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Uproar In Canada over a Dogs’ Holy Communion

August 1st, 2010 By: Admin
A Canadian priest in Toronto caused a unholy uproar by doing the unthinkable, giving Holy Communion to a dog. Reverend Marguerite Rea of St Peter’s Anglican Church, in Toronto, received complaints from Christians all over Canada after she fed communion bread to a German Shepherd cross named Trapper.

Ms Rea said it had been a “simple church act of reaching out” to a new congregation member and his pet.  “If I have hurt, upset or embarrassed anyone, I apologise,” she told her congregation on Sunday morning, the Toronto Star reports.

The controversy began last month when four-year-old Trapper and his owner, Donald Keith, 56, attended the church in Toronto’s downtown area for the first time. “The minister welcomed me and said come up and take communion, and Trapper came up with me and the minister gave him communion as well,” Mr Keith told the Toronto Star.  “I thought it was a nice way to welcome me into the church. I thought it was acceptable. There was an old lady in the front just beaming when she saw this.”

Holy Communion Dog

But not all parishioners at the service were quite so charmed by the sight of the priest leaning down and placing a wafer on the wagging tongue of Trapper, a German Shepherd-Rhodesian ridgeback cross. Communion bread is considered by Anglicans to represent the body of Jesus Christ.

When news spread of the canine communion, St Peter’s Church began receiving e-mails from angry Christians all over the country.

“Communion is a symbol of the sacrifice of Jesus’ body; he died for all of us. But I don’t recall anything from the scripture about Jesus dying for the salvation of our pets,” said Cheryl Chang, director of the Anglican Network in Canada, the National Post newspaper reports.

Mr Keith has since been told that he and his dog are most welcome at the church, but Trapper can no longer receive communion. “This has blown me away. The church is even getting e-mails from Catholics,” said the truck driver. “Ninety-nine-point-nine per cent of the people in the church love Trapper and the kids play with him. It was just one person who got his nose out of joint. “Holy smokes. We are living in the downtown core. This is small stuff. I thought it was innocent and it made me think of the Blessing of the Animals.”


My response: Welcome to the world of fanaticism. When my husband and I hosted a Geezer Gala (a ’50s Sock Hop & Alzheimer’s fundraiser) and had a story run on us in the Catholic Spirit newspaper, the reporter warned us we might be boycotted based on the strong opinions of some parishioners that Alzheimer research must be stopped because of its involvement with stem cells. I about lost it! It truly is the vocal few who blow up issues so terribly for all of the more reasonable people out there.

I’m sorry this happened. As an animal chaplain who works with people to help them prepare for, cope with and move on after pet loss, as well as the author of “Good Grief: Finding Peace After Pet Loss,” I would have applauded this priest’s inclusion of Trapper in his communion. I view all animals as our fellow creatures, not less than and not greater than us homo sapiens. I know they have souls, just as we do, thanks to afterlife connections I’ve had with both humans and animals who’ve died. The only difference is that animals are not in need of having their souls “saved” by intervention of any church. Only humans have the distinction of being able to purposefully sin. I really don’t understand why anyone would feel so threatened by this act of inclusion.

I will continue to perform nonsectarian animal blessings and be proud to be able to express my gratitude toward all animals for bringing so much joy into our lives. I may substitute kibble for holy wafers, though… —Sid

