Who's the lion and who's the lamb? And does it matter? These two had never met before the celebration.
The rabbit in the yard, the squirrel in the tree, the sounds of crickets who chirp in the evening and invoke mindfulness—even the dinosaur that gives us a glimpse into prehistory.
These creatures and our interconnection with them were the subject of the Celebration of Human and Animal Companionship, part of the community-oriented Time Warp Festival held this past April 20 in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Long Beach branch of the Universalist Unitarian Church.
The blessing was attended by a number of Long Beach notables that included former mayors Beverly O’Neill and Tom Clark, Congressman Alan Lowenthal, council members Al Austin and Patrick O’Donnell, and KPCC’s education reporter Adolfo Guzman-Lopez. St. Francis of Assisi was no doubt there as well—UU’s an inclusive church. But the true celebrities were the furred, feathered and scaled companions of the humans who love them forever and who came in body or memory for blessings.
“They don’t really need to be blessed—they bless us—but it’s so important to give ourselves a chance and space to be aware of the uniqueness of our companions,” said Rev. Lovett, who retired from the UU a couple of years ago. As minister emerita, she returned to her church for devotion to a few of her favorite things: animals and the interconnectedness of their lives with ours and one another’s.
UU Rev. Mitra Rahnema welcomed the congregation with a benediction. The ceremony that followed included an interspecies meditation, a parade of the animals and their companions, a commemoration of all the beloved little souls who had left the planet, and the blessing of the attendees. The service, delivered by Lovett and UU member Brenda Harris, was one of the most touching and luminous of any I’ve attended, either animal related or otherwise.
As part of the ceremony, Harris gave an oral history of one of the unarguably greatest heroes to animals. Henry Bergh, a Unitarian who lived in the 19th century, was known unarguably less affectionately as the Great Meddler. Bergh, not an animal lover or particularly warmhearted, was moved to stand up for injustices against animals when he witnessed a man unmercifully beating his horse. A police officer informed Bergh that animals were property and so the evildoer could do whatever he wanted with the horse. Later, while in England, Bergh discovered the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Invigorated, he hightailed it home and, in short and after much work, founded the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). His was an epiphany worth memorializing.
“In the spirit of Saint Francis, who spoke to the animals as his friends and equals in the sight of God, in the spirit of Jane Goodall and Rachel Carson and all those who have devoted their lives to seeing that there always remains a place for animals in this all-too-human and –inhumane world, we give our love and ask for blessings.” And the friends came, with their friends—mostly dogs, as they love events, and also a baby bearded dragon and a very patient cat. There were photos, too, of animals who preferred to stay at home and of those who no longer shared their human’s hearth.
Gunner, a white Wheaten terrier (which would make him, I would guess, a Cream of Wheaten terrier), with human and Brenda Harris. Rev. Marguerite Lovett presides behind dais.
Laura Scully, veddy retro, and her well-named dachsie Tootsie.
Yoshi, a baby bearded drago.
Shih tzu Sadie with human.
Attendees brought photos of their loved, departed companions.
I’ve been ridiculously bogged down with other work and can’t get my column out as quickly as I’d like. But although over two weeks have passed since the blessing took place, its message is timeless. During and after the horrific incidents in Boston, Texas—heck, everywhere—it’s good to remind ourselves that blessings aren’t events but states of grace that hold for always.
What do we see when we look into the eyes of another living creature? A dumb animal? An object of indifference? Or can we look more deeply? Can we see other animals as they are—beings different from us but not wholly unlike ourselves?
-- Rev. Marguerite Lovette, from her meditation
Mercy to animals means mercy to humans.
-- Henry Bergh, ASPCA founder
From left: Beautiful catwoman Karina Jacques, kitty Buffy, my hero Buddy, and my dear friend--and Buddy's best buddy--Willa Heart.
Here’s a large helping of blessing: The dogs that were abandoned on the street and for which you guys burned the wires at Animal Care Services asking about their welfare are doing finer than fine. I’ll let Deborah Turner tell it, but first, the two boys are in Ruffles Rescue hoping for a new home. Read Deb’s notes to find out how you can adopt or donate:
“To all of the beautiful people who responded to my plea for help in the case of the three neglected and abandoned pit bulls, here is the update that you have requested. Because of you, they have all left the shelter in good hands. Many of you asked me to update their story, and requested where donations may be sent for their care. All three dogs have a long road ahead of them to recovery and require a lot of medical attention.
“The female dog was adopted by a lovely lady in San Diego. For both person and dog, it was love at first sight. I had been visiting the dogs in the shelter up to now and assuring the female that one day she would be beautiful. As she was led on a leash into the shelter lobby, everyone gaped at her, and even in her state of drying sores, new hair sprouting in random spurts, and her wrinkled mouth, onlookers expressed that she was convincingly gorgeous. She will be receiving medical care at Rancho Mesa Veterinary Hospital, 8710 Miramar Rd., San Diego, CA 92126, (858) 566-0422
Lucky little lady with new forever friend Roseanne.
