L.A. Now

Los Angeles' archbishop presides over annual Blessing of the Animals at Olvera Street

Over the noise of small dogs in shrill dispute, Archbishop José H. Gomez kicked off the annual Blessing of the Animals on Saturday with a prayer about the holiness of animals and their special bond with humans.

“Like humans, animals share in Christ’s redemption of God’s creations,” Gomez said to a crowd of hundreds of pet owners.

The ceremony, organized by the Olvera Street Merchants Association, has taken place every year in the Olvera Street plaza since 1930. The practice dates to the 4th century, when saints began to bless animals for the services they provide to humans.

Over the years, the blessing has become a highly coveted photo op for pet-owning shutterbugs.

Dogs and their owners dominated the line for the archbishop’s blessing, but there was also a llama named Rama, a rooster called White Boy, Buster the Russian tortoise and an Argentine black-and-white tegu lizard. A cow named Zero and her 1-month-old calf were the first in line.

Juliet Jones, 33, and Nathan Trowbridge, 37, of Pasadena awaited the archbishop’s blessing with Ra, their Sphynx cat for whom they had just launched an Instagram, “RuleofRa.”

The world of Sphynx cat Instagram is a competitive one, they said, but Saturday’s ceremony was a good opportunity to stand out. Ra was outfitted with a sombrero for the occasion.

“We’re trying to establish his Instagram presence.” Jones joked.

For others, the blessing was a rare and, perhaps, the only opportunity to get their pets baptized by an archbishop.

Susan, Robert and Kirsten Brown recently adopted Lucy, a Tibetan spaniel-dachshund mix, and Sergeant Pepper, a schnauzer-poodle. The family is Catholic, and it was important that the pets be as well, Susan Brown said.

“We needed her to get baptized for sure,” she said, pointing to Sergeant Pepper. “She’s a little naughty.”

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Former City Councilman Tom LaBonge also made an appearance. He left Hazel, his corgi-Chihuahua mix at home, but waited in line so he could present Gomez with a framed copy of Los Angeles’ bicentennial logo and a loaf of pumpkin bread.

LaBonge, who also owns a cat named Stacey, said he attends the event regularly

“The key to anybody’s faith is community, and that’s what this event is about,” LaBonge said.

At the end of the ceremony, Miguel Garcia hung back with Boomer, his 15-year-old dog, to ask for a special blessing.

Garcia drove from his home in Valencia and pushed Boomer, who is blind and nearing the end of his life, to meet the archbishop in a shopping cart padded with a dog bed. He said he was intensely gratified when Gomez reached out a hand to ruffle Boomer’s ear.

“I had to get Boomer here before the end,” Garcia said. “He’s blind but he’s happy.” 

Twitter: @frankshyong

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

Updated

5:35 p.m.: This story was updated with new information about the annual event.

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