Photo by Peggy Sturdivant
Canon Britt Olson with Sally and Olive Royal with Ink by the Leaves of Remembrance.

At Large In Ballard: Four-legged Blessings

By Peggy Sturdivant

I thought my student Olive Royal was kidding when she said she’d have a dog with her at our meeting. She was not. I perked up when I met the dog.

The dog with Olive had the head of a black Labrador on a Corgi’s body. The dog has paws that turn out and make him look like he’s a seal out of water. His name is Ink.

“We have a dog date,” I told Olive.

By coincidence I’d arranged with Canon Britt Olsonat St. Luke’s Episcopal to photograph her puppy Sally. I was planning to write about the Blessing of the Animals scheduled for Sunday, October 2, 2016 at Ballard Commons.

Sally also has the head of a black Labrador, but on the legs of a greyhound. Their mismatched match-up was perfect.

It was the ultimate dog frolic. Ink and Sally. Sunshine. Ballard Commons. One short. One tall. Both with sleek black coats.

St. Francis of Assisi is the Patron Saint of Animals. His Saint Day is October 4th, generally celebrated on the closest Sunday. Given the location of St. Luke’s across from Ballard commons Canon Britt decided to use the occasion as a way to activate the park. St. Luke’s is co-sponsoring the blessing of the animals with Pangea Community; they hold their services in St. Luke’s Chapel.

I stood with Britt near the knoll and pictured an audience of animals, listening raptly rather than cavorting like Sally and Ink. .

“You should invite the police horses,” I said, “and the K-9 units.” She was already ahead of me.

St. Luke’s is not the only church welcoming the animals on October 2nd. Ballard First Lutheran on 65th NW has a longstanding tradition of welcoming “the four-legged and other Godly creatures” as they phrase it in their newsletter. Children are also invited to bring a stuffed animal to participate in the procession as part of their 10 a.m. service.

Meanwhile over at Ballard Commons Park at 11:30 a.m. all creatures are welcome to receive a blessing (holy water and treats) on St. Francis Day, “whether they have fur, feathers, scales or just skin.” (The creatures are respectfully asked to come with their leashes, cages or carriers for their own safety and comfort). St. Luke’s will also have a sermon of remembrance for pets loved and lost.

Immediately after the blessing of the animals there will be a Homeless Remembrance Leaf Dedication. The leaves are embedded in the sidewalk along NW 58th. This gives a place of remembrance to those lost on the streets in the last year with “the installation of a leaf bearing each name, so that every person will have a place to be remembered.”

Canon Britt Olson has been at St. Luke’s almost two years now. She will celebrate being named permanent Vicar at St. Luke’s by the Episcopal Bishop on November 10th. Although there are still many churches in Ballard, it’s true that none is more central to downtown than St. Luke’s across from the library and Ballard Commons, hence Britt’s sense of being Vicar to downtown Ballard.

The losses on the streets have also been personal. When Gary Oaks died of pneumonia in the alley by the Johnny’s Shoe Repair Canon Britt was asked to come and bless him on his way.

Sunday, October 2nd will be for remembrance, and celebration. On this St. Francis Day in Ballard there will multiple opportunities for the animals to be blessed, and their humans to remember they’re blessed with their presence. From Ink’s short legs to Sally’s long ones, from pets that slither to those that fly. It’s their day too.

Many of Ballard’s churches will be offering Blessing for the Animals on Sunday, October 2, 2016, times vary. The outdoor service at Ballard Commons starts at 11:30 a.m.

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