“You can donate directly to the hospital by either sending a check in the mail or calling with a credit or debit transaction. Specify that it is for the care of Roseanne's pit bull.
“The two brothers were thrilled to finally be reunited. We thank RUFFLES RESCUE organization for taking both and not just one of them. One of the brother dogs is hardier and larger. The other is smaller, possibly more underdeveloped, and will struggle more for renewed vitality. He was anxious and confused, but Christina, the impassioned founder of Ruffles, knew exactly what she was doing to provide the comfort and reassurance that he needed for the car ride back to Exeter, California. She assured us that they will be fostered in a home, not a kennel...something these dogs have probably never known.
Donations can also be sent directly to RUFFLES RESCUE by using this link:
“The veterinary hospital that will care for them is Lacey Animal Hospital, 12181 West Lacey Blvd., Hanford, CA 93230, (559) 584-9251. You can donate directly to the hospital if you prefer by either sending a check in the mail, or calling the hospital with a credit or debit transaction. Specify that it is for the care of the two Pit Bull Brothers or the Ruffles Rescue organization.
Deborah Turner (left) and shelter staff bid a happy farewell to the former Lost Boys. They're available for adoption at Ruffles Rescue.
“You are a constant reminder that more people are good than bad. We had an overwhelming response of love, care, and an outpouring of concern for these sweet and innocent animals. Thanks to the Long Beach Animal Care Services, and the treatment that they provided while in their custody, the three pit bulls will never look like they first did upon being rescued.”
Sunday, May 19, spcaLA May Foster Class, P.D. Pitchford Companion Animal Village and Education Center, 7700 E. Spring St., Long Beach, 10AM–noon
Foster pets need temporary loving homes. This will help better their chances of adoption, and you can help! Potential foster parents (of all ages!) must fill out and submit an application, available here before attending class.
Sunday, May 19, Yappy Hour Presented by Friends of El Dorado Dog Park, 2301 Redondo Ave., Long Beach, 2–5PM
Saturday, June 2, Seal Beach Animal Care Services 25th Anniversary Gala, The Grand by Choura Events Center, 4101 E. Willow St., Long Beach, 6–PM
The Seal Beach Animal Care Center (SBACC) opened its doors in 1988 with 12 dog runs and a small cat room. Today, there are 18 dog runs and a separate building for the cats—the Helen Sanders Cat Facility—and it’s all based on grass-roots humane philosophy, volunteerism and donations and is motivated by an unselfish, strong love for animals. SBACC plans a most festive gala affair to celebrate these efforts and to raise funds to ensure their continuance. Live music will be provided by the Emperors, and every guest will be entered in a drawing to win a vacation package. Special guest MC will be none other than TV and radio personality Bob Eubanks, host of Newlywed Game. Tickets are $150 per person; registration closes May 15. All funds will go toward medical expenses, expansions and renovations for the doggie room (including feeding, bathing, runs and meet-and greet areas), and improved protection from the sun and rain. Find out more about the event here, or download this form to register by mail.
Thursday, June 6, Friends of Long Beach Animals Little Shop of Horrors Benefit for the Animals, Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., 6:30–10:30PM
Feed your pets good things, feed yourself tasty finger food at the 6:30 reception, but—don’t feed the plants! Join Friends of Long Beach Animals (FOLBA) for an entertaining musical evening on June 6 featuring the wonderfully way-out musical Little Shop of Horrors, written by Howard Ashman, scored by Alan Menken, and based on the 1960 B movie of the same name. Our 19th annual Benefit for the Animals at the Long Beach Playhouse begins at 6:30 p.m. with a reception featuring—oh, feed me, I’m hungry!—a delicious selection of finger foods, with coffee and cookies at intermission, and tuneful pre-musical music by our favorite pianist, Ralph Brunson. You’ll have time to socialize with fellow animal lovers and browse and bid on silent auction items. Raffle tickets will also be on sale.
At 7:30, beloved Press-Telegram scribe Tom Hennessy will be honored as our Hero to Animals 2013. Then, look out, look out, look out, look out! Here comes Audrey II along with the Little Shop of Horrors cast of real characters to tell a funny, offbeat tale and sing some of the catchiest songs to have ever graced a stage on or off Broadway. Keep the dogs and cats inside, and remember: Don’t feed the plants!
Tickets are $25 and are available at the following locations:
Ark Pet Salon, 550 Pacific Coast Highway, Seal Beach, 430-5057
Blue Cross Dog/Cat Hospital 2665 E.PCH, Signal Hill 494-0975
Bixby Animal Clinic 3938 Atlantic Ave 426-4066
Belmont LaunderPet 3429 E. Broadway 433-3605
Bixby Knolls LaunderPet 4102 Orange Ave. 427-2551
Go Dogs Go (open Tues/Sat) 3440 N. Los Coyotes Diag. 421-9797
Wags to Whiskers 5505 E. Stearns 430-5161