On October 8th pet owners around the city gathered on Bellefonte Street with their favorite family companions – furry, feathered or finned for the Celebration and Blessing of Animals benefiting Animal Rescue League Shelter & Wildlife Center (ARL) and the Western PA Humane Society (WPHS).

Shadyside has long been a hot spot for Pittsburghers boasting fabulous shopping, exciting nightlife and great eats. The centrally located Pittsburgh neighborhood is also known to be pet-friendly, featuring more than 50 dog friendly businesses and a ton of pet friendly events every year.

This past weekend visitors to Shadyside enjoyed ARL’s take on the animal blessing tradition, which finds its roots from St. Francis of Assissi.  It was Francis, the patron saint of animals, which emphasized that creation included more than just mankind and celebrated the fact that a bond can exist between man and all creatures.  Some faith communities celebrate the Feast of St. Francis (October 4), a day that recalls the life of the 13th century saint and in his honor, celebrates the day with a blessing of pets and animals.

“Each year we partner with Journeys of Life and Petagogy to make this an educational and fun day for pet owners,” said ARL Marketing Director, Ann Yeager.   This event is unique in its celebration of all animals from a spiritual view.”

The event which ran from 11 am to 4 pm included some fun past just the interfaith blessings.  Guests enjoyed pet vendors, face painting, animal psychic readings, animal photo opportunities and give-a-ways.

“The Celebration and Blessing of the Animal is a fun family event for all those with 4 legged ‘kids’,” said Jena Haller, owner of Journeys of Life, one of the event’s presenting sponsors.   “Over the years we have had guinea pigs, two rabbits in a carriage and a 200 pound pot belly pig not to mention a myriad of dogs and cats.”

Journeys of Life staff and volunteers worked the ARL Gift Shop Moving Sale which had rock bottom prices for products in preparation for the move into the new ARL facility.

Attendee Sebin Sleet was thrilled to attend the event with her Golden Doodle Pup, Shira. “This event is such a great idea,” said Sebin, who just happened to be in Shadyside with her three month old pup to drop off her daughter for art class. “I am happy to see an organization celebrate the wonderful bond between pets and owner.”

ARL holds the event yearly in their mission to provide temporary shelter, food, medical attention, and comfort to all abandoned, neglected and injured animals brought to them by the community AND connect animals with their forever homes.

It seems the ARL themselves are blessed in more ways than one.  They are completing a new 35,200 sq. ft. facility in the East End area of Pittsburgh which will handle services such as their adoptions, a low cost clinic, behavior and training.  Their Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and Pet Cemetery currently located in  Verona, PA will continue to remain there.

Also on the news front – a recent announcement that the Animal Rescue League Shelter and Wildlife Center (ARL) and the Western PA Humane Society (WPHS) approved a merger of the two animal welfare organizations, effective January 1, 2017.  The merger will result in a new organization that will be one of the largest open-door shelters in Pennsylvania.