Pet Tales: Church services to bless animals

This is the time of year when many churches and religious denominations are blessing animals to celebrate the feast day of St. Francis, the patron saint of animals.

Animals have apparently come a long way in the church since the 1950s when a Franciscan nun told me and my classmates that animals do not have souls and, therefore, cannot go to heaven.

I prefer the view of the humorist Will Rogers, who is widely quoted as saying, "If there are no dogs in heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went."

The most ecumenical animal event I've ever seen will be held today in a tent outside the Journeys of Life bookstore, 810 Bellefonte St. in Shadyside. The fourth annual Celebration and Blessing of Animals benefits the Animal Rescue League Shelter and Wildlife Center. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., the blessings are Hindu, Muslim and non-denominational. From 1 to 3 p.m. the blessings are Buddhist, Jewish and Sikh. From 3 to 5 p.m., it's Baha'i, Christian and Native American. Other activities include pet psychics, pet products, grooming, children's crafts and food.

While the celebration is free, donations for ARL would be appreciated -- dog and cat food, blankets, towels and money. Sponsors are the bookstore and Heal from Pet Loss, with licensed counselor Karen Litzinger signing copies of her CD.

And here's a nice touch: The animals in the ARL shelter in Larimer will all be blessed by Gerald Akrie, an AME Zion minister and director of Pittsburgh's Animal Care and Control. City "dog catchers" take strays to that shelter.

In Mt. Lebanon, "all dogs, cats and other pets are invited to bring their people" to the annual animal blessing during the 8:45 a.m. service Sunday at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, corner of Mayfair Drive and Washington Road.

Our cocker spaniel, Pablo, has been blessed at that service, and all of the pets are on their best behavior, with no barking or accidents at past blessings. Those who don't want to worship with their animals can have pets blessed on the lawn at about noon, following the 10:45 a.m. service.

Church members are thinking about less fortunate animals, collecting cat and dog food, paper towels, bleach, old towels and small blankets for Angel Ridge Animal Rescue in Washington County. They're collecting money for the McDowell County, W.Va., animal shelter, where church youth did mission work last summer.

In Upper St. Clair, there's a blessing at 2 p.m. Sunday in the south parking lot at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 2040 Washington Road. Bad weather would move blessings to the gym. Bring proof of up-to-date vaccinations. Pets should be on leashes or in carriers.

Pink, black and gold

Deck your dogs in costumes and take them to Hartwood Acres in Hampton and Indiana Township on Sunday for the Fourth Annual Paws for the Cure Dog Walk. Registration is at 9:30 a.m.; dog contests ($5 entry fee) start at 10:30 am., including best pink costume, best Steelers costume and best dressed dog; the 1-mile walk begins at 11:30 a.m.; raffle prizes are drawn at 12:15 p.m.; the closing ceremony is at 12:45 p.m. Last year, more than 700 dogs and 900 people participated.

The event is presented by the Pittsburgh Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. It's $25 for adults and $15 for children age 17 and younger.

The first 1,000 people who register get a Paws for the Cure T-shirt.

For more information, go to or call 412-342-0500.

Festival of pugs

Like pugs? Many of the smashed-faced little dogs will be cavorting -- some in costume -- at the annual Pugtoberfest next Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., at Kunkle Park, 285 Pine Run Church, Apollo (15613).

Contests start at noon, including curliest tail, best trick, best costume, and best pug and owner look-alike. There will be vendors, food and auctions. The news release says "non-pugs" are welcome to attend.

Suggested attendance donation is $5. Proceeds benefit Southwest PA Pugs with Special Needs and Guardian Angels Pug Rescue.

Pooch parade

The Myasthenia Gravis Association of Western Pennsylvania invites dog lovers to the fourth annual Pooch Parade & Picnic at Ethelbert Shelter in South Park on Oct. 14.

Registration is at 9 a.m. The 1-mile parade/dog walk starts at 10 a.m. at the county's dog park next to the shelter, which is off Corrigan Drive. The picnic starts at noon.

Registration is $25 for the first dog and person and $10 for a second dog. People who pre-register at get a sweatshirt, goody bag and dog bandanna

A costume contest awards prizes for best dog and best dog/owner combo costumes. There will be vendors and raffles for gift baskets, Steelers tickets and a Myrtle Beach vacation. Hot dogs and beverages will be provided. Walkers are asked to bring a covered dish to share.

Proceeds benefit the 500 persons who receive life-improving care at the local MGA. Myasthenia gravis is a chronic autoimmune disorder that causes muscle weakness.

Feral Cat Day

National Feral Cat Day is Oct. 16, and Animal Friends is celebrating by offering low-cost spays and neuters for feral cats. Surgery space is limited, so feral colony caretakers should go to to apply.

Pet Tales appears weekly in the Saturday Home & Garden section. Linda Wilson Fuoco: or 412-263-3064. Got a pet health question? Email it to It may be answered in an upcoming Pet Points column by veterinarians at the Point Breeze Veterinary Clinic.