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Four-legged friends gather for annual ‘pet blessing’

By Ashlyn Fransen '24
Published October 6, 2023
Categories: About Eckerd, Alumni, Student Life, Students

Director of Religious Life and Chaplain Doug McMahon (left) joins Residence Coordinator Rachael Essex in celebrating her pet guinea pig, Louise Mildred. Photos by Penh Alicandro ’22

Meows, barks and chirps filled Eckerd College’s Hough Quad on Oct. 4 as Pet Life and Religious Life teamed up for their annual Pet Blessing ceremony.

Furry, scaly and feathered companions received blessings from Rev. Doug McMahon, director of religious life and chaplain, and Rabbi Ed Rosenthal, campus rabbi. This tradition was inspired by St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of the environment and animals, and this year, the calendar aligned so Pet Blessing could happen on the day of the Feast of St. Francis.

Rev. McMahon opened the ceremony with a beautiful speech about the way pets bless Eckerd students through constant companionship and unconditional love. Jewish tradition teaches that all living things, including plants and animals, have souls. Rabbi Rosenthal, warmly known as Rabbi Ed, encouraged owners to look into the innocent eyes of their pets because, as the saying goes: The eyes are the window to the soul.

August, a 2-year-old bearded dragon who has called Eckerd home all her life, belongs to Kathryn Brown, a junior ancient studies and psychology student from Bismarck, North Dakota.

Creatures of all sizes, including hamsters, were in attendance.

“We tried to do the trend where you let your pet choose their religion, but she didn’t understand what she was supposed to do,” Kathryn said. “I like to think she’s Presbyterian.”

Rabbi Ed Rosenthal welcomes an avian visitor to the blessing.

August was named after Taylor Swift’s song by the same name. Kathryn’s first-year roommate had bearded dragons, and Kathryn enjoyed having them around. She fell in love with the lizards and decided to adopt one of her own. She’s had August since the lizard was little. It’s been one of Kathryn’s greatest joys to watch her grow.

“It’s so cool to see all the different kinds of animals on campus,” Kathryn said.

Olivia Fraser ’13 (right) with her colleagues from LivWell Pet Care joined the festivities.

In addition to the blessings, Mindy Rosenthal, Rabbi Ed’s wife, was there to help students learn about the Beagle Freedom Project, whose mission is to rescue and rehome animals from experimentation laboratories. This kind of advocacy protects the innocence of animals, and Rosenthal finds great joy in the species’ interconnection.

Olivia Fraser ’13, DVM, returned to campus as the owner of LivWell Pet Care, a veterinary office whose mission is to provide affordable pet care in St. Petersburg. She joined the festivities to hand out pet waste bags and other freebies to students while providing information about her services, which she hopes will be a great resource for pet owners at Eckerd.

Pet Blessing 2023 Photo Album