Category Archives: Dogs

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

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

Jan 27 – Animal Chaplaincy – Rev. Chris Rothbauer

Currently serving as a Unitarian Universalist Minister in Auburn, Alabama, Rev. Chris Rothbauer professes:

“My calling is towards healing of the universe and her human and non-human creatures. Our interconnection to the rest of the universe is not just some lofty intellectual exercise, but a fact of existence. As the late Carl Sagan once remarked, “We are all stardust.” Modern society often alienates us from these interconnections. I feel a deep call to help restore this sense of relationship with the universe and nurture a deep sense of love for human and non-human life alike as well as the universe as a whole.

We live at a time when the universe itself is threatened by the consequences of decades of thoughtless actions that have damaged this one and only planet we call home. At a time when so much is at stake for the future of our planet, I feel a deep calling to heal this damage before it is too late. I am called to participate in the Great Turning, in the words of Joanna Macy, the emerging story of how we might yet reverse the effects of climate change precipitated by an attitude of human supremacy.”

Involved in multiple ministries, Rev. Chris is also a Registered Pet Chaplain who explains:

Animal chaplaincy is not a support for mental health services, but a multi-faith way to explore the spiritual and emotional issues surrounding our connection to our animal friends.

For much more information on animal chaplaincy and Rev. Chris’ approach and services check out his website:

Jan 26 – Animal Chaplaincy – A Rich Vocation?


The professional animal chaplain, aka interspecies, interspiritual, care provider, is not known as a high-paying vocation. In fact, some people performing this community service do so for free. For example:

Here are a couple of comments from an article written about Sid Korpi last August 15, 2022 titled: Animal Ministry Career – What Does a Pet Loss Chaplain Do?

Since she often works for free, Korpi requests free-will offerings for services such as accompanying people and their pets to euthanasia appointments, doing group animal blessings, conducting pet loss support groups, speaking to groups about pet loss, and writing and delivering pet funeral or memorial services.

Work with pets because your heart and soul compels you to, not because you’re hoping to get rich,” she says. “If you’re interested in animal chaplaincy, you must love animals above almost everything else. You must be seeking to live your life on a slightly higher plane of existence. That means the earthly rewards may be few, but the spiritual ones abound.”

Read more about Sid Korpi and this profession at

Today’s vocational senryu: Must We Choose

one or another

or possible to have both

wealth and poverty

Jan 25 – Three Prayers for Three More-Than-Human Companions

“In the beginning, all creatures were hidden treasures – longing to be known, and brought into being. God then exhaled a sigh of compassion, and with that great sigh, the world was created.” Sufi parable, Blessing the Animals, Lynn L. Caruso, p.192

There’s something special about interspecies communication; something that transcends the superficial chatter between members of your own species. I’ve been fortunate to experience three friendships with three more-than-humans who are no longer alive, no longer in this physical realm that I still inhabit.

Below are belated goodbye prayers for each with gratitude to the higher power that brought us together.

Loving Creator, before Lexie, the cat, came to join our lives, you knew her, knew that she longed to be brought into this loving family. Thank you for making us relatives.

Oh, Compassionate One, with your breath you created Etta Pearl, the feisty canine, first came into being. We didn’t know Etta in her prime, but she shared much with us in her final months. Thank you for introducing us.

Eternal Life Force, you created Honey, the beautiful racehorse. Her snort and whinny, her sprints and quick stops were a joy for both of us. Thank you for letting us share her retirement years.

For all three, the opportunity to feed, clean up after, and stare deeply into each other’s eyes, was a treasure that still remains in my memory. I am grateful to have shared part of my life with a part of theirs.


Warm summer sun, shine kindly here;

Warm western wind, blow softly here;

Green sod above, lie light, lie light –

Good-night, dear heart, good-night, good-night.”

Robert Richardson’s “Annette,” adapted by Mark Twain

Blessing the Animals, Lynn L. Caruso, p.193

Jan 24 – Animal Chaplain Blessings

Blessing of the Animals Today!! @ Patch

One spiritual care service of an animal chaplain is to bless or thank a higher power for the non-human companion(s) in our life.

For some great examples see this book edited by Lynn L. Caruso:

A couple of quotes from this beautiful book that caught my attention are:

“There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” Albert Schweitzer, p.31

“Deep peace of the running wave to you. Deep peace of the flowing air to you. Deep peace of the quiet earth to you. Deep peace of the shining stars to you. Deep peace of the infinite peace to you.” Celtic blessing, attributed to Fiona McLeod, p.163

“May all sentient beings be happy, may all sentient beings be peaceful, may all sentient beings be free from suffering.” Buddhist prayer, p.184

In this spirit, I wish you and your companions, human and non-human, many moments of love and joy today:

Bless you and yours, here

and now, may your love expand

like the universe

Jan 23 – Four Roles of an Animal Chaplain

Donna Rae Yuritic’s Compassion for Creatures Animal Ministry

Yuritic estimated, as of 2008, there were “50 animal chaplains in the U.S. and Canada.” That number has grown significantly since due to her work and that of Reverend Sarah Bowen.

Sarah Bowen’s roadkill ministry

What does an animal chaplain do? Sarah Bowen identifies at least four roles in a Tricycle magazine article.

Those roles are: “animal chaplains primarily help people with

  1. end-of-life care and the grieving process for the animals who often become an integral part of our families but whose deaths we tend to not process as fully. The job can also entail
  2. working with animals in shelters,
  3. addressing behavioral problems through interspecies spiritual practices, and
  4. animal advocacy.

Or, stated another way on Sarah Bowen’s website,

  1. Supporting animals
  2. Promoting human/animal bonds
  3. Sacred Sendoffs
  4. Advocating for non-human animals

If you’re interested in “honoring animal lives and healing human hearts” check out Sarah Bowen’s companion website Compassion Consortium:

Jan 12 – A Sane Life

Today’s senryu: A Sane Life

A Cadillac won’t,

maybe enlightenment will,

and dogs can teach us.

Charlotte Joko Beck b.1917 – d.2011 (Photo © Michael Lange)

American Zen teacher, Charlotte Joko Beck, co-founded the Ordinary Mind Zen School and wrote three books:

Beck also authored a keen article for Lions Roar magazine in August 2011 called A Sane Life; see I love her opening paragraph:

My dog doesn’t worry about the meaning of life. She may worry if she doesn’t get her breakfast, but she doesn’t sit around worrying about whether she will get fulfilled or liberated or enlightened. As long as she gets some food and a little affection, her life is fine. But we human beings are not like dogs. We have self-centered minds which get us into plenty of trouble. If we do not come to understand the error in the way we think, our self-awareness, which is our greatest blessing, is also our downfall.

Lions Roar logo

If you’re interested in the relationship between Zen and modern psychology, check out her books, the article mentioned above, or even this < 2-minute video:

Jan 9 – Interspecies, Interspiritual, Dog-Walking Meditation


Walking meditation is a mindful movement practice in which you consciously concentrate on walking so that you know you are walking AND notice the sense perceptions around you with each step.  For example, if you’re walking outside, you see where you are walking, you hear the various sounds of nature while you are walking, you feel the breeze and the temperature of your environment and smell the aromas of Mother Earth. You can also focus your thoughts by using a word, phrase or mantra (e.g., repeating your canine companions name).

As one Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hanh, explains, “Walking meditation is a wonderful practice. The primary purpose of walking meditation is to completely enjoy the experience of walking. We walk all the time but our steps are often burdened with our anxieties and sorrows. When we walk in mindfulness, each step can create a fresh breeze of peace, joy and harmony. Our destination is the here and now.”

Thich Nhat Hanh adds that you can use a small bell to begin and end your walk and use words or phrases during the walk to guide your focused, mindful steps. Specifically, he says, “When the bell sounds for walking, our breath is coordinated with our steps – we take an in-breath and make one step with the left foot. On the out-breath we take another step with the right foot. Then we begin the cycle again. We can also hold words in our heart. For example, with one step we can say, ‘I have arrived’ and with the next, ‘I am home.’ You may continue with other meaning phrases such as, ‘Yes’ and ‘thank you.’ Our body flows in a continuous movement in harmony with our breathing.”

See The Long Road Turns to Joy – A Guide to Walking Meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh, (c) 1996

A walking meditation practice can be very beautiful and comforting when done alone or with other humans.  It can also be very enjoyable with “other-than-human” companions but may not be as orderly or synchronized. 😊

For example, when I walk with my companion canine, Zorro, a 7-pound Chihuahua, we begin with me carrying him for the first half of our 300-foot walk. Fortunately, he is easy to carry but he still needs his exercise to maintain his muscle tone AND, equally important, to do his daily duty/doody (i.e., defecate and urinate). 

When I put him down on the ground next to me, he will often sniff, slowly begin walking until he finds the “right place” to do his duty/doody and then, upon completion, sprint the remaining 250 feet to the front door of our house where he knows his water dish and reward treats are located.

Anyone can do this dog-walking meditation knowing that their process and results will vary depending on their canine companion’s needs and desires.

May you and your canine companion enjoy your interspecies, interspiritual, walking meditation experience.

CYE Countdown – Dec 31 – Grateful for 2022

Dear Friend,

Thanks to the generosity of many people like you who value the difference that grateful living makes in your life and in the lives of all sentient beings, please consider a gift to your local animal shelter or Humane Society International:

Your support today will truly help. Please join me with a gift of any size. Your support helps protect all animals—including those suffering in laboratories, on factory farms and those abused in the wild.

You can help stop animal cruelty. Please give today.

Today’s senryu: Make A Difference

make a difference –

if you can’t adopt a pet,

adopt a shelter

Please remember, together we can make a difference in our local community and for the planet as a whole.

Dec 29 – Truth, Metaphor or Magical Thinking

“The bell is the voice of the Buddha”

“This is My body and My blood.”

“Step on a crack, you’ll break your mother’s back.”

Key Definitions:

Truth – that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality (from Oxford Languages)

Metaphor – a thing regarded as representative or symbolic of something else, especially something abstract (from Oxford Languages)

Magical Thinking – a set of related reasoning errors that are commonly associated with religionistic practices. (from Wikipedia)

Dog Contemplations @ Pinterest

WTF: I need another cup of coffee