By Erika Webb
Pet rescuers generally agree they are the beneficiaries when they open their homes and hearts to animals in need.
A recent event at Cassadaga's Colby Memorial Temple offered proofs that when animals are involved everyone wins.
Steve and Peggy Adkins and their expectant-mother Calkins Shar-Pei, Paris; Tami Hull and her rescued mixed breeds Makana and Keiana; Shawn and John Kreider and their Forest City find, aptly named Forest; as well as several cats and dogs being cared for by ARK volunteers until permanent homes are found were among the animal-loving crowd gathered to celebrate furry friendships at Cassadaga's first Pet Blessing on Saturday, Oct. 12.
Forest was having a little trouble focusing while intuitive counselor Molly MacCartney sketched his portrait and "touched into" his spirit.
The psychic medium assured Mr. and Mrs. Kreider that Forest is in good shape for the shape he's in. Approaching 12 years old, he has some hip discomfort and tires more easily than he once did.
"I feel like he's doing well for his age," Ms. MacCartney said. "His health level is like at 10 years old, and he's got a good strong immune system."
On the emotional side, she sensed Forest might be grieving the loss of a family member. The Kreiders confirmed that in recent years they'd lost a pet pal of Forest's, and another is elderly and somewhat ailing.
"Yes, he's feeling on his own," Ms. MacCartney explained, adding it might be the reason he's been waking his owners up for 3 a.m. bonding sessions.
"He's looking for connection, just experiencing a little bit of loneliness but it doesn't feel health related," Ms. MacCartney said.
The black and white "Heinz 57" was nonplussed over his physical and spiritual states, living in the tail-wagging, people and animal watching moment, anxious to mingle.
Ms. MacCartney turned to the dog's orange aura and his soul purpose. She intuited that Forest has been good for the couple's relationship.
"He's been really important from the time you got him, like a mirror of how you take care of each other in the relationship," she said. "There's a triangulation and you talk about him like (he's) a child. It was like bringing home a child off the street. I feel like John can communicate emotionally to Shawn when talking about (Forest)."
Mr. Kreider readily agreed.
Short walks, a little swimming, some glucosamine and a more holistic type of food along with "easing up on the treats" were Ms. MacCartney's main recommendations.
"He's a very happy dog though," she said.
Tami Hull, a firefighter from Orlando, said someone left a gift for her when they dropped the tan-colored mixed breed she named Makana -- the Hawaiian word for gift -- at the fire station where she works.
Her other adopted canine, a nine-year-old Catahoula wire-hair terrier mix named Keiana, which means moon goddess, helps Ms. Hull understand herself and that has made all the difference.
An organization called Centers for Animal Therapies, or C.A.T., which had a table set up at the event, assisted in the process.
C.A.T. is a DeLand-based educational program designed to provide learning opportunities about the interactive role of animals and humans. Understanding is accomplished through experiences and teachings regarding the behavioral, physical, intuitive and spiritual world of animals, according to the organization's website.
"When I found them I was looking for somebody to help me with Monkey (her nickname for Keiana)," Ms. Hull said. "She had behavioral issues because of all the changes in her life. She had storm anxiety and was destructive to the house."
Ms. Hull met a canine behaviorist at a pet expo who introduced her to C.A.T. founder Jo Maldonado.
"I started taking classes with her and she helped me understand energy ... everything's made of energy. How we control and use our energy affects them," she said nodding toward her dogs.
Animals are our teachers, the C.A.T. website simply states.
"Monkey's behaviors were somewhat because of me, being out of balance and letting myself get upset and anxious about situations I couldn't do anything about," Ms. Hull said.
Calling the protective canine her soul mate and her gauge, the firefighter's relaxed, genuinely happy demeanor belies her candid admission she was once anything but.
"We all have our issues," she said. "If I'm getting angry (Monkey) will sit in front of me, wag her tail, start smiling and redirect my energy. By making me aware, she's helped teach me how to be more grounded, more energetically even or be more aware of it when I'm not."
"I went looking for help for her and I actually found help for me," Ms. Hull added, grinning.
Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp Pastor Janie Owens has never suffered from an animal shortage. Her home has always been a harbor for strays.
The pet blessing was born of a personal desire to share what she's received through giving.
"We're trying to provide adoption opportunities, things for sale. I love animals and wanted to think out of the box ... lets do something different," she said.
The pet blessing gave individuals, vendors and organizations a chance to promote themselves, their products and services.
And it offered hope for animals in need of second chances.
Gabriela Porras, 11 of Casselberry, sat quietly in a chair near ARK's cat cages and volunteers. In her lap was 13 year-old Chi Chi, a Chihuahua recently turned in to the rescue organization.
As Gabby stroked the dog's face and neck, Chi Chi gazed adoringly into the girl's face.
"I'm trying to get my mom to take her home with us, I've been trying to beg her," Gabby said. "She's a little dog. She needs a forever home. A forever home is what I can give."
Gabriela's mom offered a reluctant smile. The family lives in an apartment and they already have one small dog. Another was out of the question.
As the young girl and the elderly dog continued to bond, everything going on around them was white noise.
Completely unaware that anyone but Chi Chi was watching, Gabriela slowly wiped a tear from her left, then her right, eye.
Chi Chi stayed in the moment, simply enjoying the genuine offering of affection.
After the event Hometown News confirmed Gabriela had to leave the dog with ARK volunteer Kathryn Zerbel that day.
What she may not know is how the touching interaction impacted bystanders.
Fear of taking on an older dog wasn't going to stop the 11 year old girl who simply wanted the animal to have a permanent home.
Her wish was duly noted.
Chi Chi has been adopted, according to Ms. Zerbel, a direct result of the pet blessing event, and a young girl's demonstration of unconditional love.
A blessing indeed.