Jasper had a difficult start to his life, but he never held a grudge. He had a personality of peacefulness that I have never seen in another wild animal. He enjoyed and accepted every person and animal that came into his life. But his best friend of all was Otis, who passed a few years ago. Jasper was so calm and easy going and even participated calmly in his medical treatment to curb his recent onset of seizures.
Jasper taught me so many life lessons while he was alive, but his death may have taught me the most important….All living things are connected in this world…and never underestimate this.
Jasper was the third resident to reside at TWS and was one of my closest animal friends. His seizures had subsided and he was stable when I left for my recent trip to Africa. This trip was extremely special and enlightening. I learned so much from the beautiful animals living out their lives in the wild as well as the extreme poverty but also joyful resilience of the people in Africa.
For years I have heard and used the term Rainbow Bridge when animals pass. But in the recent years, we have often seen a full rainbow within a few days prior or after an animal passing at TWS. We’ve always looked at is as nothing more than an interesting coincidence until my trip to Africa.
Upon my day of arrival in Lewa Conservancy, the brightest and most vibrant full rainbow appeared. I had never seen anything so strong and beautiful. See above for the actual photo. But with that came a heavy aching. My mind went right to the Rainbow Bridge. A frantic email home revealed everything was good and the animals were fine. My new friends in Africa comforted me and said; maybe the rainbow in Africa means something different than at home. “No worries – it’s all good,” I heard repeatedly on my trip.
The week continued full of animal tracking and visiting local schools. Each day, I felt blessed to be having such an experience. The sense of peace, appreciation and healing were overwhelming. Late into the trip, our group proceeded to Pombe Point. A high point that over looked all of Lewa. It was breath taking. Within a few minutes of arriving, an amazing full rainbow appeared, not only one, but then another above it. A complete double rainbow. I had seen a full rainbow the first day, but never a double rainbow. Tears filled my eyes – of happiness and sadness. I couldn’t explain really why, but the Rainbow Bridge came back into my thoughts. It would be several days before I could be in communication with TWS again. But when I finally did contact home, I emailed Trista saying I’ve seen not only the full rainbow, but a double. I said I know something had happened and she confirmed that Jasper had passed at 4:30 pm on the day I saw the double rainbow.
My heart broke not only from his leaving but not being there with him. I know he was in the best and most caring hands as he left us and I find peace in that. I am still in shock of his passing but also in the great connection that I felt all the way from Africa. I no longer believe the Rainbow Bridge is just a phrase. I’m not sure I know exactly what it is or what happened, but I do know that I am now so thankful and aware of the connection between the earth, animals and people. It is a magical thing.
Jasper, thank you for your message and rest in peace with Otis at the Rainbow Bridge.

Another perspective is shared here by longtime TWS volunteer Susan Timmerman:

As irony had it, I was up there that day but only because of some crazy, last minute rescheduling. Originally I was supposed to be up covering the sanctuary overnight the previous weekend. I was frustrated and irritated when my plans got changed. But we never know what the universe has in store for us, so now, looking back, I can see that I need to just chill out and go with the flow – there was a reason.

What first seemed like one mild seizure turned into one right after another within a couple hours time. Trista and I drove Jasper to Lake Elmo to see Doc Baillie. He had two more in transit. Both of us were thinking the same thing but not verbalizing it – there’s no way his brain or body can recuperate from this. Doc confirmed that after examining him and we then knew we had to let him go. I feel so honored to have been with him when he passed. He was one of my first, and one of my favorite, photography subjects. His gentleness was clearly visible on his face. He never quite got over losing his cage mate, Otis, a couple years back. I now find comfort in believing they are together once more and somewhere in the great beyond, cuddled up in a warm sunbeam, sharing their love for each other and talking about ‘the good old days’!

To all the volunteers at TWS, I say:

Please accept my deepest sympathy for the heartache you must all be feeling. Rescued animals of any sort tend to find a place even deeper in our hearts than is typical, simply through the act of rescuing and taking profound responsibility for their lives and happiness. We feel it’s incumbent upon us to “make up for” their past hardships (although they’d never lay that on us themselves).

Jasper was beautiful inside and out, and I personally thank you all for your efforts to create a blissful world for him through his last days in this earthly life.

I am so sorry for your loss,

In submitting an article on pet loss  for The Daily Tail blog, I made the e-acquaintance of fellow blogger, Dr. Nancy Kay, DVM, author of Speaking for Spot. She kindly shared with me some of the responses she’d received from her NPR Fresh Air with Terry Gross interviews. I’ve excerpted a particularly pointed one, with her permission, wherein she respectfully addresses the viewpoints of the decidedly non-animal-loving faction of the audience, while making a perfect case for those of us who do cherish our fellow creatures. Reading this can be useful for those of us experiencing pet loss and encountering that all-too-common lack of empathy from people around us for our experience.

Differing Perspectives on the Same Observations

Sunday, September 13th, 2009 by Nancy Kay, DVM

I’ve received many wonderful emails in response to my interviews on Fresh Air with Terry Gross. The stories I’ve heard about peoples’ pets run the gamut from delightful to heart wrenching. Many listeners described crying while driving—I certainly hope Terry and I were not responsible for creating any collisions!

