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Gone to the dogs: LA church starts pet service – ‘Canines at Covenant’

LOS ANGELES — When the Rev. Tom Eggebeen took over as interim pastor at Covenant Presbyterian Church three years ago, he looked around and knew it needed a jump start.

Most of his worshippers, though devoted, were in their 60s, attendance had bottomed out and the once-vibrant church was fading as a community touchstone in its bustling neighborhood.

So Eggebeen came up with a hair-raising idea: He would turn God’s house into a doghouse by offering a 30-minute service complete with individual doggie beds, canine prayers and an offering of dog treats. He hopes it will reinvigorate the church’s connection with the community, provide solace to elderly members and, possibly, attract new worshippers who are as crazy about God as they are about their four-legged friends.

Religion Today Dogs In Church

Bob Hedges, right, sits with his dog Chester, during Sunday services at at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles Nov. 1, 2009. The 30-minute worship, complete with individual doggie beds, canine prayers and a tray of dog treats for the offering, is intended to reinvigorate the church’s community outreach while attracting new members who are as crazy about God as they are about their four-legged friends.

– Richard Vogel /AP Photo – CLICK FOR MORE PHOTOSLA Church Putting Pets In Pews Video

Before the first Canines at Covenant service last Sunday, Eggebeen said many Christians love their pets as much as human family members and grieve just as deeply when they suffer – but churches have been slow to recognize that love as the work of God.

“The Bible says of God only two things in terms of an ‘is’: That God is light and God is love. And wherever there’s love, there’s God in some fashion,” said Eggebeen, himself a dog lover. “And when we love a dog and a dog loves us, that’s a part of God and God is a part of that. So we honor that.”

The weekly dog service at Covenant Presbyterian is part of a growing trend among churches nationwide to address the spirituality of pets and the deeply felt bonds that owners form with their animals.

Traditionally, conventional Christians believe that only humans have redeemable souls, said Laura Hobgood-Oster, a religion professor at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas.

But a growing number of congregations from Massachusetts to Texas to California are challenging that assertion with regular pet blessings and, increasingly, pet-centric services, said Hobgood-Oster, who studies the role of animals in Christian tradition.

She recently did a survey that found more than 500 blessings for animals at churches nationwide and has heard of a half-dozen congregations holding worship services like Eggebeen’s, including one in a Boston suburb called Woof ‘n Worship.

“It’s the changing family structure, where pets are really central and religious communities are starting to recognize that people need various kinds of rituals that include their pets,” she said. “More and more people in mainline Christianity are considering them to have some kind of soul.”

The pooches who showed up at Covenant Presbyterian on Sunday didn’t seem very interested in dogma.

Animals big and small, from pit bulls to miniature Dachshunds to bichon frises, piled into the church’s chapel to worship in an area specially outfitted for canine comfort with doggie beds, water bowls and a pile of irresistible biscuits in an offering bowl. There were a lot of humans too – about 30 – and three-quarters of them were new faces.

The service started amid a riot of tail-sniffing, barking, whining and playful roughhousing.

But as Eggebeen stepped to the front and the piano struck up the hymn “GoD and DoG,” one by one the pooches lay down, chins on paws, and listened. Eggebeen took prayer requests for Mr. Boobie (healing of the knees) and Hunter (had a stroke) and then called out the names of beloved pets past and present (Quiche, Tiger, Timmy, Baby Angel and Spunky) before launching into the Lord’s Prayer.

At the offering, ushers stepped over tangled leashes and yawning canines to collect donations and hand out doggie treats shaped like miniature bones in a rainbow of colors.

Donna Lee Merz, a Presbyterian pastor at another Southern California church, stopped in with Gracie, her 14-month-old long-haired miniature Dachshund. The puppy with ears soft as silk was overcome by the other dogs and wriggled across the floor on her belly, quivering with excitement. She finally calmed down when Merz held her in her lap.

“She knew it was a safe place and a good place to be, a place to be loved,” Merz said, gently petting Gracie after the service. “I’ll be back.”

Emma Sczesniak came to Covenant for the first time, lured by the promise that she could worship with her black Lab, Midnight, and her wire-haired Dachshund-terrier mix, Marley.

