Sometimes there's nothing you can do with a pet rabbit that won't mind her manners but to get her a little religion.
And that's just what Marian Jeffries did with her grandson Benjamin Humphreys' bunny Goldie, driving all the way from Annapolis yesterday to have the animal ministered to by a priest at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Northeast Washington.
"I think Goldie really did need a blessing," Jeffries said after having the rabbit prayed over and sprinkled with holy water. "Sometimes she has accidents on my lap when I try to pet her."
Goldie wasn't alone at the event. A small flock of the mostly four-legged faithful gathered with their owners on the steps of the shrine where Monsignor Harrold A. Murray conducted the second annual "blessing of the animals" there.
Murray invoked the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, a documented animal lover, and prayed for heavenly intervention to "make dogs nice and gentle, keep kitty cats personable, keep goldfish from snoring and keep parakeets from saying bad words."
In Catholic tradition, animals, like people, are God's creatures and may receive His blessing.
"They're probably all good Catholics, and the spirit of the priest was there," Murray said after saying a prayer for each of about two dozen dogs, a dozen cats, two ferrets, one dove, a parakeet, a goldfish and a painted turtle named Hyacinth.
Well, maybe not all good Catholics.
"He does not profess any faith," National Institutes of Health researcher Mark Hagmann said of his dog Kaila, a 1-year-old Lhasa apso. But "there are so few things you can take a dog to," Hagmann added. "You can't take him to any movies or restaurants. And there's always the chance there will be some spiritual experience."
Kaila and the other animals were on their best behavior as they waited for their turn under the holy water.
"She doesn't really need religious attention," Lorraine Love said of her Lhasa apso, Muffin. "But she's not an angel by any means."
Murray said he brought the tradition of blessing pets from a parish in New Jersey where "people used to drive up in Mercedes with their gerbils."
"I think it's important to be blessed," 8-year-old Grisella Martinez of Alexandria said as she held her tiny kitten Tigere. "If you're blessed, it's like God taking care of him."