Module 1: The Foundation


Module 1: The Foundation


They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. Lk 6:48


This passage from the Gospel of Luke speaks of the need for a solid foundation in anything we do. Undoubtedly this has even greater significance when we are called to serve the spiritual needs of God’s creatures.

To use a more concrete illustration, I will transport you to my high school and college summers when I worked for my Uncle Leo, a mason contractor. At the time, he was in his late sixties and I was about 19. Not only did I have difficulties keeping up with him, but to increase the challenge, he did not believe in cement mixing machines. The only cement mixer was “yours truly.” What was most amazing about Uncle Leo was that he only needed one glance at the cement I mixed to determine if it was acceptable or not. Believe me; I worked hard to make sure it was!

This little story illustrates the best path you will build as an Animal Chaplain. Your cement or foundation must always be mixed well because with one glance people will see if you are sincere or not. And once trust is lost it is irrecoverable. As a matter of fact, animals only need one glance as well. They are very much aware of, and in tune with a human’s true feelings.

Our first module will focus on some characteristics that are mixed together to make up our foundation. This will be important for those we serve and will help us attain and maintain a state of inner serenity, as we further develop our serving spirit.


Called by Name


On October 3, 2011, eighteen dogs were loaded into a gas chamber in Florence, Alabama to end their lives. After thirty painful minutes, the chamber door was opened and all had been dreadfully euthanized, except for one Beagle mix. The operator’s job was to put the surviving dog back in. However, the gentleman had second thoughts. Instead, he named the pup Daniel after the biblical figure who survived the lion’s den, and called for assistance.

Within days I rescued, and eventually adopted Daniel who is now part of my family. Please feel encouraged to research his amazing story and mission to date.

In the years that he has been living with me, Daniel has turned his miraculous survival from a near tragedy into a life of giving back, through service to others. In fact, I am proud to say, he is responsible not only for thousands of animal adoptions, but for motivating and inspiring, men and women of all demographics, children and teens to overcome adversity in their lives and live as survivors not victims!

God called Daniel by name to fulfill his purpose.

God has called each of us by name as well. In listening to the call, you have chosen to enter a rich and rewarding life, and I am happy for you, knowing it will be a richly gratifying experience. This journey will include many events and inspirational experiences. It’s a journey that led you to this point.


Compassion


I had the pleasure of meeting Mother Teresa, a truly unforgettable, humbling experience. In my opinion, this physically diminutive woman defined phenomenal strength and compassion more clearly and correctly than most individuals. What struck me most was her incredible ability to focus. (Yes, a component of Assignment number one!) As I approached I was rendered speechless. It was evident that in her mind and heart, no one was more important than me in that special moment. I had her full and undivided attention. She was truly a woman called by God, a woman who heeded the call and stepped into her purpose.

About ten years after meeting the now canonized St Mother Teresa, I met Shelby, a brutally abused and abandoned Pit Bull left starving and badly injured tied to a fence at a gas station. She was brought to a shelter where I was a volunteer at the time. When our eyes met, Shelby and I established an immediate bond so powerful I brought her home to meet my family– human and canine. Shelby required extensive surgery on both her hind legs to repair the damages from the abuse. During her rehabilitation, I noticed she had a gift for compassion in spite of her trauma and pain. I trained her to become a therapy dog. For ten years Shelby served people in need ranging from special needs children to terminal oncology patients. She motivated me to write Shelby’s Grace, to chronicle her story, empower others caught in obstacle paths, and clear up the bias and injustice associated with breed profiling, while shedding a light on the true nature of the Pit Bulls.


Spiritual nourishment


If we do not nourish ourselves there is no way we will have the means to nourish others. This applies to physical as well as spiritual nourishment.

Each morning I start my day serving breakfast to the dogs in my family. While I sit with them, I pray for everyone who requested prayers as well as for the needs of the world.

Afterward I am off to the gym where my activities are more oriented toward mental strength than physical needs or vanity.

