PEABODY — Temple Beth Shalom hosted its first Blessing of the Pets on Sunday, where Rabbi Emily Mathis spoke about the common love of animals and offered each pet in attendance an individual blessing.
Churches and synagogues frequently hold annual events to bless pets, offering remembrances for pets that have passed while celebrating the unique connection between man and beast. There is a trend among synagogues to hold such events in the fall when the Torah portion about Noah's ark is read. However, Temple Beth Shalom preferred to do its blessing in May.
"The weather certainly cooperated," board member Steve Blumenkrantz said.
More than 30 people gathered, each with a different story about their furry friends. Laurie Hymanson of Peabody brought a painting of her cat Silvio because health issues prevented him from attending the event. Several other people brought photographs of their pets for which attendance would have been a physical or social challenge. For the animals that did attend, Mathis offered a blessing and spent a few minutes with each family.
The event was a social outing filled with treats for both Fido and Felix. All dogs left with a goody bag of tennis balls, bubbles and dog cookies, and all cats left with jingle balls and cat treats. Treats were provided by Maureen Turner of High Street Veterinary Hospital in Danvers and Denise O'Brien of Boston Canine day care and boarding in Peabody. Owners let their dogs socialize as they mingled and munched on a fitting snack of animal crackers.
"We wanted to come up with an event that appealed to a large number of people, that addressed a common interest, and that was applicable to both Jewish and non-Jewish families," said Jodi Coburn, organizer of the event. "Everybody loves their pets, so this seemed to be a good idea."