Home Christian News National Dog Day 2021: Meet Petey the Beagle, Associate Pastor and Greeter

National Dog Day 2021: Meet Petey the Beagle, Associate Pastor and Greeter

At Tree of Life Lutheran Church in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the pet ministry is more than 20 years old. In addition to a yearly pet blessing, the church has a pet prayer chain, accompanies members to difficult veterinary visits and regularly takes up a collection for animal rescue organizations.

“I think the pet ministry has certainly contributed to the congregation’s theological imagination in terms of how we care for creation,” said Pastor Richard Geib. “It’s a small step between telling someone they should love their dog and telling someone they should also love the deer and care for water sources. That love for pets has a way of fostering our growth as lovers of creation.”

The pet ministry out of the Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Knoxville, Tennessee, is called LAMBS (Lovers of Animals, Ministry and Bible Study). The ministry donates pet food to the local food pantry and does visits and sends sympathy cards to people whose pets have died.

“I think it’s meaningful when someone else understands that pet was a family member to them,” said Lisa Cope, who leads the LAMBS ministry.

Gayle Fiser and Rev. Betsy Snyder have been leading pet ministries together for over a decade. The duo is currently leading the community pet ministry at Pinnacle View United Methodist Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, which hosts webinars on everything from how to photograph pets to how to help pets cope with anxiety as their owners return to work.

The church also hosts therapy dog training, an eight-week program that allows dogs, once certified, to visit nursing homes, schools and, of course, churches. Dogs who have graduated from the program have participated in the church’s live nativity, as well as the annual Blue Christmas service for those who are grieving.

“Following the service, we serve hot cocoa and cookies,” said Fiser. “The people know that when they finish the service, the therapy dogs are there, and they rush in to hug the dogs — we need to learn from our pets how to practice unconditional love, because they point us to that.”

There are currently about 30 people on the waitlist for therapy dog training at Pinnacle View, and almost none of them are church members.