Marley sat on her lap during the service, while Midnight checked out the other big dogs and sat patiently waiting for his biscuit. Sczesniak said the dog-friendly service came at the perfect time for her: she’s been thinking about getting back to church, but wasn’t sure how or where to go.

“I don’t have any kids, so my pets have always been my children, so it does mean a lot,” she said of the dog-inclusive service. “I haven’t been to church in a long time and this may push me into it. I’m getting older and I’ve been thinking about those things again.”

But Midnight, Marley, Gracie and the other pups probably had something more important on their minds as Eggebeen intoned his benediction and the service drew to a close: Just where could they find more of those delicious treats?

For Eggebeen, the night was a spiritual success – and the rest is out of his hands.

“It’s important for a church like us just to do good things. The results, we’ll just have to see,” he said. “Ultimately, that belongs to God.”

By GILLIAN FLACCUS – Associated Press Writer

AP VIDEO: Gone to the dogs: LA church starts pet service

Posted:  Just One More Pet

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November 5, 2009 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, Just One More Pet, On The Lighter Side, Pet Friendship and Love, Pet Owner's Rights, Pets, Unusual Stories, We Are All God's Creatures | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Airports Offer Relief for You and Your Pet…

Areas offer on-the-go travelers options to let their four-legged friends ‘go’

El Paso International Airport_Future Pet Area

Workers clean up the pet-relief area outside El Paso International Airport.

No bones about it, we’re a pet crazy country.

Need proof? According to the American Pet Products Association’s most recent survey, 62 percent of American households own a pet. And, if the rise in pet-friendly hotels, restaurants, theme-parks and tourist attractions is any measure, many of those pets get to tag along when their owners head out on the road.

When those trips involve airports, though, things can get rough long before the flight leaves the ground. That’s because while every airport has plenty of well-marked restrooms for people, not every airport offers areas for pets to find relief.

Those that do can really make a difference, says Kathy McCabe, publisher of an online travel newsletter. “I have an 11-year old wire fox terrier and know that travel can make many dogs nervous and anxious,” she said. “When they feel this way, they sometimes need to ‘go’ more often than usual. So it’s nice to be able to give a dog a break before getting on board the plane.”

To that end, airports in Phoenix, Austin, Salt Lake City and a number of other cities have had easy-to-find pet relief areas for years. However, in many other airports, travelers have had difficulty sniffing out appropriate or accessible places for their pooches to go.

But now, thanks to a new Department of Transportation regulation designed with service animals in mind, all travelers are finding it easier than ever to take their pets along for the ride.

The letter of the law
In May 2008, the Transportation Department gave airlines a year to comply with new rules requiring accessible relief areas, and escorts to those relief areas, for passengers traveling with service animals at each airport a carrier serves. DOT didn’t say how to make this happen, but James Briggs, vice-president for legal affairs at the airport membership organization ACI-NA, says airlines were instructed to buddy up with airports in each city to work things out.

In general, it seems they have. New — and newly improved — pet-relief areas have been popping up at airports all over the country.  In part, these pet-relief parks are part of a trend to improve customer service. But the amenity also helps airlines and airports comply with the new rules.

Last June, for example, Philadelphia International Airport unveiled seven relief stations on the departures road and outside baggage claim. Described as a new service for all passengers with pets in tow, press releases also noted that the “pet ports” were recommended by the airport’s American’s with Disabilities Act Review Committee.

Additionally, Boston Logan International, Oakland International and Tucson International have recently opened brand new pet-relief areas.

Traveler Jenny Wedge says that while the new pet-relief area at John Wayne Airport in Orange County is small, “it does the trick and is ironically the same area where we used to have some planters where animals would relieve themselves anyway. Now we have an area clearly meant for animals that has a nice white picket fence, a fire hydrant and Astroturf.”

McCarran International in Las Vegas, which already had three relief areas, recently spent about $5,000 improving those spaces, adding chain-link fences, pea gravel and dog waste bag dispensers.

Miami International spent about $40,000 to build two pet parks, each with a bench for people and a fire hydrant for pets. (When the north terminal is complete, a third relief area will built.)

El Paso International recently opened its pet-relief area, which was built with recyclable materials salvaged from prior terminal projects.