In the evening, I spend as much time as possible (before falling asleep) reading something inspirational or spiritual.

This is my routine as of this writing. However, I am always looking for ways to improve and I am always open to personal growth and change.

Module 2: We are Here for Animals and People


Module 2: We are Here for Animals and People


Jesus said, go into the whole world and preach the Gospel to all creation. Mark 16:15


Part one:

Usually and logically, someone who dedicates himself/herself to human ministry serves predominately humans. However, when you respond to the call to be an Animal Chaplain, you will embark on a very special and uniquely rewarding life experience, one that broadens your service to include animals.

As an Animal Chaplain, you will be administering to humans and their companion animals. Sometimes you will be attending to the needs of just humans, yet in many circumstances you will be present and assisting animals alone.

The obvious good news here is that such a rewarding life, serving God’s creatures, will certainly not be tedious.

Let’s begin with the opportunity to serve animals alone.

There are many animals in need of spiritual nourishment.

  • The abandoned and alone in shelters
  • The feral that call home the streets
  • The factory farm victims (if you are a vegan)
  • The overworked, abused and exploited
  • Those in all for profit puppy mills
  • Those trained to fight for monetary benefits or entertainment
  • The hoarded and neglected

Part two:

Schedule and enjoy a Spiritual retreat.

This can be for a time frame of no less than 3 hours or up to an overnight, if you desire.

The retreat can be by yourself or with a friend or spouse.

It can be held in a quiet room where you live, a retreat house, or a “getaway” type place like a hotel room.

What you must leave behind:

1. Cell phones and all other technology
2. Any work issues or issues that are holding you back from time with God
3. Judgements, grievances, and all other distractions

What you may want to consider bringing

1. Pictures of animals
2. Prayer book/Bible
3. Any books that you believe will help you make a connection to God and animals
4. A journal
5. A welcoming attitude to receive God’s love

What is the goal?

The goal is simply to dedicate time to spend time seeking God personally, making a deeper connection, through prayer and study. Seek to deepen your spiritual formation.

Module 3: Posture/Attitude/Body Language


Module 3: Posture/Attitude/Body Language


The will to win is not nearly as important as the will to prepare to win.
Vince Lombardi


Body language and voice inflections will be responsible for almost 90% of the impact you will have on an audience, whereas 10% is the content of your talk.

Repeat that statement several times and then reflect on situations in your life which give validity to the 90-10% formula.

In my experience, conservatively 70% of the clergy spanning several denominations have not presented a welcoming and joyous presence. Not only is this unacceptable, it is unproductive. Why speak if the message is lost?

Clerical services are called celebrations for a reason. The Officiant represents God to those in his/her presence, and God is love. There are times I try to simplify situations and events and this is one of those moments.

The first thing to consider is the event you will officiate. If possible get a feel for the setting, the circumstances and the participants. Is it in a church or a hall? Is it indoors or outside? Will there be a podium, a microphone or a professional audio system? Of course, if you are called to an emergency this will not be possible, but in many cases, it will be pre-planned and therefore wise to investigate how best to deliver your message.

I am a believer in having an Officiant’s book for each service. This includes specific prayers, reflections and notes prepared in advance. We will cover this in more detail in a later module. In the meantime, consider this tip as an important facet of the service.

Pay attention to your body language. Your stance will reveal your welcome quotient. I continue to work on my stance and body posture to create a relaxed and open mood. Not intentionally, but I notice through videos that often I appear rigid when I stand. This creates tension between me and the individuals I am administering. Only practice will help me successfully overcome this pitfall.

You control the atmosphere you bring to each service.

• Present a welcoming attitude to communicate God’s love and acceptance of every living creature

• Know the situation in advance– prepare and practice

• Spend a few moments prior to every situation even if an emergency in private prayer asking God to give you the grace, wisdom, and love to bring to all you are about to serve.


Reading versus proclaiming?


