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DRACUT — All was quiet in the church as the Rev. Sylvia Robinson gently ran her finger down the slope of a tiny cold nose and softly whispered a prayer. But just as Robinson began to pull her finger back, a scratchy pink tongue managed to swipe one good lick of the blessing oil off the tip of her hand.

The owner of the hungry tongue, Christa, a 10-year-old Rottweiler-shepherd mix, was one of 35 animals to receive a blessing from Robinson and the Rev. Larry Zimmerman at the Christ Church United on Oct. 22.

“We’ve been doing the blessing of the animals service for about 15 years,” said Robinson. “It’s to honor all of God’s creatures.”

Zimmerman and Robinson opened the service with a brief prayer, followed by words from the scripture and an individual blessing for each animal.

Though Zimmerman said the tradition of a blessing the pets is typically practiced in Catholic and Episcopalian churches, since people of all religious backgrounds have pets, he thought it would be a good idea to open the event to everyone.

“The service is in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi, who was an environmentalist and animal lover,” said Robinson. “A lot of churches coincide the event with the Feast of Saint Francis and hold the blessing on the first Sunday in October.”

About 75 pet owners filled the church for the service. A total of 23 dogs, eight cats, three rabbits, one bird and even two hermit crabs left with blessings.

For Karen Brown of Dracut and her daughter Gabrielle, 5, the experience was everything they’d hoped for. Sammy and Rose, two creatively painted hermit crabs, are the family’s only pets. Gabrielle had her heart set on having a critter of her own. With a very busy life, the crabs were a perfect compromise for the family.

“We’re members of the church, but it’s our first time coming to the blessing of the pets ceremony,” said Brown. “It’s a lot of fun and Gabrielle is really enjoying it.”

Trixi the dwarf bunny wiggled her nose in thanks as she received a much- awaited blessing. Her owner, Kati Merlino of Dracut, said she wanted everyone to have a chance to see her furry little pet.

“Usually kids bring in dogs or cats, so I wanted to bring my pet in,” said Merlino.

Skittles, a toy fox terrier, and Jake, a rat terrier, were running circles around their owner, Kathy Kelley of Dracut. They were both very excited to be in the church and made a point to greet every dog that came within leash-length of their territory with a big sniff and a bark.

“My husband has a Harley Davidson and takes it to the blessing of the bikes every year,” said Kelley. “And he thinks I am nuts for bringing my dogs to this.”

Members of the MSPCA spoke to animal lovers about caring for their pets and offered contact information. Virginia O’Neill, Dracut’s animal control officer, asked owners to call with questions about any type of animals. “We deal with any animals imaginable, so please feel free to call,” she said.

“This was definitely the largest turnout we’ve had so far,” said Robinson. “We are very pleased to have so many people come down to have their pets blessed; they are all creatures of God.”

Have a story idea? Contact Heidi Smith at 978-970-4653 or e-mail at hsmith@thevalleydispatch.com.