Relief areas at Minneapolis-St. Paul International have not changed. However, the airport has “formalized arrangements with the airlines and with the Travelers Assistance program managers to ensure that disabled travelers who need access to those areas receive an escort to and from the pet-relief facility,” said Patrick Hogan, director of public affairs and marketing.

Relief landside and airside
Nearly every airport pet-relief area is located curbside, outside the secure areas. In response to the new law, though, some airports created, or are working on creating, relief areas on the secure side of the airport, eliminating the need to escort travelers with service animals back through security and providing convenient relief areas for travelers with short connection times.

Seattle-Tacoma International, Salt Lake City International and Fresno Yosemite International have already created post-security pet relief areas, although only people with service animals can access those areas in Salt Lake City.

And Detroit Metropolitan Airport is working with Delta to create a post-security relief area in the McNamara Terminal. “Our thinking,” says the Scott Wintner, a public affairs specialist, “is that since that terminal is Delta’s second-largest hub facility, and since a majority of customers using that terminal are connecting, it makes sense to have the relief area airside.”

While Delta and the Detroit Metro work that out, other airlines are working with airports nationwide to make sure pet-relief areas are open for pets do to their business.

An American Airlines spokesperson said that company is confident it is in compliance at all U.S. airports.

A Southwest Airlines spokesperson says their local “station leaders” are working airport-by-airport to ensure there are pet-relief areas where they serve.

And at Alaska Airlines, customer advocacy director Ray Prentice conducted a survey of every airport the airline serves and put together a detailed chart noting the location of each pet-relief area.

What a relief!

By Harriet Baskas
Travel Writing Contributor – MSNBC
Posted:  Just One More Pet
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June 12, 2009 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, animals, Just One More Pet, Pets, Political Change, Success Stories | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Adopt A Pet – OC Humane Society

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May 19, 2009 Posted by | Animal Abandonement, animals, Fostering and Rescue, Just One More Pet, Pet Adoption, Pets, responsible pet ownership, Stop Animal Cruelty, We Are All God's Creatures | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Natural Pet Remedies For Everyday Problems

Pet FamThink natural health is for the dogs? You’re right! But it’s for cats, too, and just about any furry friend. Keep Fido and Fluffy healthy with these natural pet tips. Plus, are you spoiling your animal? Find out with our quiz…

For many people, pets are family. So it’s no surprise that owners want the best for their four-legged companions, and that may mean sharing their natural lifestyle.

“Millions of pet owners are realizing that a more proactive approach to pet health has a lot to offer,” including preventing disease and optimizing health and wellness, says veterinarian Carol Osborne, founder of the American Pet Institute in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and author of Dr. Carol’s Naturally Healthy Dogs  (Marshall Editions) and Dr. Carol’s Naturally Healthy Cats (Marshall Editions).

Many everyday pet problems – such as skin infections and arthritis – can be eased naturally. LifeScript asked animal experts for some common holistic health solutions:

1. Herbs
Herbal remedies can heal many pet irritations and illnesses.

They help the body to eliminate and detoxify, veterinarian Richard H. Pitcairn, Ph.D., says in his book Dr. Pitcairn’s New Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats  (Rodale Books).

Used properly, herbs can help get rid of fleas, relieve itching and more.

  • Fill pet beds with cedar chips – fleas don’t like the smell.Repel fleas from the surroundings by sprinkling chrysanthemum flowers, lemon grass, mint, sage, lavender and basil. 
  • Vacuum floors and wash pet beds frequently.

Itching: Is your dog or cat scratching more than a kid with chicken pox?  Try Osborne’s holistic anti-itching remedy: Mix together five drops of licorice, five drops of dandelion root (a natural diuretic) and five drops of cat’s claw (a natural form of the anti-inflammatory aspirin). Give your pet five drops of the solution by mouth once a day for 14 consecutive days. 

“You give it as needed when it’s flea season or when your pet is itching because of allergies,” Osborne says.

Licorice, a form of cortisone, also reduces the urge to itch, Osborne says. “But because cortisone is a steroid, talk to your vet” before using it.

If your pet doesn’t gobble it up, try disguising the licorice with tastier flavors such as clam juice, baby food or chicken.

Car Sickness: Love to take your dog on car rides, but hate cleaning up vomit on the backseat? Good news for dogs, cats and their owners. Liquid ginger root – a natural motion sickness remedy – works like a charm, Osborne says.

