Blessings for a furry congregation

Brian Hawkins of Monroe hoped to find some relief for Catfish, his 13-year-old Chesapeake Bay Retriever, when he brought her to the annual pet blessing on Saturday.

Hawkins, 36, said the dog has started to have trouble with her hips in recent months.

“Old people pray when they start getting older,” he said. “So I figured, why not?”

More than two dozen pets and their owners gathered at the Center City Green Market on Saturday for a pet blessing. This was the fifth year of the event, which is hosted by the Charlotte Center City Partners.

The Rev. Smokey Oats, who presided over the blessing and is a headmaster at Trinity Episcopal School in Charlotte, said the event helps to bring the community together. He read a psalm and a reading from the New Testament before blessing each pet individually. Although all animals were invited, one cat and 24 dogs attended.

“One thing we've discovered is, people just love their animals,” said Moira Quinn, a spokeswoman for City Partners. She attended with her 3-year-old Welch Corgi, Kory.

Pet owners spent $25.5 billion on veterinary services in 2006, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Kathy Ware, 30, of Charlotte brought her two dogs, Lola and Ansley, with her sister Jennifer and her dog, Clancy.

“It's nice to see people who care about their animals,” Kathy Ware said. “They are part of the family.”