All faiths and species welcome: the blessing of the animals in New York

Wunderdog New York editor Tiffany Hagler-Geard attended the most wonderful service of the year, alongside rescue dogs, police horses, llamas, cats and bunnies

Even by New York standards, seeing over 700 animals hanging out in the pews and aisles of a church on a Sunday is somewhat unusual. Barks and meows echoed down the altar at Christ Church on the Upper East Side, in New York City, on 3 December 2017 in the ninth annual blessing of the animals ceremony.

Baby Cici and her owner were so honoured to be blessed by Reverend Leslie Houseworth-Fields, who also seemed so honoured to meet Baby Cici; above: Max Cocker-Spaniel brushed his ears and put on his best tie for church. He was so excited that he came early, took a pew and greeted everyone with equal enthusiasm (all photos and copyright: Tiffany Hagler-Geard)

Every year, the procession of animals sees humans bringing their furry – and sometimes feathered – friends to the church to have them blessed for the holiday season. The ceremony is held inside the cathedral and there are no reservations, no RSVPs. Every pet owner is welcomed. All religions were welcomed, too in the service lead by New York City Senior Minister Rev Dr Stephen Bauman of Christ Church, Rev Leslie Houseworth-Fields and Central Synagogue Rabbi Emeritus Peter J Rubinstein.

The Humane Society of New York (HSNY) kicked off the ceremony with four dogs, ready for adoption, alongside the NYPD and its k-9 unit. The city’s police force also brought the horses from its mounted unit to be blessed (outside, presumably because hooves and church floors don’t mix). Apart from dogs of all shapes and sizes, cats were also spotted, and even a few llamas, goats, pigs and bunnies stood in line together for the blessing. And since this is a church, they all got on very well.

Harris, a young Siberian husky waiting for adoption at the Humane Society of New York, was one of the first dogs to be blessed. He is now an even better boy, ready for his new home
Eight-months-old Ivy was also here with her HSNY human. The puppy was rescued from hurricane Harvey and is looking for a new home. In a sign of what a good girl she is, Ivy dressed for the occasion
This is Patrick the bunny. Since it’s not Easter, Patrick had tiime off work, so he was able to enjoy church and shed some fur on his loving owner
“We met in this church,” Dunkin, the golden labrador, and Ming Ming, the maltese, will be able to say when they are married here in the new year
If Balto could talk, the stories! The 10-year-old German shepherd is a retired police dog. He loved getting his incredibly soft ears rubbed by anyone who succumbed to his gentle smile
Some of Balto’s colleagues still in work came with their NYPD humans. The k-9 unit could hardly contain their excitment, greeting everyone on the way to the altar
Nugget’s human decided instead of dressing the dog, he’d dress up himself in colours matching his beautiful hound
The llamas decided one can never be too blessed: both New York City Senior Minister Rev Dr Stephen Bauman of Christ Church and Central Synagogue Rabbi Emeritus Peter J Rubinstein blessed them
This little piggy came to church in a festive green harness. Christmas really has come early
The NYPD horses accepted their blessings with the same calm and dignity with which they patrol the streets
Back to the dogs. Buttercup was ready to meet Rabbi Rubinstein in his Chanukah outfit, while Sadie donned her Sunday best
Buttercup was already blessed with the virtue of patience before he arrived
Violet is a 16-year-old papillon who had to stay in her carrier as her kidneys were not doing so well. We hope she got blessed by all
Another golden oldie, Madison, is a blind and deaf maltese, who used to understand sign language before she lost her eyesight. She still made an effort and dressed in her pink sweater
Many happy returns for these three rescues from the HSNY: Grover, Darla and Baby Dumpling attended the blessing for the third time

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