On the sweltering morning of July 7, approximately 30 dogs — 9 small dogs and 18 big dogs — and their human companions, plus one reporter, gathered in a shady park across the street from Our Lady of the Isle Church for the annual “Blessing of the Pets” ceremony.
Some dogs were very enthusiastic about the event. The red labrador Comet tugged at his owner’s leash during all the commotion. A tradition for close to 20 years, the ceremony involves an individual blessing for each pet, a group blessing for all of the pets, and lots of prizes, which range from “shortest legs” to “best tail wagger.”
For the English bulldog Rupert, it was a struggle staying upright in the hot sun as his owners fed him a bottle of water. Father Peter DeSanctis, the pastor of Our Lady of the Isle, walked around the park greeting pet owners and sprinkling their dogs with holy water.
“Every dog gets a prize,” Father DeSanctis called out as he encouraged everyone to register their dogs.
The event is ecumenical, open to both members and non-members of Our Lady of the Isle. It was organized by parishioners Betsy Auricchio and Bill Seeberg, who explained that the blessing ceremony marks the Feast of Saint Francis, who is the patron saint of ecology and animals. It is traditionally held on October 4, but Our Lady of the Isle holds it in July to accommodate the people who come to Shelter Island in the summer.
As the pastor sprinkled holy water on the pets, he asked the Lord’s help for them. The blessing directly applies to the pet owners. Father DeSanctis also blessed the attending children, “who were of God’s love being here.”