All God’s Critters: A Blessing of the Animals

J. H. Osborne • Oct 4, 2019 at 1:48 PM

This Sunday, First Broad Street United Methodist Church will again host All God’s Critters: A Blessing of the Animals Celebration on Church Circle in downtown Kingsport.

Current and former ministers from First Broad will bless both you and your pet(s) from 2 p.m. to 2:45 p.m., when a brief service led by Rev. Misti McCreary will conclude the celebration.


• This will happen on the lawn between the church building and East Church Circle. Streets surrounding the church will be closed to traffic, but First Broad parking lots will be accessible.

• All God’s critters, large and small, are welcome. Dogs should be on their leashes, cats in carriers, and other animals contained as appropriate. Stuffed animals, a photograph of a pet, or an article belonging to a pet (such as a horse’s bridle or a cow’s bell) also may be blessed.

• Don’t currently have a pet? Event organizers say come anyway and share in the excitement of wagging tails, contented purrs, and joyful tweeting. Bring your phones or cameras to capture photos of your pet. Goodie bags will be available for pets.

Me, Mom, dogs and cats

I’m in that “don’t currently have a pet” group. But I’ve been to All God’s Critters before and thoroughly enjoyed just being a spectator. Seeing mention of the event in the church bulletin did get me to thinking about how many pets I and my family have had over the course of my nearly 57 years. The list is longer than I realized. We’ve mostly had dogs. I better back up and point out Mom thinks she has two cats (I know they have her). They’re outside cats and each showed up as strays. Mom, of course, fed them and they stuck around. That was several years ago. She’s been able to keep them thanks to the generosity of an animal-loving friend who has footed the bills to keep them up to date on shots and other medical care. Mom clearly has a bond with the cats. But it’s different than bonds she’s had with dogs we’ve had over the years, especially “inside” dogs who were members of the family. So far, the cats have not bonded with me. Well, one recently let me pet it.

Before the cats arrived, my last dog and I had moved back in with Mom and Dad after Dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Daisy, a rambunctious but sweet Cocker Spaniel, already was a favored “child” of both my parents. She only  became more so after she and I moved back in and she became Dad’s constant companion all day while I was at work. And then she got very sick and was gone in less than 48 hours. Through sobs Mom told me never to bring another dog home again as long as she’s alive because she can’t go through losing another one. As my last dog, Daisy will always hold a special place in my heart. But so will all the others who came before.

Taking our pets for a blessing would not have occurred to us as something one does. But I often gave thanks for my pets, especially my/our dogs. This week it hit me that the “blessing of the animals” can be interpreted two ways. There’s the act of a minister saying a blessing over a pet. Then there’s the blessing, from God, of the animals He sends into our lives.

My first dog (was not a bear cub ... and could not fly)

Tippy came from “the pound.” He was a puppy. I was whatever comes after toddler. We sort of grew up together, apparently sharing vivid imaginations or over confidence in our abilities. He got his name because despite his rich, thick, shiny black coat, the tip of his long tail was white. That didn’t take much imagination but is instead much more practical and logical. So I’ll blame my older siblings, Pamela and Keith, for Tippy’s name. We had a large fenced yard. But Tippy was an escape artist and loved to run to nearby Borden Park as much as we did. This was at the time in our lives when we typically made a weekly trip to “the country,” to visit my maternal grandparents and various aunts, uncles and cousins in rural Lee County, Va. My parents had a brainstorm: wouldn’t it be great to take Tippy with us and watch him run over the hills and through the fields and streams of the family farms!

So one weekend Tippy was loaded into the bed of Dad’s ‘49 pickup truck (along with my siblings and maybe some neighbor kids) for a trip to Blackwater. Turns out, my grandparents’ dog wasn’t happy to see another dog on his turf, so we moved up the road and around the ridge to my Uncle Jack’s. And that’s where Tippy got his first look at free-range chickens. What entailed seemed like a Looney Tunes cartoon come to life. Tippy’s eyes seemed to momentarily telescope outside their sockets and his salivating tongue appeared to extend to the ground as he looked at those chickens. And I knew, from watching said cartoons, he was seeing fried drumsticks. The chickens ran. So did he. They went down the hill and came back up. They ran across the road and up a hill, disappearing into woods and undergrowth on the knoll above the curve in the road directly across from Uncle Jack’s driveway. Then the chickens burst out of the bushes running toward the top of the embankment separating the knoll from the gravel roadbed below. Tippy was in hot pursuit. As the chickens spread their wings and glided down from the knoll, Tippy kept running ... straight out into the air. Keith stills swears for a few seconds Tippy stayed suspended midair, feet still moving but not going anywhere, like Wile E. Coyote chasing Road Runner, before he belly-flopped onto the road. It knocked the breath out of him, but Dad ran to his aid and had Tippy up and walking in no time. After that, he settled under a shade tree and drank from a bowl of cool water placed nearby. So, he couldn’t fly. But, hey, he tried.

I do not ever remember thinking or even play pretending that Tippy was a bear cub. But I have always had an affinity for bears. So maybe that’s how it started. I do not recall. “It” is my alleged bragging to a fellow first-grader at Lincoln Elementary that I had a pet black bear. One day after the dismissal bell rang I walked to the family car, an army green 1967 Dodge Dart, with Mom at the wheel, and climbed in the front seat (my brother and older boys from the neighborhood would soon fill the backseat).  “Have you been telling people you have a black bear at home?” Mom asked. No answer from me. She went on to tell me another mom had come over to the car to say her son, my classmate, had been begging to come visit us so he could see my pet black bear cub. “I told her you don’t have a bear, but they are welcome to come play with the dog.”

You know what? They never came. Anyway, in hindsight, I wish I’d had known of an opportunity to have had each of my pets blessed. But especially Tippy.

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