//Animal Blessing on Courthouse Steps

Animal Blessing on Courthouse Steps

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Photos and story by Robin Postell

VALDOSTA – On Thursday, October 4, Feast of St. Francis of Assisi Day, at 6 p.m. the first annual animal blessing took place downtown on the old courthouse steps. Episcopalian Reverend and Valdosta City Attorney Jim Elliott was on site to deliver earnest blessings on the pets in attendance.

Many children bring their pets to the church to be blessed on St Francis’ feast day because of his love for animals as expressed in his Canticle of Creatures. St Francis is the patron saint of animals so many churches offer animal blessing services on this day. The services may include a verbal blessing and holy water and are usually held at a place where different animals can gather.

Mollie Merlot Boone, a six-year-old Boykin Spaniel, accompanied her family, Bennett and Susan Boone to the foot of the Lowndes County historical courthouse.

Kathy Taylor, the operations manager for Valdosta’s PetSmart showed up with her husband Leon Taylor, and their two adopted rescues – an elderly poodle they’d been fostering with disk issues and recently pulled rotted teeth, looking very happy to be alive. “He’s on pain meds,” Kathy explained, taking another adopted foster, a Maltese, out of a pink and black baby stroller. Elliott was introduced to them and informed of the recent bad diagnoses given. Elliott blessed both ceremoniously.


Animal advocate Michelle Williams was present with a rescue Husky named Juliet – once eaten up with mange and emaciated – who has been saved and will be heading off to her new home and job in Maryland with HEART – Husky Education and Rescue Team. HEART is a nonprofit animal rescue organization that saves, rehabilitates, and rehomes Siberian Huskies (and other breeds of dogs) who are abandoned and are in kill shelters. (Most of the dogs in need will come from the Southern States where the shelter kill rate is higher. We have a network of foster homes along the East Coast, while their adoption locations can be found in Maryland and New Jersey.)

Earlier in the day, Elliott had visited the Bethel Lowndes Animal Shelter, blessing the animals with faith that each will find forever homes.

“We are so grateful for out animal shelters. Animals are such a big part of our lives and sometimes we take them for granted,” said Elliott. “They’re really a blessing to us. Isn’t it wonderful to come home and have a pet greet you with so much love?”

Those in attendance all gathered together on the courthouse steps as Elliott performed a blessing, ending with, “My brothers and sisters, I  leave you with this…may the blessing of God be with you…Amen.”

Lowndes County Clerk of Court Paige Dukes and Elliott, who have known each other for many years, helped decided to do the blessing for the city. Dukes said next year it will be on September 28, 2019, on a Saturday, so more people can attend.