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Tag: church

Comfort dogs arriving in Orlando

newtown

As they did after the Boston Marathon bombing, the Sandy Hook school shootings and the Charleston church massacre, comfort dogs are headed to the scene of an American tragedy — this time, the deadliest mass shooting in the nation’s history.

About a dozen dogs from seven states were headed to Orlando yesterday to provide comfort and encouragement to the relatives of the dead, surviving victims, their families, first responders and a stunned community.

Forty-nine people were killed and 53 were injured when what authorities are describing as a “home grown extremist” opened fire inside the crowded Pulse nightclub with a semi-automatic weapon.

Lutheran Church Charities, which began its comfort dog program in 2008, said a dozen dogs and 20 volunteers arrived in Orlando yesterday, where they will work with local hospitals and churches.

“They help people relax and calm down,” Tim Hetzner, president of the LCC Comfort Dogs, told ABC News.

“Your blood pressure goes down when you pet a dog, you feel more comfortable, and people end up talking,” Hetzner said. “They’re good listeners, they’re non-judgmental, they’re confidential.”

The program has more than 100 dogs in 23 states.

Yesterday, many of them, along with handlers and volunteers, sprang into action.

gracieGracie, a 5-year-old golden retriever in Davenport, Iowa, who was little more than a pup when she went to the Sandy Hook shootings that killed 26 in Newtown, Connecticut, was aboard a flight to Orlando out of Chicago.

“Her purpose is to share love and compassion with those who are suffering,” Jane Marsh-Johnson, one of Gracie’s handlers, told News 10.

“The dogs do more for those suffering than human beings can do.”

Sasha, a 19-month-old golden retriever left Hilton Head Island with her handlers, Brenda and Phil Burden. It was Sasha’s first comfort mission, though the Burdens brought comfort dogs to Oregon last year after a gunman killed nine people at Umpqua Community College.

The Burdens told the Island Packet they will likely visit with the first responders who are dealing with the aftermath of the worst mass shooting in American history.

Other dogs were responding from Illinois, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Nebraska and Texas.

While in Orlando, they will be based in Trinity Lutheran Church in downtown Orlando.

Travel for the dogs and volunteers is funded by donations.

(Photos: At top, a comfort dog at Sandy Hook, by Allison Joyce / New York Daily News; below, Gracie, a comfort dog from Iowa / Lutheran Church Charities)

How does that Second Commandment go?

cross

There doesn’t seem to be much loving of thy neighbor going on around Anderson Valley Christian Church in rural Indiana.

Dubois County Sheriff’s deputies arrived there Sunday after reports of gunfire and explosions, found a decapitated dog hanging in front of a nearby cross, and unearthed a bit of a feud between a church elder and a former churchgoer.

14 News reported that former churchgoer Damian McBride, who lives next door to the church, suspects a church member was responsible for poisoning his dog.

To send a message, McBride said, he used a piece of heavy equipment to hoist his dog’s headless carcass into the air in front of a large stone cross on his family’s property.

Just in time for it to be seen by families arriving for worship at the church, about 50 feet away.

(The dog’s head had been removed during a necropsy, and the body was later returned to the family.)

churchMcBride has been engaged in a feud with at least one church elder, Daniel Madden, for several months.

Madden claims he was once bitten by one of McBride’s dogs, but the case was thrown out in court.

The McBrides say they suspect Madden or some other church member is responsible for poisoning their dog Bruno — their fourth pet to be poisoned, they claim.

The necropsy results are not in yet, but McBride said he found hot dogs in his driveway and what appeared to be rat poison.

Madden said thinking a church member would harm McBride’s dog was ridiculous.

“There’s not a person in this church who would do something like this,” he said.

“I’m kind of lost for words,” he said. “Hanging a dead dog on a cross that Jesus died on for me and you and everybody else, that’s sad.”

Madden said attendance at services has dropped by half since troubles began with the neighbor.

Deputies say the investigation is continuing. No charges were filed Sunday because the gunfire that drew authorities there came from the home, and the guns were never pointed at the church, according to Dubois County Free Press.

The dog’s body was covered with a blanket and strapped to the cross Sunday — apparently after sheriff’s deputies arrived. On Monday, the dog was still there.

McBride said he used to attend services at the church every Sunday but is now banned from the property.

McBride says two of his cats and two of his dogs have now died mysteriously.

“I just don’t want anyone else’s dogs to be poisoned or killed and I want the people that poisoned by dogs to go to jail,” he said.

