Companion animals are important to many people. With this in mind, The Blessing of the Animals is one of the ways the Stewpot builds community. The third annual ceremony will take place at the 508 Amphitheater at Encore Park on Sunday, October 1. It will begin the street party to launch the Museum of Street Culture.
“All of us have taken in stray animals,” says the Reverend Dr. Bruce Buchanan, executive director of the Stewpot for thirty years. He has a miniature pinscher that was found on the street and eventually brought in to the safe haven.
Others employees have adopted numerous stray animals, including a rabbit and a parakeet. The Stewpot regularly works with veterinarians to offer free services to the pets of the homeless and at-risk, as well as nearby populations of cats.
Several years ago, rodents were a fact of life at the Stewpot until they went too far and ate candy Buchanan left on his desk. To add insult to injury, they left the empty wrappers behind. Furious, Buchanan started adopting “working cats” to patrol the building to control the rat and mice populations.
“The Blessing on the Animals recognizes compassion for animals,” Buchanan says. “But in the larger sense it recognizes that web of life that we’re all a part of. It reflects what we do with people, embracing the community with protection for their animals.”
Dozen of participants, predominantly dogs, are expected to take part in this year’s ceremony. Rev. Buchanan will put a hand on each dog and say a prayer before concluding the ceremony with a short liturgy.
“The presence of animals on the street is timeless,” says Alan Govenar, founding director of the Museum of Street Culture. “Among the homeless, the dog is a very important companion. The relationship with the dog and the owner is an expression of love and compassion.”
Downtown Dallas is wonderfully diverse and densely populated, but the love of pets is a common denominator. “I think we all need to be needed to a certain degree,” Buchanan says. “Pets provide a sense of purpose in addition to companionship.” Attracted by the spontaneity and spectacle of the gathering, people walking their dogs often stop to watch and take part in The Blessing of the Animals.
But beyond the infectious joy of spectacle, the ceremony is an important way to connect with the homeless and at-risk. Many domestic violence shelters do not allow animals. This barrier can have disastrous consequences. As abusers become more violent, it is common for them to kill the pets of victims. They do this not only to cause anguish, but also to express their intentions.