Dogs tried to drink the holy water contained in a crystal bowl, cats appeared confused and annoyed when they were pulled from boxes to be sprinkled with the sacred liquid, parrots shook their heads after their shower, and the rats, mice and turtles didn't react much at all.
But by the end of Monday morning's Bless the Animals ceremony at St. Michael's School, about 100 pets had been individually blessed and sprinkled with holy water--whether they liked it or not.
Students in kindergarten through sixth grade gathered on the school quad for the annual event, which is as much a pet show-and-tell as it is a religious ritual.
"The kids just love it," said Julie McEachern, assistant head of the school. "How often do they get to show each other their pets? Bless the Animals has become an annual tradition here during the past eight years."
Parent Robert Liner said his daughter Grace had been talking about the ceremony since she got her Collie, Max, for Christmas.
"She's been so excited about bringing Max to school," Liner said, straining to keep Max in place on his leash. "He's still got some puppy in him."
Parent Cynthia Izen, who brought her son Jonathan's golden retriever, called the event "mayhem, but fun."
"Everybody loves to be here with their pets," she said. "And I really like the philosophy the school tries to instill in students that animals are like a part of the family and are deeply loved."
The blessing is held in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals, who is honored each Oct. 4. The St. Michael's ceremony is intended to show the students that all creatures deserve respect and honor, said Kenlyn Kanouse, director of Christian education at St. Michael's Episcopal Church.
"All God's creatures, not just humans, are loved by God," she said during the ceremony. "Our pets are very important parts of our family and our lives."