NORTH CANTON  St. Paul's Catholic Church and school went to the dogs on Oct. 7.

Well, kind of.

The church's annual pet blessing was not all dogs, as a few cats, gerbils, rabbits and even some hermit crabs and a fish were brought to be blessed. Students were to bring their pets with one rule: no hooves.

St. Paul's Pastor Rev. James Clarke said the church has been doing the blessing for many years. It is done in October as the Catholic Church calls for a greater respect of life and to honor the patron saint of animal lovers.

"In honor of the St. Francis of Assai Fest Day, we try to do this close to that day because he is patron saint of animal lovers, animals and all of creation," he said. "With emphasis on the environment, it is important to cite him as someone that is on our side trying to make the world a safer place and make the environment cleaner."

Clarke said that the blessing reminds students at St. Paul's School that the book of Genesis talks about all the animals across the face of the earth, and that humans look to animals as food to replace our energy; and domestic animals comfort us a friends.

"The students who don't have pets, we tell them to bring a stuffed animal from home," said St. Paul's School Principal Amie Hale, whose school has 332 students in grades kindergarten through eight, and 65 students in the preschool program.

During the ceremony, Associate Pastor Daniel Finnerty asked for blessings on the pets by taking delight in their beauty and naturalness.

"May we bless these animals with Noah-like protection from all that might harm them," Finnerty said, adding that he asks for patience when those animals are slow to follow instructions. "Help us never to treat them as dumb animals or as mere objects for trade and profit."

Ben Walther, a former St. Paul's teacher who now helps out with music in the church, sang and played guitar during the service.

Clarke said the book of genesis speaks about  the abundance of living creatures. God created the great sea monsters and all kinds of crawling living creatures. 

"Let the earth bring forth every kind of living creature, tame animals, crawling things and every kind of wild animal," he said.