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From wallaby to poodle, pets blessed in annual celebration

By KBell
Oct. 4, 2011 at 5:04 a.m.

Conner Horelka, 10, holds Boomer the wallaby after it was blessed by the Rev. Stan DeBoe at Nazareth Academy on Tuesday. Asked why she had Boomer blessed, Horelka laughed and shrugged.

ABOUT ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI

Each Oct. 4, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and ecology, is celebrated. The day includes a pet blessing.

St. Francis was born in Italy around 1182 and died in 1226.

St. Francis is said to have received the stigmata, or the wounds of Christ.

He founded the religious order known as the Franciscans and was named a saint two years after his death.

Source: www.encyclopedia.com

With holy water in one hand and a leash bridling two dogs on the other, Our Lady of Sorrows' the Rev. Stan DeBoe prayed above the faint clamor of dozens of animals gathered on the Nazareth Academy playground.

"Lord, we ask that you bless these pets that we bring here today because they're a sign of your love and a reminder that we are one with all of creation that you have given us," DeBoe said.

Dozens of cats, dogs big and small, and at least one guinea pig flocked for the annual blessing of the pets in honor of the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and ecology. From poodles to Chihuahuas to house cats, each furry head received a splash of holy water on Tuesday.

"It's just a reminder these are gifts from God. They're really wonderful companions," DeBoe said, his dogs Betty and Chuy by his side. "They bring out a sense of play, but also a responsibility to care for them."

Cue Boomer the wallaby.

Boomer practically jumped straight from his mother's pouch to the satchel, alternating between the bellies of her new caretakers, 10-year-old twins Conner and Callee Horelka.

Their mother, Jill Horelka, said the family brought home the 8-month-old wallaby - a relative of the kangaroo - simply because they were looking for a more exotic pet that would fit in with their two dogs and one cat.

"He goes wherever we go. He just hangs out," Horelka said. "He can sleep with you in bed. He's just very snuggly."

Indeed, Boomer rested on his back, looking cool and calm in his new pouch, while DeBoe spritzed him with holy water. The tiny creature then leaned his head back into the dozens of hands petting his soft fur.

Horelka said the family always attends the blessing of the pets, but this year was particularly important with their new addition.

"He's new and fragile. (We brought him) so he's blessed and off to a good start. We've got a long ways to go to take care of him," she said.

With Boomer, the girls and their teenage brother are learning a bit of that responsibility DeBoe spoke about. The family will have to bottle feed him for another six to eight months and will have to take care of him when he grows out of that satchel - as large as three feet tall.

Callee, though, was ready for the challenge.

"I was so excited. I really wanted to hold it and bottle feed it," she said. "I check on him like every minute."

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