Anyone can read a prayer, scripture passage, or poem. The skilled Animal Chaplain proclaims in lieu of lecturing or reading. The difference is in voice inflection, enthusiasm, understanding the message, and the desire to be an actual emissary of God in bringing love and compassion to the participants.

The distinction is huge and the impact on those gathered equally as dramatic.

One additional point about this subject.

I used to think that if the Presider showed emotion or shed a tear during a funeral service or memorial that it would be a problem. Many times, I held back a tear. I mistakenly associated crying with weakness and as the Officiant I had to be strong. Sometimes it is joyful to be wrong. And wrong I was accepting full responsibility. Don’t misunderstand; I am by no means a proponent of uncontrollable sobs or loss of control at a service. This is not acceptable demeanor. However, a tear and emotions are not only normal but part of the human condition and understandable at a pet loss service.

Please review the video included in this module.

Module 4: Pet Loss Training


Module 4: Pet Loss Training


Part one:

“I did not experience this much pain when my mother died.”

“I cannot believe I am still so sad about losing my dog.”

“I felt like that was my dog.” (stated by someone in a Rescue)

There is no need to attribute guilt or even give credit to the person responsible for these quotes because there are so many who have expressed these same feelings. It could be anyone. In addition, there are so many more words of despair in that regard attesting to the dire impact of losing a loving companion animal. Many actually feel it is more anguishing than losing a human companion.

As a society, we have made some progress accepting the passing of a pet, though in many cases, it is still a disenfranchised loss.

Regardless of the degree of devastation, as an Animal Chaplain you will be called upon to provide pet loss assistance to people you administer.

It is important to know, when someone exhibits unhealthy or exaggerated signs and references solutions that are dangerous and perhaps even life-threatening, it goes beyond the scope of this training. This being the case, always have on hand referrals for a licensed professional therapist.

Even when a dog is adopted, which is a good thing, there is a sense of loss for the foster and the Rescue.

Nevertheless, there are many instances in which you will be able to help the person cope with their grief journey.

When Your Pet Dies by Alan D. Walfet, Ph.D. is a good resource book.

Following is some helpful information on pet loss.

Often, we have an urge to say something to the person experiencing grief, and although not intentionally, it may not be appropriate for the situation and be more injurious.

Start out with a few don’ts:

• Expect the person to mourn and heal in a certain way or within a certain time frame
• Talk about your own losses especially early on
• Use judgmental words like…should and shouldn’t
• Begin any sentence with the words “at least”
• Compare one loss with another
• Try to change their thoughts and feelings
• Try to fill up every moment with conversation
• Ignore warning signs of self-destructive behavior

The five stages of grief:

Denial

Anger

Bargaining

Depression

Acceptance

• There is no time limit on any of these stages

• There is a strong possibility that the person swings back and forth between stages

• Although progress is made, total acceptance may never occur. It is a slow process and many times complete closure does not happen for every person.

Optional phone interview is encouraged at this point. Kindly contact me if you wish to participate in a phone discussion.

Part two:

Our class will schedule about 60-90 minutes to conduct a conference call as we work through the PowerPoint on Pet Loss training, Part two.

This will provide an opportunity for discussion and sharing.

Module 5: Prayers & Celebrations


Module 5: Prayers & Celebrations


“Is anyone among you suffering?” “Let him pray.”
“The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James 5:13, 16


Prayers

“It is an amazing privilege to represent God in celebrations that bring love and respect to all creation”.
Joe Dwyer

There are four prayer categories:

1. Prepared prayers

2. Spontaneous prayers

3. Communal prayers

4. Private/Intercessory prayers

Many prayers prepared for various celebrations can be easily found on the internet. It is advisable to Google these to familiarize yourself with their content and format. Although my feelings are mixed with respect to prepared prayers, in a later module I will be providing some prayers to offer an idea of how they are structured.

