Susan Hervey has been bringing her dogs to Maple Grove United Methodist Church's Blessing of the Animals event for years.

"One of them truly needs a blessing," she joked. "He's in good health, but I don't know about him sometimes."

Hervey also helps, as part of a team of church members and staff, with the planning of the annual event, which will mark its 18th year Sunday, Oct. 13.

The nontraditional gathering will begin at 2 p.m. in the church's fellowship hall, 7 W. Henderson Road.

"It's a fun event, but we treat it as sacred at the same time, with a reverence for the important place pets hold in our lives, that pets are a gift and a blessing," Assistant Minister Cathy Davis said. "It's casual and holy all at once."

A simple liturgy, which includes prayer and the reading of Scripture, is followed by the optional laying on of hands for each animal. The service is kept short, though Hervey said she can't recall an incident in which an animal wasn't well-behaved.

Water bowls and bags for accidental droppings will be available. The church also provides a few free gifts for those in attendance.

The service is open to the community.

"We encourage anybody of any walk of faith, or no walk of faith, to come," Davis said.

"Pet owners enjoy gathering with other pet owners," Hervey said. "If you have a pet and you love them, you're welcome."

The event is open to the full spectrum of pets. Davis said the event has blessed rabbits, snakes and other reptiles, even hedgehogs.

"We don't discriminate," Davis said.

The church will collect items in support of Lifecare Alliance's Senior PetCare program during the event.

Karen Pelley, who is coordinating this year's Blessing of the Animals, said the program was started because Lifecare Alliance volunteers were seeing their Meals on Wheels recipients sharing or giving the meals to their pets.

A list of items sought is available at lifecarealliance.org.

For more information about the Blessing of the Animals, call 614-262-1163.

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