Jan 28 – Animal Ministry – “Don’t Push the River”

Some people get it, some don’t. Some people need it, some don’t. Below are two more people who have dedicated their lives and their professions to animal ministry: Robert Gierka and Rebecca K. OConnor. See a brief introduction for each below and check out their websites for more information.

Robert Gierka, Ed.D., Founder and President of the Association for Veterinary Pastoral Education and Pet Chaplain®, Raleigh, NC, USA

Despite the ever growing popularity of pet keeping in America, there are still people who are indifferent to the agony of pet loss, who think a dog is just a dog, and if after two weeks you’re still upset about the dog dying you must be experiencing an irrational attachment. Typically, in an uninformed but well-meaning way, they may suggest, “You need to get another dog; that’ll make you feel better.” Culturally, this is still the norm in Western society, and in my lengthy interviews with pet lovers, there’s a tacit awareness that we have to be careful who we share our feelings with. The truth is that many people still misunderstand or deny the deep emotional and spiritual connections people enjoy with companion animals and the intense grief they can experience when those animals are lost.

My path with AVPE and Pet Chaplain® has been long and circuitous, and, though I strongly believe the mere existence of pet chaplaincy bodes well for the public good, especially for those who grieve for animals, I have run into skepticism about my work in some circles. A good friend of mine told me years ago that some people would “get it” and some would not. The also advised, “Don’t push the river, just go where it flows.” I have found this to be sage advice.” from the Robert Gierka bio at https://petchaplain.com/collaborators/

What is Animal Ministry and Why Does It Matter

Animal ministry is actually about people and how we interconnect with the animals around us. Most religions have traditions regarding the spirituality of animals and that intersects with human life in a positive way. Some would argue that in American culture, this reverence for feathered, furred and scaled creatures has disappeared. This is where animal ministries step in.

Interfaith animal chaplains provide a variety of services to their community, including pet loss grief support, memorial services, prayer for animals who are sick or injured, being present at a clinic to comfort the bereaved, and providing support during surgery or euthanasia. Just like other clergy, they try to be there for the cyclical challenges of sharing your life with pets. As we become more and more connected to the animals with whom we share our homes, issues of illness and death become greater matters of the heart. Sometimes we need support and this is where a chaplain is helpful.” from Rebecca K. OConnor at https://www.petplace.com/article/dogs/pet-behavior-training/animal-ministers-and-chaplains/


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