However, I firmly believe it is best never to recite a prayer word for word. Instead use the prepared prayer as a guideline when composing your own personal dialogue with God regardless of the event you are commemorating or celebrating. Every relationship is different, unique and special; therefore, every prayer must be an appropriate expression of your thoughts, feelings and distinctive style and should flow with the individuals and event you are celebrating.

There will be situations in which you may be called to pray for an animal in need. It’s a singular time, and scripted prayer will not feel right or effective. In this moment, it is best to be inspired by your emotions and opt for a more spontaneous prayer. These are personal and can be fitted to the humans/animals and the occasion. I have two suggestions for this significant part of your service. First, I would recommend practicing some impromptu prayers, and more importantly, before the start I propose invoking the intervention of God for insight and assistance. During spontaneous prayer, it is best to focus on being yourself and on allowing your love and compassion to flow unobstructed. Never mix a prepared prayer while praying spontaneously. Be mindful that the focus is on your conversation with God who is always listening to you.

Private prayers are your time with God. During these invocations, you may ask Him for strength, direction and wisdom. I have found the best approach when faced with a challenge is to address God with an open mind and heart and listen for His direction.

During private prayer time, you may also consider offering intercessory prayers of intention for those who have made special requests and for the needs and healing of people and animals around the world.

When in a group either in a home, a hospital, a shelter or graveside, it is best to invoke those who have gathered to pray together for the animal who is sick, departed or abandoned. You can use a spontaneous free flowing prayer, but have some copies beforehand to give to the others.

Types of Celebrations/Commemorations:

• Funerals/Memorials/Life Celebrations
• Burials/Graveside Blessings
• Blessing of the Animals
• Prayers for the Sick
• Prayers for grieving Pet Loss individuals
• Welcoming Ceremony (Adoption)
• Prayers at a Shelter

Although your ministry is not limited to these abovementioned events, it is likely your presence will be required to officiate at these various celebrations/commemorations.

Module 6: Practicum


Module 6: Practicum


“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”
Leonardo da Vinci


There are many animals in shelters that will probably never receive the love and nurturing from an adopted family because of age, sickness or a terrible prejudicial injustice called breed profiling.

With approval and supervision from a local shelter manager in your area, select an animal that is elderly, sick or falsely labeled not appropriate for a family setting, and has been abandoned and alone for a long period of time.

Spend at least thirty minutes with this beautiful soul and offer prayers for him/her. Use verbal and non-verbal means to communicate love, friendship and caring. At the same time, be open and willing to accept their love and camaraderie. Never forget: Animals have the same basic needs for love, compassion, understanding, solidarity, and kindness as you or I do.

Module 7: Inter Faith/Strategies


Module 7: Inter Faith/Strategies


“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawaken.”
– Anatole France


Our Animal Chaplain program is an Inter faith approach to ministering that respects the beliefs, isms, customs, traditions, and diversity of every religion.

With the passage of time more religions have evolved bringing diverse thinking and customs as well as cultural changes within faiths that have been followed for centuries.

This fact leaves us totally unbiased regarding the religious preference of a family.

Following is a list of the world’s major religions with the views on animals that comprise the very core of their belief system.

  • •Hinduism – Animal souls and human souls are equal in every respect. No injury is permitted to any living creature.
  • Buddhism – Compassion for all life. Omnivore dining customs are shunned in favor of a vegan menu.
  • Judaism – Save all living creatures from pain. Kosher law restricts the eating of flesh, organs, milk and eggs from certain animals.
  • Islam – Kindness to all living creatures.
  • Christianity – Respect for all creation. Some Christians believe animals were put on earth for human use.

If everyone respected the teachings of their religious heritage, animals would be much more loved and respected than they actually are. This leads us to an important consideration.

  • Do not judge any religion or belief system. Instead, accept people for who they are and what they believe in, assuming they adhere to the belief that kindness, respect, love and dignity for all creation are to be unconditionally practiced.

To accomplish this goal and to make certain the celebration/event you are presiding at has the greatest positive impact on those you are serving, it is advisable to meet and become acquainted with the family in advance.