(Photos: Dubois County Free Press)

Pastor finds she can retrieve more souls with her dog, Kirby, at her side

kirby

The Rev. Arlene M. Tully jokes that there are some similarities between her dog and members of her congregation.

“He sleeps through my sermons like everyone else,” the Methodist minister said.

But there is someone that Kirby — the golden-lab retriever mix who is almost always at her side — reminds her of even more:

“Kirby is a living, breathing metaphor for God’s love,” she told the Bangor Daily News. “The way he expresses love is as unconditional as God’s love. He instantly and fully embraces every person that he meets and that is a more accurate metaphor for God’s love than human love.”

Kirby the Ministry Dog attends services at First United Methodist Church in Bangor, Maine. He’s present for church dinners and other functions. He accompanies her on home visits, and trips to nursing homes and hospitals. And everywhere they go together, she notes, Kirby has a way of connecting with people, and getting them to open up.

“He’s a catalyst for those kinds of conversations,” said Tully,

The 2½ -year-old dog was trained as a service dog by Canine Companions for Independence at its campus in Medford, New York.

If Tully tells him to “visit,” Kirby will put his head in the lap of a person. If she says “lap,” he’ll gently place his paw on the leg of the person he’s visiting. When she say’s “push,” he’ll open an automatic door by pushing the button.

Tully, 57, became the church’s pastor in July. While she grew up a Roman Catholic, she left the church as a college student. She worked in restaurant management for 25 years before attending Andover Newton Theological Seminary in Newton Centre, Massachusetts.

Kirby, her second “ministry dog,” came to live with Tully in February while she was pastor of Pleasant Street United Methodist Church in Waterville, and he’s been helping her reach out to people ever since.

“Together, we have an instant bridge to people that I alone might not have otherwise,” she said.

(Photo: Ashley L. Conti / Bangor Daily News)

Group urges Catholic parish to cancel human-pig mud wrestling event

pigwrestling2

(If you’d like musical accompaniment with this article, click on the video at the bottom of the post, then scroll back up to read.)

The mission of St. Patrick’s Parish in Hortonville, Wisconsin, is to “be one with Christ in making the reign of God a reality … celebrate His love in Word and Sacraments … and be responsible stewards of time, talent, and treasure.”

Yet the Catholic parish has no problem sponsoring a fundraising event in which frightened pigs are punched, kicked, body-slammed and crammed into steel vats.

Apparently, they don’t see pigs falling under their “stewardship.” Or they think that “dominion” we supposedly have over all God’s other creatures includes the right to thrash farm animals in the name of sport. Or maybe the 44-year-old tradition is just too big a moneymaker to cancel.

Canceling the event — scheduled for this weekend — is what a Wisconsin-based animal advocacy group is calling for.

The Global Conservation Group says the event violates state laws prohibiting cockfighting, dogfighting, and other fighting between animals or between animals and humans. They say even being a spectator at such an event is a felony under state law.

The parish says the annual “Round Up” event consists of two to six people getting into a muddy ring and wrestling a hog — one they say is “sized accordingly” — into a vat.

“We take very strong precautions to make sure our pigs and our participants are taking care of each other,” organizer Glenn Van Handel, the chair of Saint Patrick’s Parish, told NBC 26.

The Global Conservation Group says the pigs face a high potential for being injured in the event, in which it says pigs are punched in the face, kicked, body-slammed, jumped on, yelled at and thrown into a bucket.

The group says it has filed reports with local, state and federal agencies alerting them to what they say is an illegal event.

A petition urging the church to cancel the event can be found at change.org

(Photo: Change.org)

Dachshund won’t go back to owners after all

The old dachshund abandoned with a note at a Los Angeles County shelter, then saved from euthanasia by a rescue group, then offered back to the “poor, sick and elderly” owners who wrote the note, won’t be reuniting with them after all.

Upon further reflection, Toby Wisneski, founder of Leave No Paws Behind, decided life with his original owners — two traveling ministers — might not be best for the 13-year-old dachshund, and apparently Otto’s owners have said they’re good with that decision.

ottoThe owners, initially anonymous, have now been identified as Chris Gonzales and his wife, Christine. That’s Rev. Chris in the video above, seemingly speaking in tongues at times, and not appearing too sick, poor or elderly. (Public access to the video was removed after this post appeared.)

The video, and some other interesting information, was unearthed by Mary Cummins, an animal advocate and wildlife rehabilitator who writes a blog in Los Angeles.

