Blessed are the beasts

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Helen Franklin sits with her dog Marleigh and her grandsons, Seth (right) and Abe Clark on Thursday afternoon at St. Peter's School during the annual animal blessing.

Dogs, turtles, rabbits, oh my!

St. Peter’s Catholic School in South Beloit looked more like a dog park on Thursday afternoon as dozens of students and their parents brought in pets for the annual Blessing of the Animals.

Dogs weren’t the only animals to show up. Dozens of family pets including a turtle, several guinea pigs and rabbits stopped by.

Father Robert McClellan officiated the blessing and began with a prayer.

“God created our animals,” he said. “Everything God created he loved.”

Five-year-old Aniah Schaffer brought her dog, Scout, to be blessed.

“I think it’s really cool,” she said.

Her mother, Regan Chester, said Aniah had been sick for a few days, but still begged to bring in Scout so he could be blessed. Scout was the first animal to be blessed by Father McClellan.

St. Peter’s Principal Ed O’Brien said the animals can tell when the blessing will start.

“You’ll notice that they will get very quite and still,” he told the students. “They know something special is happening.”

The Blessing of the Animals started over 800 years ago when St. Francis of Assisi blessed a wolf that was eating people’s animals.

Rockton residents Melissa and Steve Tallacksen brought their two dogs, Ty and Ruger, to the school along with their daughter, Sophia, and son, Drew.

Melissa said she had always wanted to go to an animal blessing, but didn’t know of one that was so close.

“They’ve always been in Chicago,” Melissa said, whose son attends the school. “We were really excited when we found out that it was happening here.”

O’Brien said animals are important to families and become part of the family.

“Animals are nonjudgmental,” he said. “They love us when we are having good and bad days.”

In the past, O’Brien said animals were vital to human’s survival.

“They did all the work on the farms,” he said.

Thirteen-year-old Thomas Risseeuw’s dog, Red, has been blessed five times in the last five years.

“I bring him every time,” he said. “I think it’s pretty awesome.”

After the prayer, Father McClellan went around the room and blessed each animal with a douse of holy water.

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