Through my experiences, I have discovered that transparency, honesty, empathy, compassion and asking the appropriate questions are the most essential ingredients to this conversation. Always inquire about the religious preferences of those you will minister to. If you are not familiar with a particular belief system, do research and learn how you can help them achieve serenity and acceptance.

Never assume the members of a family practice their religion in the ancient traditional manner of biblical times. Some Catholic families might prefer the intervention of specific saints, whereas others will desire a more general invocation. This is why I suggest a meeting. An open dialogue in advance will allow you to establish belief customs.

With respect to scripture readings always inquire if individuals have preferences. Select several passages you feel may be pertinent, and share beforehand to get approval or otherwise. Be willing to accommodate their wishes. I will elaborate in greater detail on scripture readings in future modules.

Module 8: Scripture Passages and Poems


Module 8: Scripture Passages and Poems


Your unfailing love, O LORD, is as vast as the heavens; your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the ocean depths. You care for people and animals alike, O LORD. How precious is your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings.

Psalm 36:5-7


Are they ever neither animal nor human
but creature and Being?
Do they have holy moments of understanding
deep in the seat of their entity?
Do they experience their existence more fully
relieved of the burden of wakefulness?
Do they suspect, with poets, that all we see or seem
is but a dream within a dream?

What do Animals Dream?
Yahia Lababidi


When selecting the appropriate reading or poem, the family should be consulted. In the event they defer, either feeling insecure about their biblical culture, or preferring to leave the choice up to the Chaplain, it is important to interview the individuals involved in order to provide suitable options based on their religious beliefs, traditions, cultures and customs, and the nature of the situation. They may in effect opt for poetry passages.

Old Testament passages are sometimes a bit more challenging to understand and interpret than New Testament readings, but with practice and the approach I will discuss, they will be less complicated than initially thought, and surprisingly inspiring.

Prior to your reflection, choosing a reading from scripture or perhaps a poem depending on the type of service and the individuals participating, may serve to alert people to God’s presence and promote a more intimate spiritual bond with the Divine Creator or a unity with nature. Once again, this is subjective and dependent on the commemoration and the family present. However, be prepared to accommodate requests for a spiritual service without any ties to a formalized religion.

For a funeral service, I always suggest words to encourage hope and to call upon God’s love and comfort. When performing a Blessing or Welcoming ceremony, it is best to maintain the up-lifting mood with passages on renewal and the right of every animal to have love and respect.

Our goal for this module is to interpret and inspire. I have always loved this two-step approach and the positive impact it has on family members.

First, we interpret:

14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds,15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.16 Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.
Genesis 9:14-16

Genesis is the first Book of the Old Testament and speaks about the creation of the world and all life—human, animal and plant. It also traces the early history of the world, including the narrative of the fall from grace and the adversities and hardships resulting from the sin of Adam. In the passage cited above God is referring to the flood sent in retribution for the wickedness of man (Noah’s Ark) and His covenant (agreement) with animals and humans.

One important point to consider is that at a memorial service it is not necessary to read and interpret the entire passage in your reflection. It is more meaningful to reference a phrase or select a few words you feel are pertinent to the situation and build your reflection on that theme. Keep the terminology and interpretation simple and to the point. Attention spans wander during emotional events.

Case in question

The family’s dog Spot passed away following a lengthy illness. Rescued from a shelter, after a period of five years, the elderly dog spent four years with his loving family.

To honor Spot, the scriptural passage could be interpreted to fit his life circumstances.

Spot went through terrible storms in his early years facing serious threats of losing his life to the uncontrollable currents. However, his family appeared with a special Arc to rescue him. The raging waters were unable to drown him because of the covenant of love that united God and the people he shared his life with and all those with whom he came into contact during his time in the family. His four years with his beloved humans were filled with love and nurturing, respect and dignity as God intended for His creatures.