I’ve also received emails from a handful of folks who were put off by the Fresh Air interviews. The content of Anne’s comments (printed below with her permission) is representative of what these disgruntled listeners had to say:

“I’m annoyed at how dogs have become soooo important over the past 10 years or so. They’re just pets! Just animals. Clearly all this elevation of dogs is a by-product of a society in trouble. Never would I have imagined that dogs would be referred to as ‘family members’ or ‘surrogate children.’ NEVER!! Back in the day, the dog was just the ‘family dog,’ not ‘the dog family member.’ It was like, ‘Yeah, there’s the dog, so what?’ No thought was given to brushing its teeth, worrying about dog cancer, or feeling guilty if we went on vacation and left the dog at home with a neighbor to look after it. I recently read a book about an African village, and the hard life they have, and the poverty. I found it so shameful that they live like that, while America’s dogs are often dressed in designer clothes, waited on hand and foot, given the best medical care, the best food, cooed over, etc. What the hell has happened to Americans? We’ve gone nutty! Dogs are just dogs, driven by selfish instinct to look after their own interests.”

As easy as it would be to ignore such “fan mail,” I truly believe that Anne’s comments are worthy of consideration. Given what I do for a living, I have certainly grappled with what I believe Anne is questioning. Is it reasonable to invest so much, emotionally and financially, in our pets when there is so much human suffering in the world? After all, the amount of money spent on one of our four-legged family members during the course of a year would represent a fortune to someone who is impoverished. Wouldn’t “shut in” senior citizens relish the affection and attention we lavish upon our pets?

While I agree with Anne’s observations—yes, many people consider their pets to be “family members” and yes, there is a great deal of human suffering in the world—I disagree with her notion that doting on our pets detracts from our willingness and ability to give of ourselves to others. I contend that the opposite is true. Many studies have documented that the human-animal bond positively impacts peoples’ psychological well-being. People whose “emotional bellies” are full rather than empty are more inspired and capable of giving their time, energy, and financial resources to others in need. One need not be a scientist to know that pets bestow a unique brand of sweetness and joy upon our lives; they keep us grounded even when insanity abounds. As I state in the introduction of Speaking for Spot, “Today the human-animal bond is stronger than ever. Perhaps, the more tumultuous the world around us, the tighter we cling to our beloved pets. They soothe us with their predictability and unconditional love, and they consistently give in excess of what they receive.”

Loving our pets does not make them more important than humans, nor does it “replace” our ability to tend to the needy. Rather, opening our homes and our hearts to animals makes our own humanity more accessible. Temple Grandin got it just right when she titled her newest book, Animals Make Us Human. Our love of animals doesn’t fill up our hearts—it makes our hearts grow bigger.

Wishing you and your four-legged family members good health,

Dr. Nancy Kay

Specialist, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine

Please visit to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”—helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, as well as a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health.


Dr. Nancy Kay and friend

DR. NANCY KAY holds a veterinary degree from Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine, is a staff internist at VCA Animal Care Center, a 24-hour emergency/specialty care center in Rohnert Park, Calif., and  founded and helps facilitate the VCA Animal Care Center Client Support Group.

Dr. Kay was selected by the American Animal Hospital Association to receive the 2009 Hill’s Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award. This award is given annually to a veterinarian or nonveterinarian who has advanced animal welfare through extraordinary service or by furthering humane principles, education, and understanding.



As I said in my “Animals as Teachers” chapter in my book, they model for us the importance of living in the here and now, not fast-forwarding to the inevitable loss and parting we must face. They pick up on our constant state of sorrow and anxiety. We don’t want to spoil their last moments with us, and vice versa, by focusing on the fear and dread. Though it’s easier to say than to do, every time the fear threatens to grow and overshadow our present moments with our pets we must take the time to take a few deep breaths to release those thoughts and bring us back to the instant we are petting/holding/loving our animal companion. They pick up on our thoughts and state of mind, and being present with them and grateful of that moment will give them peace as well.

I recently read an article by pet psychic Cherie Vergini that explained this concept nicely. Give it a look at

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