LIHUE — As Melissa Egusa stepped forth in the sanctuary of St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, her Bichon poodle, Betsey, joined her Sunday afternoon.
The two stood before the Rev. Phyllis Meighen, who greeted the small white dog with a smile and a friendly pat. She gently placed her hands on the side of Betsey’s head, closed her eyes, quietly offered up a few words of thanks, and made the sign of the cross.
Egusa and Betsey turned away while the line of people and pets that stretched down the church aisle moved forward during the ninth annual All Angels Animal Blessing.
About 25 divine dogs, from Labradors to pugs to retrievers — plus one cat —were blessed during the 45-minute ceremony that was followed by music, meals and conversation in the church courtyard.
There was little barking and no snarling. Just a lot of celestial canines with tails wagging, as if on their most saintly behavior.
Egusa, who lives in Omao with husband Ron, said this was the fourth blessing for 6-year-old Betsey.
Animals, she said, need to be blessed as much as people.
“She’s real good,” Egusa said of Betsey. “She’s a blessing to us.”
Likewise for Alan Van Zee, whose 4-year-old dog Kiko, a Japanese Chin, was blessed Sunday. It’s a renewal of sorts, he said, and reconfirms his commitment to Kiko as her owner.
“It’s just a wonderful custom,” he said.
Maureen Nuccio-Hiraga brought her service dog Sager to be blessed, along with her Siamese cat, Blue. She said Blue was ill when she took him in, but Nuccio-Hiraga nursed him back to health.
“The animals give me so much,” she said. “I think of them getting God’s protection and love.”
When the blessings were finished, Meighen stood before the congregation of two- and four-legged subjects and offered a closing prayer.
“Doesn’t that just warm your heart?” she asked, smiling.
Meighen found another meaning in the event that brought so many together before the cross.
“To me, there is hope for the world because there is just an outpouring of love,” she said. “That unbounded love by our pets and for our pets, if we can share that with one another, I really think that’s an entry to peace in the world.”