Cummins reported Sunday that Wisneski had decided that, in the dog’s best interest, “he will be remaining right here in our care and his humans agree.”

harley-note2Going back to the beginning of the curious story, the dachshund was found outside the Baldwin Park Animal Shelter March 6, tied to a basket, with a handwritten note that said:

“We are both seniors, sick with no money. We cannot pay for vet bills, or to put him to sleep. He has never been away from us in all those years, he cannot function without us, please put him to sleep.”

Before euthanizing the dog, the shelter called a rescue group, Leave No Paws Behind, which agreed to take him in. They named him Harley, got him treatment for a skin condition and pronounced him healthy enough to be adopted.

Wisneski, the group’s founder, also held out hope, at the time, that she might find the anonymous owners and return the dog to them, along with an offer to pay for all his medical care and food.

When the couple learned of the offer, and about donations coming in to help them, they came forward and agreed to reclaim their dog, whose real name is Otto, when they returned to town at the end of the month.

In an interview with KTLA, Chris Gonzales — though he wasn’t identified by name — said he and his wife were out of town and planned to return to California and pick up the dog once they raised enough money to buy new tires for their car.

What seemed, up to then, a heartwarming story, was slowly getting squirrely — turning into the kind it’s hard to keep the faith in.

Cummins, who had publicized the dog’s story on her blog in an attempt to help reunite him with his owners, did some investigating, and came away less than impressed with the couple.

gonzales-facebook“They are not senior citizens. They are not disabled. They are merely obese. They are not poor. They are traveling ministers who give little talks then beg for money. They are not a legal church, corporation or non-profit. They make $60,000/year,” she wrote.

“He’s one of those faith healers that puts his hands on people and then everyone shakes like someone having a seizure,” she added. “He likes to spit out mumbo jumbo made up words while doing so. He invites people to meetings at Sizzler or the Old Country Buffet restaurants. People pay for their food, listen to him talk then he asks for money. He calls it a ‘love offering.'”

Cummins now feels, in case it’s not obvious, that returning Otto to his owners would be a mistake.

While that means a detour before Otto finds his happy ending, we think that’s the right choice, too — based on what we’ve heard about his owners and the fact that they abandoned him in the first place.

Despite all that faith they travel the country professing, the couple apparently didn’t have too much in their dog.

Wisneski has said all of Otto’s medical problems turned out to be minor and treatable, and that he’s in good health now.

Here’s hoping Otto finds the home he deserves.

And that the reverends find some tires.

Thou shalt not poop

thoushaltnotpoop

When the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine decided it needed to do something about the increasing numbers of dogs pooping on its hallowed grounds, it turned not to a deity, but to a design firm.

That firm’s answer? A series of signs, using Old Testament verse as an inspiration, along with regular English, in smaller print, for those who might not get it.

The Episcopal church, something of a landmark in New York City, isn’t totally down on dogs. It hold a blessing for dogs and other creatures on St. Francis Day. And it doesn’t mind that it has become a popular spot with dog owners. It just didn’t like the mess.

The design firm Pentagram says the church didn’t specifically request humorous signs, but that seemed to be the best approach.

The signs read, “Thou shalt not poop (Please keep dogs off grass),” “Hold close thy loved (Please keep dogs on a leash),” and “Collect what you receive (Please clean up after your dog).”

(Photo: Pentagram)

An Easter tradition: Sprucing up the graves

One of the reasons Ace and I are lingering in this town – Winston-Salem, North Carolina – is so that I can reconnect with my roots here in my birthplace. An opportunity to do that arose last week.

I got a call from Aunt Edna Faye, who, though she’d visited from Raleigh just two days before, had forgotten to carry out one of the tasks she intended to: Placing flowers on the grave of Tan.

Tan, or Tan-NEE, as her nickname was pronounced in full, was Kathleen Hall, who, though not related by blood, grew up as a sister of my grandmother. As my mother’s aunt, she babysat me before I turned one – here in the very same house Ace and I recently moved into. Never married, she was a schoolteacher and administrator. She died in 1983, at the age of 92. An elementary school in town bears her name.

Putting flowers on her grave is a family tradition at Easter – one that, if I ever was aware of it, I had forgotten.

Aunt Edna Faye explained that Tan was buried in the Moravian Graveyard, in what’s known as “God’s Acre,” near the Home Moravian Church in Old Salem. She didn’t know exactly where the gravesite was: “It’s behind the church, on a hill sort of to the left, near the sidewalk. It’s on the side that’s towards Salem, not towards Krispy Kreme.”

She asked, when she called on Friday, that I get some flowers and place them at Tan’s headstone.

