Roughly 200 of Ando's family, friends and fellow canines gathered under an overcast sky yesterday at the Diamond in Ligonier to pay their last respects.
"I'm reminded of the movie 'All Dogs Go to Heaven.' Well, I don't know if all dogs go to heaven, but I know this one did," said the Rev. Dr. James B. Simons, officiate of the 30-minute service held at the Diamond gazebo, as the sun broke through the clouds.
The Diocese of Pittsburgh adds:
It’s not everyday that an Episcopal priest leads a funeral procession for a dog. But it’s not everyday that a community comes together to mourn a dog like Ando. He was one of a special breed, not in the sense of canine genetics, but in his public service. Ando, a German shepherd, served for seven years as Ligonier Township’s K-9 police officer. He was euthanized last week, one month after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. That’s when officials turned to the Rev. Dr. James Simons, Rector of St. Michael’s of the Valley in Ligonier.
“They asked me to officiate at a community memorial service,” said Dr. Simons, who added that he has sometimes been asked by animal owners to help them deal with the loss of a family pet or horse. More than 200 people turned out to pay tribute to Ando, according to the Tribune-Review, one of many news organizations covering the August 23rd event on the Diamond in Ligonier. The service began with bagpipes and prayers; it ended with the retiring of Ando’s badge and the sounding of Taps.
Many denominations, including the Episcopal Church, have prayers for the blessing of animals. Few offer rites for their funerals. Dr. Simons found a service used by an Episcopal Church that spoke to the proper place of animals within all of God’s creation.
General Convention 2009 approved development of an official Liturgy for the Loss of a Companion Animal.
Read the resolution below:
Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That this 76th General Convention reaffirm that all animals are a part of All Creation, for which we are called to be stewards of God's gifts; and be it further
Resolved, That the Episcopal Church embrace the opportunity for pastoral care for people who grieve the loss of a companion animal; and be it further
Resolved, That this General Convention direct the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to develop liturgical resources to observe the loss of a companion animal and that it reoprt its work to the 77th General Convention.
Various groups within the Church have shown an interest in developing inclusive liturgies for events that touch people's lives, for which there currently exists no authorized rite. The bond between humans and their animal companions can be strong, causing a deep sense of loss, grief (or even guilt) over the animal's death, especially when dealing with the loss alone, without the presence of their community of faith, or having the preconception that such an event falls outside the interest of their church. Our animal companions provide a unique connection to creation and expand our sense of God's diverse gifts in creation. In many cases they also join us as partners in ministry, in such capacities as assistance animals, i.e., seeing eye dogs, etc. as well as therapy dogs and cats used in health care facilities and for pastoral care. An authorized rite in the Book of Occasional Services would give clergy and others a resource for offering pastoral care at the death of a companion animal.