Personally, I shun phrases like God’s Will or God wanted him back in heaven, or any similar colloquial reference expressing that concept. There may be exceptions if the family makes a reference like this but in most cases, it is important to acknowledge the very real feelings of loss and grief while celebrating Spot’s life.

Another example from the New Testament.

Mark 16:15
15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.

Mark 16:15

Mark is one of the four evangelists, along with Matthew, Luke, and John responsible for transcribing the words and parables of Jesus. Mark, Matthew and Luke’s recordings are defined synoptic Gospels because of the sequential and content similarities written with remarkably like-minded perspectives and points of view.

In this passage, at the conclusion of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus is instructing His disciples to preach the Gospel to all creation, and to emphasize love and compassion for all.

In this scenario, a family requests a funeral service for their cat Sadie. After a battle with cancer, she suffered defeat in her quest for survival. During her illness, she grew more attached to her family and demonstrated a more affectionate nature, than she exhibited in the early years of her life.

One possible interpretation can proceed like this:

If you Google images of Jesus, you will notice many remarkable and strikingly different situations. Much as the Son of God was faced with challenges during his earthly life, the difficulties never hindered Him from reaching out with the love and compassion that defines His life and teachings in the Gospels. I am certain you can visualize a similarity between Sadie turning her sick period into a time for more love and devotion to the people with whom she shared her life, and Christ focusing on healing and administering to others in spite of His agonizing destiny to redeem mankind.

Evangelization needs to be more widespread in today’s world and Christ’s messages of love and compassion for all living beings should be practiced not merely read. What a beautiful example Sadie has given her family and powerfully she has inspired all gathered here today.

Both services honoring Spot and Sadie inspired and comforted family and friends present with scriptural readings and pertinent interpretations based on the beauty of their lives.

This same principle applies in the event of poetry readings. The most important point is to establish the connection the family wishes, be it religious or spiritual or one of unity and camaraderie between human and animal during their life together.

A family may provide you with a scripture passage. Read it over several times and try to find a link between the message and words and the special relationship of the animal with family members and friends. If they do not have a passage in mind, be prepared to share appropriate selections.

One online tool that I find most helpful is www.biblegateway.com On this site you can research specific passages or if need be, insert keywords which will bring forth a plethora of passages related to the words/themes you entered. I want to emphasize that in many situations finding the right, empowering, inspiring, comforting reading may be the most significant part of the service. Personally, I have officiated at numerous funerals, memorials, and celebrations both for humans and animals and can state with the certainty of first-hand experience that the participants focus is at its sharpest level at the completion of the scripture as you segue into the reflection. In this moment, you either capture and hold attention or foster distracted thinking which is definitely not the goal of any presider.

That being said, I will be willing to work with you for as long as you need in this area. Please feel free to contact me at any time as an Animal Chaplain, to discuss possibilities for sermons to best serve in your ministry.

Module 9: God calls all by name


Module 9:  God calls all by name


 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;

Peter 2:1-10


Personalizing every service is paramount.

As an Animal Chaplain, you will sometimes find yourself walking down familiar paths. Situations will repeat, and recognizable faces may reappear along the way. However, regardless of the déjà vu impression, each service you celebrate will be a singular and unique experience for all. Similarities may occur, but the energy, the spirit and the graces obtained will be incomparable to past events.

It is fine to consult a basic outline from a structural point of view. But taking into consideration the different time frame, a set of new circumstances, and diverse individuals with specific needs, each service should be scripted with a fresh new inspiration and theme.

God calls each of us by name, and although we were created in His image and Likeness, He molded us as individuals. No two people are the same. In fact, even identical twins have variations. Consequently, our spirit in celebrations must reflect the distinctiveness of God’s creation.  It is therefore imperative to follow some guidelines when presiding at a service.