 Don’t happen to have any on hand? No problem. Give Fido a ginger snap cookie to relieve nausea.

 Indigestion: An upset stomach can be uncomfortable for your pet and turn you into a 24-hour cleaning crew.

Osborne suggests holding food and water for eight hours, instead giving your four-legged friend cool or lukewarm peppermint tea to settle its stomach.

 A word of caution: Before using herbal treatments, talk to your vet. “Some herbs and supplements can be toxic if given in large quantities or to a species that cannot tolerate it,” says veterinarian Deirdre Chiaramonte of Animal Medical Center in New York.

For example, some herbs prescribed for arthritis can cause bleeding, which could be disastrous during routine surgery or dental procedure.

“You need to find a veterinarian who is familiar with natural therapies in pets so the outcome will be successful, safe and effective,” Osborne says.

2. Nosodes

Routine vaccinations can save your pet’s life, but some experts believe they also can contribute to cancers, autoimmune illnesses and allergies.

The alternative? Nosodes – or homeopathy oral vaccines – may offer protection against distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis and parvovirus. (A nosode doesn’t exist for rabies.)

Like traditional vaccines, “they stimulate the immune system to protect the body from infection,” Osborne says.

They’re made from a dilution (one part to 90 parts alcohol) of the virus causing the illness. “Nosodes are safe, but their efficacy varies,” she says.

Even if you stick with conventional shots, your furry friend may not need them every year. An antibody titer blood test can determine if your dog’s or cat’s vaccines are still effective.

3. Nutritional Therapy

Foods can cure or prevent illnesses in animals, too. “Feeding your pet a healthy diet from the beginning will prevent many serious health issues down the road,” says Jean Hofve, a retired veterinarian in Denver, Colo.

So what should your pet be eating?

A homemade diet of organic raw meat and whole foods is ideal, Hofve says. She suggests a commercial raw diet (look for pre-made frozen or freeze-dried varieties) or canned food with a little fresh meat added a couple times a week.

Brands such as Instinctive Choice, Newman’s Own (organic), Merrick, Nature’s Variety Prairie, BG (Before Grain), Wellness, Innova, Evo, Blue Buffalo, Wellness and Avoderm are good, Hofve says.

They can be found in specialty stores, some feed stores, pet superstores, many grocery stores and online (www.onlynaturalpet.com).

If your budget doesn’t allow anything more than kibble, add fresh meat (and steamed or puréed vegetables for dogs) to give dry food a nutritional boost, she says.

 Besides a diet that’s “as close to nature as possible,” Hofve recommends four nutritional supplements for all pets:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids for healthy function of the nervous system, immune system, skin and coat
  •  Digestive enzymes to help pets digest food fully and get the most nutrients possible from food
  •  Probiotics (“friendly bacteria”) to keep the gut balanced and deter disease-causing organisms
  •  Antioxidants for a healthy immune system, normal cellular maintenance and anti-inflammatory benefits  

Skin Allergies, Ear Infections and Hot Spots: These skin-related irritations can be combated with omega-3 fatty acids in dogs.

 Healthy skin needs these anti-inflammatory oils, but nearly all dogs and most cats are fed food that’s full of inflammatory omega-6 fatty acid instead, Hofve says. 

“Omega-3s soothe inflammation, benefit the nervous system and provide the building blocks the skin needs to heal.”

 She recommends Nordic Naturals pet products for omega-3 fatty acids. Other rich sources are sardines, anchovies, herring and menhaden.

Gastritis and Vomiting: Dry food eaters are more prone to stomach issues because of additives and preservatives, Hofve says. A raw or homemade whole-food diet of cooked white rice and lightly browned ground lamb or turkey will eliminate the problem.

 Digestive enzymes and probiotics will also help support and balance the gut, she says. And blue-green algae, spirulina and chlorella contain antioxidants, trace elements and enzymes for healing.

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD): “This is almost purely a dry food problem,” Hofve says. “Diet is the primary treatment.”

 She recommends switching to a diet high in protein, high in moisture and low in carbohydrates. Canned, homemade and raw foods fill the bill.

Nutritional therapy aims to reduce inflammation and rebuild the bladder’s natural defenses, Hofve says. 

Omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants provide anti-inflammatory action, while glucosamine sulfate gives the cells in the bladder lining the building blocks to maintain the protective mucus coat.

4. Acupuncture

Can’t imagine your dog or cat sitting still long enough for acupuncture?

“Most animals are much better than you would think,” says certified veterinary acupuncturist Nicole Schiff, who practices at Western Veterinary Group in Lomita, Calif., and City of Angeles Veterinary Specialty Center in Culver City, Calif.

Just like in people, acupuncture involves putting needles into specific points on your pet’s body to stimulate nerves, muscles and connective tissue to promote healing and ease pain.

“It changes pain pathways that travel through the body and helps release endorphins, which help to block pain as well,” Schiff says.

The practice – which Schiff says should complement, not replace, Western medicine – can help reduce arthritis pain, lessen inflammation and intestinal problems, ease skin and ear infections, promote healing of wounds and aid post-stroke treatment.

 An average acupuncture session lasts 15 minutes and can cost $75 to $200 for the first visit and $50 to $150 for ongoing treatme

For the safest, best results, says Schiff, visit a veterinarian trained in acupuncture. Your regular vet may refer a certified veterinary acupuncturist or check the International Association Veterinary Acupuncture Association Web site at www.ivas.org

Adverse side effects are rare. The most common problem is that an animal simply doesn’t respond to treatment. Also, it’s not uncommon for a pet to feel tired for a day or two after treatment.

Want to know more? Get your own copies of Dr. Carol’s Naturally Healthy Dogs, Dr. Carol’s Naturally Healthy Cats and Dr. Pitcairn’s New Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats

By Shanna Thompson, Special to LifeScript – Published May 08, 2009

Visit the following Web sites for more about natural pet care:

Complementary, Alternative & Holistic Veterinary Medicine
www.altvetmed.org

 Academy for Veterinary Homeopathy

www.theavh.org

 American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association

www.ahvma.org  

Posted:  Just One More Pet – May 08, 2009 3:45AM

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May 8, 2009 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, animals, Just One More Pet, Pet Friendship and Love, Pet Health, Pet Nutrition, pet products, Political Change, responsible pet ownership | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Pets not left behind in New Orleans evacuation

Efforts in stark contrast to Katrina, when dead dogs floated in floodwaters 

Humane Society of Missouri staffers carry a crated dog to a truck in New Orleans on Saturday. The truck was heading for Shreveport, La., as part of an evacuation plan whereby pets and their owners travel to the same location until the storm passes. At rear are empty crates awaiting more dogs.  Amy Sancetta / AP
 updated 11:57 a.m. PT, Sun., Aug. 31, 2008

NEW ORLEANS – Authorities evacuating residents from New Orleans ahead of Hurricane Gustav are making amends with four-legged friends after thousands of pets perished in Hurricane Katrina three years ago.

Animal welfare groups tried to make sure that evacuees had their pets with them, while shelters away from the Gulf Coast accommodated animals this time around.

Many owners stayed in the city during the catastrophic 2005 hurricane because they could not take their pets to shelters and could not bear to leave without them This city has been hit so badly, they’ve lost so much, and the last thing they have to hold on to is their animal,” said Laura Bergerol, a volunteer with Animal Rescue New Orleans.

The group stacked up boxes for residents who planned to carry their small pets with them as part of an evacuation on buses and trains through the Union Passenger terminal.

Pet owners stood in line to register their furry friends. Then they were given a machine readable band to tag on to their pet, in case they became separated.

Among the horrors of Katrina three years ago were dead dogs bobbing in the drowned streets of the city, 80 percent of which was flooded.

This city has been hit so badly, they’ve lost so much, and the last thing they have to hold on to is their animal,” said Laura Bergerol, a volunteer with Animal Rescue New Orleans.

The group stacked up boxes for residents who planned to carry their small pets with them as part of an evacuation on buses and trains through the Union Passenger terminal.

Pet owners stood in line to register their furry friends. Then they were given a machine readable band to tag on to their pet, in case they became separated.

Among the horrors of Katrina three years ago were dead dogs bobbing in the drowned streets of the city, 80 percent of which was flooded.

Copyright 2008 Reuters 

September 1, 2008 Posted by | Just One More Pet, Pets, Success Stories | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment