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Blessing of the pets in Woodhaven

When Emanuel United Church of Christ held its first Blessing of the Pets over a decade ago, officials said they just wanted to do something nice.
“There are so many bad things going on in the world, and this is one of the few nice ones,” said church secretary Pam Steffens.
The church, located at Woodhaven Boulevard and 91st Avenue in Woodhaven, held its 2007 Blessing on Saturday, September 15, and locals came out in droves. From Dalmatians to hamsters, residents brought their furry friends to the church steps, where Pastor Toni Walrond wished them long life, good health and happiness.
Walrond said she enjoyed the blessing, though she does not consider herself an “animal person.”
“I had a wonderful time,” said Walrond. “We’re all stewards of God’s earth. This is a good opportunity to remind ourselves of that.”
Each animal received a slightly different blessing, the pastor said. For Mimi, a six-week-old shih tzu, Walrond asked for good health and general blessings “however God deems is appropriate.”
“I just want her to have a long, healthy, fruitful life,” said Mimi’s owner, Dawn Cardona of Woodhaven.
Cardona said she saw a sign for the event the day before, and decided on a whim to attend. Some pet owners, though, had more serious reasons for bringing their animals to the blessing.
Evelyn Walther-Forest, of Glendale, brought her dog, 11-year-old Joey, to Emanuel to pray for healing. After rupturing a disk in his spinal column last month, Joey is partially paralyzed. He is able to walk using a roller to support his back legs.
“He’s been going for acupuncture and physical therapy,” said Walther-Forest. “We’re just trying to get him to walk again. Yesterday he started feeling something in one of his toes, and that’s new, so we’re staying optimistic…he’s still a happy dog.”
Woodhaven resident Madelyn Roesch brought Rufus T. Firefly, a 12-year-old part-Dalmatian who is named after a Groucho Marx character, to the blessing for the 11th time.
Roesch found Rufus as a stray who had been hit by a car and abandoned on the road. After surgery that left him with a fake hip, Rufus is doing just fine, Roesch said.
“I bring him here because I figure we all need a little help, even animals,” she explained.
Victor and Maria Demenescu, of Middle Village, brought their three-month-old cat, Shadow, to the blessing.
“He came into our backyard on the 4th of July,” said Maria. “He was a stray, so we spent our 4th of July in the vet’s office and ultimately adopted him.”
The Demenescus said they pray for Shadow’s good health, while John and Delores Rosato hoped the blessing would convince their year-old cat, Zo, not to run away.
“We don’t want her to go anywhere,” said John Rosato. “We want her to be a good companion, and to provide our family with a lot of fun for many years.”
Beyond cats and dogs, the blessing included a fish and a hamster. According to Walrond, however, when it comes to offering blessings, an animal’s size doesn’t matter. “We’re all God’s creatures,” Walrond said. “We have to learn to share the earth.

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