 

  1. When contacted to officiate a celebration, commemoration or service, set aside some private time for prayer and reflection. Make sure you have a certain familiarity with the people and animals involved and are fully in tune with their wishes and expectations.
  2. Interview the individuals or family, either in person, or through Skype or Face Time. It is always preferred to have eye contact; however, if not convenient or desired, a telephone interview is fine. (More on this later in the module)
  3. Put together a Presider’s book. Include your initial outline of the service, any variations, contact information, and most important be certain the animal’s name is appropriately placed and prioritized. This is essential as it prohibits any lapses in memory which can be disturbing to family members. Also, it will allow you to pray for this soul, in a personalized manner while you prepare.

The most critical component is the one-on-one interview with the family regardless of how it is conducted.  Of course, an in-person encounter is always preferable and should be the goal when possible.  If you do not form a bond you risk not obtaining the required information and emotional feeling, to personalize the service to best satisfy the needs and wishes of the family.

Your objective for any event is to assure peace and solace in a compassionate, caring manner to the family at a funeral or memorial tribute, to instill joy and renewal at a blessing service or empower hope and optimism at a welcoming ceremony. More importantly your aim is to inspire and spiritually nourish all the participants.

When preparing to officiate at a blessing or group memorial service it is advisable to obtain as much information as possible from the person who contacted you.

  • Number of people in attendance (approximate)
  • If animals are present, will you walk around and bless each one? If so, inquire beforehand about their identities, and personalize each individual blessing. Will anyone else be speaking and if so what is the topic?
  • If possible, preview the layout of the location in which the service will be conducted
  • Does the family have any requests for special readings—biblical or otherwise
  • Will you bring Holy Water?
  • If it is a small group, obtain names for all animals and include in your service.

As an active Animal Chaplain, approximately 75% of your requests will be to officiate at a funeral or memorial service. A funeral is different from a memorial as it is celebrated in the presence of the deceased animal’s remains.

Following is a list of topics to discuss when meeting with a family for a funeral or memorial service.

 

  1. Name of the animal
  2. Names of individuals and or family members
  3. Characteristics and personality traits of the animal
  4. Some stories and anecdotes about him and his life with you
  5. Options for prayers
  6. Options for readings
  7. Will there be any speakers?
  8. Would they welcome little treats for the dogs which could be blessed and given to each one during the blessing.
  9. If indoors would any musical selections be appealing to the family

The possibility also exists that family members have not decided on post funeral options. Always have a few suggestions regarding referrals for reputable pet cemeteries and crematories to assist a grieving family.

Module 10: Practicum


Module 10:  Practicum


 The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.

Mohandas Gandhi


 

Part one:

 

Although the Animal Chaplain ministry is growing and developing, it still needs nourishment to reach its full potential and be known to all who may wish special services for their animals or themselves in the event of a pet loss.

 

 

Interview a person from Animal Health Care (a Veterinarian or Vet Tech) and another from Animal Care (Rescue/Shelter). Take it a step further and interview people who have lost pets either recently or in the past. Ask how as an Animal Chaplain you could have made the experience more comforting. Explore with all you interview options and services you may offer to assist in different circumstances.  Gather input on how Animal Chaplains can best promote their services to add value to the lives of animals and their humans.

 

This will assist you in developing a marketing plan for your services.  We will discuss this further in a group call.

 

 

List and discuss at least three ways Animal Chaplains can model their services by learning from the animals they come in contact with. Use examples from animals that are part of your family or you know through other venues, (Therapy or Service dogs, friends’ pets, groomers who work with animals, or perhaps even abandoned dogs you met in shelters or in the street). Everyone has the potential to offer important information and all from different perspectives. This will serve to broaden the scope of the Animal Chaplain ministry.

 

 

Part two:

 

Read and study, “The self-defense for compassion fatigue” which is attached.

 

Develop a deeper understanding of the reactions from people who work in animal care and animal rescue.

 

Be prepared to discuss observations on our next conference call with the group.


Complete the assignment in this section.

asssignment


Congratulations! 

You have successfully completed Module 10.

 

Please take some time to celebrate this accomplishment and refresh yourself before moving on to Module 11.

