Saturday, November 10, 2012

Bella, the Prayer Dog Lends Gravitas to Pet Blessing and Book Signing

Bella, author Rev Talitha Arnold, & St Francis
If you’ve read Talitha Arnold’s story, “Prayer Dog” (in Animal Companions, Animal Doctors, Animal People) you know Bella and the story of what she has done for Rev Arnold’s congregation – and they for her. (If you haven’t read the story, there's an excerpt below.)

Bella continued her tradition of participating in important church events, formal and informal, on October 6 at the United Church of Santa Fe’s annual St. Francis and St. Clare Pet Blessing. The event, open to the public (animals and their loving guardians), is held in honor of St. Francis of Assisi’s affinity for all creatures and marks the celebration of the Feast Day of St. Francis,

The blessing at the United Church of Santa Fe was followed by a book signing of Animal Companions, Animals Doctors and Animal People, a collection of stories and poems about animals by people who love and care for them. Senior Minister Rev. Talitha Arnold was on hand with her dog, Bella, to sign books. Proceeds from the book sales benefitted the Santa Fe Pastoral Counseling Center and a well-known Santa Fean awaiting a kidney transplant.
Paw signing
More pictures of Bella and the blessing at

From "The Prayer Dog" by Talitha Arnold

 “I love this church,” the little girl told my dog as she sat and petted her in my office one afternoon. “This church has a children’s choir and a dog.” Bella, my dog, rolled over so Ana, the little girl, could rub her belly.
Ana was a regular visitor to my office every Wednesday while she waited for her mother to pick her up after children’s choir. She passed the time sitting with Bella, petting her and telling her about school and anything else on her mind. Bella soaked up the attention. She also soaked up the little girl’s cares and concerns – her father’s death when she was three, her mother’s pending remarriage, her trouble with her teachers, her worries about her sister.
“This is the best church,” Ana continued that afternoon. “I don’t know of any church that has a children’s choir and a dog.” Working at my desk, trying not to eavesdrop, I didn’t know whether to chuckle or cry. I think I did both.
Part Border Collie, part Australian Shepherd, Bella has been a part of the congregation I serve for almost a decade. I actually prefer cats to dogs, mainly because cats are fairly low maintenance. They can take care of themselves, which is good since I spend a lot of my time taking care of other people.
But when I needed to get back into shape after an accident, friends urged me to get a dog. After numerous trips to the animal shelter, I finally came home with one. My advisors particularly approved of her collie-shepherd lineage. Every Pastor, aka Shepherd, needs a sheep dog.
Despite her DNA, Bella never has herded the congregation much. I do far more nipping at their heels than she does. Nor does she embody a dog’s stereotypical faithfulness, sometimes used as a metaphor for God’s steadfast love...

Read the rest of the story in Animal Companions, Animal Doctors, Animal People available on,, or from your independent bookstore. Visit on Facebook.

About Talitha Arnold

Talitha Arnold is the Senior Minister of the United Church of Santa Fe in Santa Fe, New Mexico. A graduate of Yale Divinity School and a native of Arizona, she writes frequently on faith and environmental issues, as well as other topics. She is currently working on a book, Desert Faith in a Time of Global Warming. As a child, she liked to give her cats names like Catapult, Catastrophe, and Catamaran. Currently, along with her dog Bella, she has a cat named Hey-Zeus. 

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