The Rev. Ann Kruger has a broad definition of the word “pet.”

At a Blessings of the Animals service she performed in Florida, one child brought a “pet” caterpillar.”All kinds of pets appear, but you just bless them and love them all,” Kruger said.

Kruger, rector of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Fincastle will conduct a blessing service Sunday at Read Mountain Animal Hospital. Dr. David Bruce, the clinic’s owner, is a member of St. Mark’s.

The service will consist of a short blessing, sprinkling of holy water and laying on of hands for each animal. Kruger has conducted several blessing services but never at an animal hospital. At others, pet owners have brought their animals to the church.Kruger said it’s important to bless animals because they “reflect God’s grace. They love us unconditionally.”

The service is four days after St. Francis of Assisi’s Saint Day. “St Francis had a special relationship with animals, so it’s appropriate that we would do this close to this day,” Kruger said. Bruce has a similar rapport with animals, she said.

The veterinarian experienced his first “blessing” service while living in Charlottesville. A friend in Orange County blessed his hounds before fox-hunting season.Bruce and his wife liked the idea. After opening Read Mountain, they decided to have a similar service for their patients and church friends. “People receive blessings all the time, and we shouldn’t leave animals out of that,” he said.

Since Read Mountain is a small animal hospital, the Bruces are inviting companion animals, including dogs, cats, birds and guinea pigs. Even snakes are welcomed.With such a broad range of animals, Kruger said she is expecting a rowdy crowd.”You never know what’s going to happen when your congregation includes cats and dogs.”

The above was reproduced from The Roanoke Times, October 5, 2000 by Hunter Armstrong.