GENEVA – Like most older dogs, Lucky, a 15-year-old Bichon Frise, is having some health issues.
Owner Mike McDonnell of Geneva thought Lucky could use a blessing or two, which is why brought him to the lawn of the Old Courthouse in downtown Geneva on Sunday for St. Mark's Episcopal Church's sixth annual Blessing of the Animals ceremony.
"I'm hoping it will give him a few more years," McDonnell said.
Accompanying Lucky was McDonnell's other dog, Pudge, a Lhasapoo. He was grateful to be bringing Pudge to the event.
"He got away from us last Thanksgiving," McDonnell said. "We found him later at an animal shelter in Aurora. It was the longest night of our lives. We thought we had lost him."
The event also celebrated the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, known as the patron saint of animals and the environment.
"He loved nature so much," said the Rev. Mark Tusken senior pastor at St. Mark's, who offered blessings to the animals along with the Rev. Claudia Nalven, assistant rector at St. Mark's. "It's a great day to give thanks to our pets for the love they offer us."
Jan Risch's 11-year-old Golden Retriever, Boomer, dutifully sat in front of her as Nalven wished the well-behaved dog good health and other blessings.
"We have so much joy with our animals," Risch said. "He's a good boy. He's rather shy."
Although the majority of animals that Nalven blessed on Sunday were dogs, she also gave blessings to a cat and even a turtle.
"People love their animals," Nalven said. "For some people, pets are part of their family."
Nalven herself owns a 10-year-old rescue dog.
"I love animals and I love the opportunity to pray for people I haven't met before," Nalven said.