“There are no containers there, so it needs to be something in a pot, and not a very tall one because it would tip over. Just sort of press it in the ground and stabilize it as much as you can,” she said. Last year, Edna Faye got Tan a pink hydrangea.

When I told my mother – who is Edna Faye’s sister — of the mission, she said she had thought about asking me to do it, but didn’t want to bother me. When I finished reprimanding her for that – explaining that the main reason I’ve temporarily moved here is so she can bother me — she asked if she could come along and quietly watch from the car.

“Hell no,” I answered.

I didn’t really say that, but it’s the sort of thing that – as a joke – I might, which could be why she didn’t ask me in the first place.

On our way to buy the flowers, she told me a little about Tan, most of which I’d forgotten. She considered Tan one of her four aunts, and perhaps the one to whom, as an adult, she was closest. When my father shipped out to Korea, Tan was there for her, and for long after that. She babysat my sister and me – I being born about nine months after my father returned. She was a much beloved teacher. Her nickname, Tan-NEE, apparently derived from a young nephew’s mispronunciation of Auntie. Her favorite color was purple.

Leaving Ace and my mother in the car, I surveyed the flowering plants outside a grocery store, opting for a delphinium because it was purple, with shades of blue. Ace approved. More important, so did my mother.

At God’s Acre (or Gottesacker, in the old German) members of the congregation were there in droves. The day before Easter is what’s known as decoration day – a time when relatives and church members tidy up the graves, and place out fresh flowers – partly because it’s tradition, partly because a huge sunrise Easter service takes place there the next morning.

People were hauling in plants, pouring bleach on gravestones to remove grey mold, and scrubbing off the grime, some using toothbrushes. All of the headstones at the Moravian Graveyard are exactly the same shape and size – Moravians being big on simplicity and uniformity. The departed are buried chronologically, in the order in which they are “called home to be with the Lord,” and there are no statues or monuments to distinguish the graves of the rich from those of the poor.

Normally, that would have made finding Tan’s grave difficult. But I’d gone on the graveyard’s website the day before, typed in her name and gotten the precise location: Section 1AA, Row 02, Grave 04. Between that and the map the website provided, finding her was easy.

She was buried alongside other women — that, too, being the Moravian way. Men, women and children are buried in separate sections, which stems from the church’s “choir system,” introduced in Saxony by Count Zinzendorf, the renewer of the Moravian Church.

The congregation was divided into groups according to age, sex, and marital status so that each individual might be cared for spiritually according to their differing needs. At worship the “choirs” also sat together – boys on one side, girls on the other.

When death comes, members are buried not with their families, but by the same choir system.

God’s Acre is still used by the Salem Congregation, comprised of twelve Moravian Churches within the city of Winston-Salem. Members of the church gather there the day before easter to ensure that all of the graves have flowers by Sunday.

Other than her grave location, there’s not a lot of information on Kathleen Hall on the Internet, her death having preceded its rise. Even with an elementary school named after her, there are few references to be found, other than a 1939 Winston-Salem high school year book for sale on eBay – one page of which is dedicated to her for her “friendly, untiring and unselfish services.”

My parents left North Carolina when I was one, so, except for a few visits over the years, I never got to closely know Kathleen Hall, who my sister, with slight variation, was named after.

My mother says that when my sister Kathryn was an infant, and wouldn’t stop crying, Tan would take her for car rides, and that made her finally shut up. (I’ll need to remember that next time I visit.)

When my mother moved back to Winston-Salem, in the late 1970s, I’d gone off to college, followed by my first job, far away in Arizona. My younger brother got to know Tan better than me, visiting her, after her retirement, at the Moravian home, where he remembers she liked watching professional wrestling on TV, and drinking banana milk shakes, which he’d always stop and pick up on the way.

I was hoping to introduce Ace to Tan, as I introduced him a few months ago to John Steinbeck, but I decided to obey the “no dogs allowed” signs. I didn’t want him squirting while everyone else was sprucing. He waited patiently in the car, watching from the window, as did my mother.

At Tan’s gravesite, someone had already left a lily, I set our contribution next to it, pushing it down into the moist earth as instructed. Contrary to Aunt Edna Faye’s advice, I picked a flower that grows tall. But I figured even if it toppled, it would keep growing, albeit sideways.

The hillside was filling up with people, armed with scrub brushes, bleach and Comet, and flowers in buckets and wagons and wheelbarrows, paying respect not just with their presence, but with their sweat.

Slowly, the cemetery took on more and more color, as if blooming — with lilies and azaleas and hydrangea and tulips and geraniums and daisies and daffodils.

And, amid the crowd, at least one purple delphinium.