Therapy Dogs Honored at Blessing Event
St. Joseph of the Pines' (SJP) therapy dog population was honored, along with their owners, when the health care organization hosted the third annual Blessing of the Therapy Dogs in honor of the Feast Day of Saint Francis of Assisi.
On Friday, Oct. 3, small dogs like Winston the Bichon and Percy the Welch Corgi, ran free alongside large ones like Darby the Doberman, Bambi the Collie/Golden Retriever mix, and Labrador retrievers named Blue, Zeus and Lizzy, the latter being the adored canine of the Rev. James Labosky.
Labosky officiated at the event with the Rev. Carl Naylor, director of pastoral care and mission services for SJP. Linda Hubbard, Moore County Community Schools volunteer coordinator, addressed the group, praising the work and contribution of the dogs and their handlers and explaining the relationship some of them also have with the school system's Canine Assisted Reading Education (C.A.R.E.) program, part of Luther and Friends Canine Visitors Bureau.
There was Logan the Australian cattle dog, Friday, the pooch named for Good Friday -- the day she was rescued from the ruins of a hurricane, and guest dogs Max and Toots, therapy dogs in the making.
While this year's attendance of the volunteers and their dogs measured fewer than that of last year's event, the garden of Therapy Village beckoned many residents from the therapy unit to observe and partake in the reception catered by the Belle Meade dining staff. Special invited guests included Charity Blanchard's class for autistic children from Southern Pines Primary School.
Saint Francis of Assisi lived a simple life of poverty, and gained a reputation for being the friend of animals.
"The SJP service of Blessing of the Therapy Dogs reminds us of the values Saint Francis held," says Naylor. "The service allowed the caregivers of the therapy dogs to recognize the importance of the nonhuman members of their families and their blessedness to God. The bond between person and pet is like no other relationship because the communication between fellow creatures is at its most basic. Eye-to-eye, a person and his or her dog are two creatures of love. In such a service as the Third Annual SJP Blessing of the Therapy Dogs, the rehabilitation garden became a sacred place where the bond of creation was celebrated."
Continuing, Naylor says, "Some people criticize the amount and cost of care given to pets, and certainly our needy fellow humans should not be neglected. However, I believe every creature is important. The love we give to a pet, and receive from a pet, can draw us more deeply into the larger circle of life, into the wonder of our common relationship to our Creator."
St. Joseph residents, patients and associates enjoy the services of 14 certified therapy dogs. The program, under the volunteer services department, has gained the respect and admiration of other top officials at St. Joseph of the Pines.
"While there is a certain level of good-natured fun in this event, it is indeed a blessing to have such a program that lifts the spirits of those in our Health Center and Coventry," says Ken Cormier, president and CEO. "Most people are warmed by the unconditional love of a pet, and it has been rewarding to see the smiles on our residents' faces."
St. Joseph of the Pines is sponsored by the Sisters of Providence and is a member of Catholic Health East. It includes the Health Center, Belle Meade, Pine Knoll Overlook and Villas, Coventry, Therapy Village and the affordable senior living communities of Providence Place.
Jeralie Andrews is the volunteer director at St. Joseph of the Pines.
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