HURST — Big Red moved methodically through the grass. She waited patiently for anointing to start.
Her owner, Bill Reisch, watched her, making sure that she was always within distance. Big Red is a 20-year-old, red-footed tortoise that has been attending these blessings for a while now.
“We have five tortoises, and we always bring her to represent the others. We love our tortoises. We’ve had them for 40 years,” Reisch said.
Love surrounded this village of believers as they prepared for the anointing of their pets around the gazebo in the Village Plaza in Hurst. The air was crisp yet war, signifying a warmth in the hearts of the community members. Their pets were well-behaved as if they understood the magnitude and seriousness of the moment.
“The world is hungry for God’s love, and what better manifestation of love but that of the animals who love us unconditionally?” said Katie Sherrod, spokeswoman for The Episcopal Church in North Texas, which held the annual pet blessing at various churches in Tarrant County.
Christians around the world celebrate the Feast of St. Francis on Oct. 4. Churches bless animals and pray for them in remembrance of St. Francis of Assisi and his love for all sentient beings.
The Rev. Allison Liles of the St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church was in charge of the blessing as she facilitated through the small program they had. Liles blessed and anointed every pet that showed up at the event.
“We love it. We hear about people’s pets all the time as a small church, and so a lot of the people here are older that have kids who’ve left the house so these (pets) are their children,” Liles said. “It’s a time for them to worship with their little kids.”
Along with Big Red, nine pets attended the blessing. Most of them were dogs. Another was a tortoiseshell cat named Mocha that was situated in a small blue backpack with a spherical window.
Greg Oswled brought Mocha because he wanted to be a part of the community.
“I bring my pet every year to be a part of the community. I like being involved and doing the things that St. Stephen’s are able to do,” Oswled said.
This joy and sense of belonging was shared among all the community members, who were enthused to see each other as they interacted and shared stories about their pets.
Shannon Singer brought a poodle named Beau Monde, which means new beginnings and good seasons.
“My pets are my family, he brings great blessing to my life, and I want to give him every blessing for his life,” Singer said. “He’s 12 years old, so he’s not a puppy anymore, but he’s in good health, and I wanted him blessed so that he could stay in good health.”
Fort Worth Report fellow Sederick Oliver can be reached at email@example.com. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.