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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

Pet Air Launches Commercial Pet Service

Pet Air, an all pet in cabin airline,  launched service from Los Angeles today.  They will ship pets and animal types from A to Z, to and from 150 airports, at this point.

They scheduled New York, Washington D.C., Chicago, Denver, and Los Angeles as the first cities, and have a “treat” for your pet when it comes to prices, for the introductory cost of  $149 to all destinations.

At Pet Airways, it costs $149+ to fly your pet in the main cabin with a trained and loving Pet Attendant to care for your loved one. No cargo ! Only First Class for your pet! Do you have cat scratch fever and want to travel this summer? Visit the website: www.petairways.com/content/reservations

This is a great alternative to flying your pet in cargo!!!!

http://petairways.com/content/why-fly-pet-airways

  • 33 Years Experience Shipping By Air
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  • Fast Friendly Service
  • Competitive Rates
  • Year Round Shipping
  • Red Eye Flights Available To Many Cities
  • Pickup And Delivery Service Available
  • Corporate Relocation Services
  • Toll Free Reservation Line
  • Online Reservations
  • Preferred Customer Discounts

Pet Air has been shipping animals for over twenty-eight years. We provide services to breeders, hobbyist, zoos, rescue organizations, individuals relocating or vacationing, and many other groups. We offer several types of services; our most popular are listed below.

Posted: Just One More Pet

July 13, 2009 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, animals, Just One More Pet, On The Lighter Side, Pet Events, Pet Friendship and Love, Pet Travel, Pets, responsible pet ownership | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Orange Bone, a New Kind of Pet Store

Selling puppies in a pet store, especially since Oprah’s notorious Puppy Mill episode aired last year, can easily alienate members of the dog community, incite protest and boycott and be bad business in today’s climate. The Orange Bone, Melrose Avenue’s newest pet store, is changing its business model and selling puppies from local rescues and shelters. 

Orange Bone, working with Last Chance for Animals, is committed to saving dogs on death row. It all sounds too good to be true so I decided to check out it for myself. Not surprisingly for a store on Melrose Avenue, the place has a sleek, glossy modern look; it resembles a Pinkberry store more than a typical pet store you’d find in a mall. Los Angeles has its fill of nice looking pet boutique so I went straight to the dogs.

On a Tuesday afternoon the store was packed. I eavesdrop as Ray Maldonado, regularly referred to as the store’s dog guy by many patrons and coincidentally the vice president, talks to a couple considering a pit bull puppy. As I stand around and wait for my turn, I noticed the Orange Bone offers financing. Ray says potential buyers have the option to complete a credit application. He says for those who need it and qualify; it helps to get the dog placed a little easier. Wow. Rays reminds me, “It is all about the dogs.”

While Ray excuses himself to answer another customer’s questions, I take a second to review their sales contract. I was very pleased to see the following, “Adopter agrees if for any reason you cannot keep the puppy you will return it to Orange Bone so we may place it in a new home.” People are not guaranteed a refund, but may exchange the dog within specified timelines for another if they’re inclined. I think it says a great deal about the store that their first priority is to make sure puppies are placed in a stable and loving environment and will always accept a dog back.

Ray is still with another customer so I ask the Kennel Supervisor, Joseph Maldonado, Ray’s little brother, about the care of the puppies. He says he and Ray live nearby and are at the store nearly 20 plus hours each day. Joseph says, “I get here every morning at 8 a.m. to walk the dogs before we open at 11.” The dogs are also all supervised by monitors and short circuit camera feeds.

Ray says they only started working with shelters and rescues in December 2008 after getting some negative feedback. He was once an animal control officer for the city so he really wanted to reinvent the system to make it work for everyone. According to Ray’s records, they have placed about 150 dogs since December 2008 and it’s their goal to place a 1,000 dogs by the year’s end. Ray also happily boasts that about 25 percent, if not more, were on death row.

First impressions can say a lot and Ray and Orange Bone left an indelible impression on me and Rufus today. Ray and his team sincerely seem committed to the dogs with a real hands-on approach in their permanently placement. In the short hour that I lingered unannounced at the store I witnessed more than one person come in who had been working closely with Ray to find the perfect furry friend. It’s not hard to imagine since Ray is the kind of guy who immediately becomes everyone’s best friend.

Other notable features about the store include the Three Dog Bakery treats they offer, the wide assortment of doggie apparel, collars, leashes and stylist carriers. They also work with a trainer, Jessica Dragon, so new parents can get started on the right paw.

If you’re looking for a new dog, stop by and visit Ray. Tell him Rufus and Johnny from Examiner.com sent you.

by Johnny Ortez, L.A. Small Dog Examiner

Orange Bone
7574 Melrose Avenue 
Los Angeles, CA 90046

T. 323. 852. 1258 
F. 323. 852. 1299 
Info@orangebone.com

Mon – Sat 11am to 8pm 
Sun 11am to 7pm

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Posted:  Just One More Pet

February 24, 2009 Posted by | Animal Abandonement, Animal Rights And Awareness, Just One More Pet, Pet Abuse, Pet Friendship and Love, Pets, Political Change, responsible pet ownership, Stop Euthenization, Success Stories, We Are All God's Creatures | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Meet the 2008 ASPCA Dog of the Year

Meet the 2008 ASPCA Dog of the Year Ten-year-old Cole Massie of Los Angeles, CA, may live with cerebral palsy, but he has all the support a kid could want, thanks to a very special black Lab/golden retriever mix named Ilia.

Recently crowned ASPCA Dog of the Year as part of the 2008 Humane Awards program, Ilia performs service duties like bringing items to Cole in his wheelchair and opening and closing doors. But the pooch also has that special healing touch that can’t be taught. “He provides amazing incentive to Cole during therapies, doctor’s appointments and procedures,” says Cole’s mom, Michelle Massie. “He calms, inspires and motivates my son far better than anyone ever has.”

Or, as Cole sums it up: “I like when he lies next to me in bed at night and we listen to Harry Potter on CD, and that he helps to clean me when I’m in the bath by licking my face and arms. He’s my furry brother and best friend—and a serious bed hog!

This past July, three years after boy and dog were paired by the nonprofit Canine Companions for Independence, Cole was faced with a difficult, but life-changing surgery. “He had walked on his toes, and his feet were totally rolled in,” says Massie. “The operation would allow him to use his feet and free him of the wheelchair.” “Cole was frightened by the idea of surgery at first,” remembers Massie. “We explained how much more independent he’d be afterward, but he wasn’t buying it. Finally, we told him that if he had this procedure, there was a very good chance he’d be able to walk Ilia on his own—with no parents and no walker.” After that, says Massie,

“Cole would stroke the dog’s head in bed each night and whisper, ‘I will walk you, Ilia. I will walk you.'” After much coaxing, Cole underwent the surgery in Summit, NJ, and Ilia traveled more than 7,000 miles to be by the boy’s side.

The ten-year-old is now on his way to becoming an independent walker—and his dedicated service dog will be with him every step. The entire family will attend the ASPCA Humane Awards Luncheon in New York City this October 30, where Ilia will be honored along with seven other extraordinary animals and people.

P.S. We’d like to remind you, pet lovers, that even heroes have their quirks. As Massie reveals, “Ilia knows 46 commands, but he won’t fetch!”

September 27, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment