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A Summer Pet Blessing in West Fairlee

  • People and their animals gather around the West Fairlee Center Congregational Church in West Fairlee, Vt. on July 9, 2017 for a blessing of the animals. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Alan Hitchener, left, of Post Mills, Vt., looks on while his parrot Cody is blessed by the Rev. Robin Junker- Boyce during a blessing of the animals at the West Fairlee Center Congregational Church in West Fairlee, Vt., on July 9, 2017. With Jonas Moore, 10, of Loveland, Ohio, Nikki Darling, middle, of West Fairlee, and Damaris Tyler, of Wilder, Vt., look on. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • James Peaveler, 5, and his sister Dalal, 8, of West Fairlee, Vt., enjoy their ice cream at the West Fairlee Community Club in West Fairlee, Vt., on July 9, 2017. Following the ice cream social there was a blessing of the animals at the West Fairlee Center Congregational Church adjacent to the club. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Rev. Robin Junker-Boyce says a blessing for Daisy the dog with her owners Jane and Bob Greenberg look on. The Greenbergs summer in Post Mills, Vt. but are from Bainbridge Island, Wash. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • At the end of an ice cream social at the West Fairlee Community Club in West Fairlee, Vt., on July 9, 2017 Nate Pero laughs with Nina Tumosa, of Fairlee, Vt., and Peggy Willey, of West Fairlee. Tumosa and Willey were eating what was left in the pot of hot fudge before washing the pan in soapy water. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • For a moment during the ceremony Delsie Hoyt, of West Fairlee, Vt., uses her dog Zoe to find a hymn during the blessing of the animals at the West Fairlee Center Congregational Church in West Fairlee, on July 9, 2017. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



STORY BY LIZ SAUCHELLI
Sunday, July 16, 2017

West Fairlee — It was a traditional New England scene: The white-steepled church, the former schoolhouse-turned-community-center, the heaps of ice cream (with an option for maple syrup topping) being shared among neighbors to celebrate the community they call home.

And then there were the dogs. And the horse. And later, a parrot. The animals were, in a sense, the honored guests of the afternoon. After the ice cream social hosted by the West Fairlee Community Club, the animals were honored on July 9 with a blessing on the lawn next to the West Fairlee Center Congregational Church, located along Middlebrook Road.

The blessing of the animals is a way to bring people together, said Katherine Adams, a West Fairlee native who lives in Tunbridge. “I think people come because they’re not being blessed,” she said. “It’s not particularly obviously religious. It’s about celebrating their animals.”

The Rev. Robin Junker-Boyce, pastor of the First Congregational Church in Thetford, presided over the service. She went up to each animal and said a blessing, which included the phrase “may your days be filled with sunshine and good things to eat.” Those who were unable to bring their animals showed Junker-Boyce a photograph, which she then blessed.

The event offered something for everyone in attendance, fur or no fur.

Peter Moore has been spending summers in West Fairlee since 1953. He attended with his family, including a dog named Happy.

He said he enjoyed the ice cream social because it gave him “the chance to see neighbors we usually wouldn’t see.”

One of his favorite parts of summer in the region is the fresh fruit — blueberries and strawberries — he picks at area farms every year. He freezes the fruit and brings it back to his native Kentucky, “where (the berries are) worth their weight in gold,” he said.

Violetta Faulkner snapped photographs of people eating their ice cream and talking to their neighbors.

A Piermont resident, she is a regular volunteer with the community club.

“I think it’s a very worthwhile organization,” she said of the group. “They really keep an eye on where help is needed.”

Although the ice cream social was free, a basket was set out for donations. A sign affixed to it indicated that the donations would go toward preserving and maintaining historic buildings.

Cindy Welsh attended the event with her goldendoodle Butter. Welsh has lived in the area for 11 years and “wouldn’t live anywhere else,” she said.

It was the first blessing of the animals Junker-Boyce had been a part of.

“It was wonderful,” she said. “I loved every minute of it.”

The service emphasized the teachings of St. Francis, who treated all living creatures as “his brothers and sisters,” said Junker-Boyce, whose yellow Labrador retriever Ivan was among the animals in attendance.

Occasionally during the service, a dog would bark, and other dogs would sound off in reply.

It was as if they realized that they were very much part of the community their owners had gathered to celebrate.

Jennifer Hauck can be reached at jhauck@vnews.com or 603-727-3230. Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.