participate in the Angel Animals forum and blog.

 


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