Module 11: Sample Celebrations and Services


Module 11:  Sample Celebrations and Services


But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover him with favor as with a shield.

Psalms 5:11-12


 

How we will proceed

 

Although I will share a few of my own personal celebrations and services, once again I will strongly emphasize that it is essential to know the people and animals you will be honoring and design your celebrations accordingly. There are many samples on line, but they are merely generic, and may have neither relevance nor value to the event you are officiating at. Metaphorically speaking, compare a standing house in need of renovations to a custom-built residence, tailored to your needs and preferences. The message is: Tailor and custom build your services and celebrations to fit the needs and exigencies of the people and animals involved. This is not a time for compromises!

 

As you read through the prayers, you may wish to edit or rewrite some of the wording to best fit the circumstances. Here is a tip: If you are offering prayers and invocations on behalf of the community or for the world, include themes that are pertinent to the times. Recently I presided at a Pet Memorial Day service and integrated prayers for all affected by recent hurricanes.

 

The service you are officiating at is in a sense a trinity—God, you and the participants. Again—know your “congregation”! Don’t commit a grave error of implementing a boiler plate outline word for word. Pray, spend a little time, reflect and draw inspiration of the trinity present.

 

Attached to this module is a sample memorial service outline and prayer service for neglected dogs from every continent, abandoned animals that have passed away without ever experiencing love and nurturing or the joys of life in a caring family. The latter is an invocation I wrote and pray each morning in my office prior to staring my day.

 

My vision is to build the largest Animal “community” in the world. This will happen figuratively speaking, stone by stone, with goal setting intentions, hard work, determination, tenacity and faith on the part of a solid team of committed Animal Chaplains.

 

It is not mandatory for a graduate of this training to be affiliated with Joe Dwyer’s Animal Chaplain Family, but it would strengthen the network and be appreciated. In unity, there is power.

 

As a team we can share ideas, experiences, and prayers while generating a strong current of enthusiasm. We will be posting stories of those we serve who are in agreement, and thus through the potency of social media begin to make a difference for animals around the world.

 

He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs And carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes.

Isaiah 40:11

 

 

Compensation

 

It is recommended to open all services and celebrations to donations in lieu of setting a fee.   When spiritual and emotional needs have been gratified, people have a tendency to give back generously.

 

Moreover, as we grow, speaking opportunities will become more prevalent and revenue will be shared.

Module 12: Exam/Marketing


Module 12:  Exam/Marketing


Let the wise listen and learn yet more, and a person of discernment will acquire the art of guidance.

Proverbs 1:5


I am certain you are questioning why this module was not titled Final Exam! The answer is simple—nothing in the world of knowledge and learning should ever have a final moment! Similarly, as an Animal Chaplain the pursuit of knowledge through study, reflection, experience and prayer continues ad aeternum—without end. Why?—because the differences and variances in people and animals and in ceremonies, celebrations and services, continue to evolve.

 

The way we “market” our services will also continue to evolve.  And because we are still in our infancy, patience will be important.

 

There are many religious institutions out there with varying degrees of concern for animals.  People will continue to go back to “what they know” and are comfortable with especially for spiritual nourishment. That said, there are opportunities for spiritual nourishment that will come for a variety of reasons.

 

I strongly believe that we all need to start by being a positive, spiritual voice for animals in need, therefore establishing a credibility with people. Once we can build this momentum, opportunities to serve will surface.

 

Our new Facebook page, “Animal Chaplains for Noble Strength” is a good starting point for this collective voice as we will establish relationships with those in animal care.

 

Furthermore, one of my favorite mantras is that we need to learn from each other—human or animal. In keeping with this philosophy, our family of Animal Chaplains will meet regularly to share experiences and lessons learned along the way, as well as to discuss how we have strengthened our weaknesses, and developed our strengths to be more effective in adding value and significance to the people and animals we encounter and administer to along our Animal Chaplain journey.