Toluca Lake area families cherish their pets, and the residents of Belmont Village in Burbank are no exception. Studies have repeatedly shown that animal companions can increase fitness, decrease stress and loneliness, boost immunity and bring happiness to their human caretakers, all benefits that are especially appreciated in and around this vibrant senior living community.
To honor the special bond between residents and their pets, Belmont Village Burbank hosted a Blessing of the Animals ceremony on Saturday, April 21. Belmont Village Chief Marketing Officer Carlene Motto had been inspired to suggest the idea after visiting the Burbank community and striking up a conversation with a resident, who was out walking her dogs, about how much she and her neighbors love their furry and feathered friends.
Reverend Ross Purdy of First Presbyterian Church in Burbank was thrilled to be invited to preside over the ceremony, Belmont Village community liaison Michelle Sucillon says. “Reverend Purdy volunteers at our community twice a week, so he already knows many of the residents and their pets,” she explains. “I could tell that he put a lot of effort into selecting the right passages from the Bible, and he spoke the blessing in Hebrew as well. He also chose to go from pet to pet rather than have everyone come to him. He asked everyone to sit peacefully with their pets while each blessing was given. He made sure that every pet and owner had a private and personal blessing. It was all very charming and poignant. The atmosphere was festive, but there wasn’t a dry pet owner’s eye during each blessing.”
Among the 20 or so animals in attendance were dogs, cats, a parrot and even a snake. The blessing held a special personal significance for each; Sucillon recalls that one dog, Bella, had recently been bitten by a rattlesnake and rushed to the hospital, so her owners were especially delighted to have her blessed after enduring such an ordeal. Despite the potential for chaos with so many different animals in close proximity, Sucillon notes that all creatures were very well behaved: “It was an amazing feat. Perhaps, they too, felt the reverence of the event.”
In addition to the ceremony, the day featured food and animal-themed music. About 40 to 50 people attended, including residents, family members, friends from the neighborhood and representatives from the Burbank Animal Shelter, who brought along two pets that were available for adoption. “It was a feel-good afternoon. There was an anticipation in the air as everyone looked forward to meeting each other’s pets along with many of our Burbank neighbors,” says Sucillon, who was accompanied by her own dog, Maxx, an 11-year-old Chihuahua/Pomeranian rescue and frequent Belmont Village visitor known for spreading smiles among the residents.
The Blessing of the Animals was so successful that it’s set to become an annual occurrence, and other Belmont Village communities across the country have been inspired to hold their own events. “We are very proud that Burbank was the first Belmont Village to host this ceremony,” says Sucillon.