For Saint's Day, They Paws To Honor Police Animals Get A Special Blessing

Posted: October 02, 1993

To honor St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals whose feast day is Monday, representatives from Philadelphia's Finest who patrol on all fours have been honored with a special blessing.

"We asked God to protect the animals from the dangers and hazards which confront them, along with the policemen and women who take them on patrol," said the Rev. David A. Hockensmith.

Hockensmith, rector at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Frankford, yesterday morning blessed four horses, five dogs, and their partners on the front plaza of the Police Administration Building at 8th and Race streets.

The pooches were all in the German shepherd family. No St. Bernards or Devil dogs were invited.

The horses stood tall during the ceremony, but two of the dogs were a little on edge.

One pooch's defensive instincts were triggered by the actions of a TV cameraman who raced toward the dog while trying to get a video angle on Hockensmith.

The dog braked, springing up on his two hind paws. But he was only following training, and so was his handler, who had his partner under full control at all times. No feelings were hurt.

"That dog is new on the job; he'll get over it," said one official.

Officer Paul Bryant, standing with his K-9 partner, Asko, said the ceremony offers many positive ramifications.

"Will a blessing help? You bet! These days of tough street crime, police need all the protection they can get," said Bryant, a dog handler for 10 years.

The dogs, he added, need the image a blessing can bestow. "People think all our dogs do is bite. Not true," he said. "They track lost children, sniff out drugs, locate drug-tainted money, and use their sensitive noses in bomb detection."

Mounted Officer Dave Jenkins, who's been in the saddle for 20 years, rode to the ceremony on his 7-year-old mount, John Law.

"Our horses have earned their blessings," said Jenkins. "They get cut in the line of work, hit with boards, and rowdy crowds have made them targets of tossed bottles."

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