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Jean Smith, priest associate at St. Michael's, blesses a snake belonging to Mikael Mattson, of Colrain, Mass.

BRATTLEBORO >> Downtown went to the dogs last Sunday.

Mary Lindquist, rector at St. Michael's Episcopal Church, said the blessing of the animals is intended to celebrate the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Francis is the Catholic Church's patron saint of animals and the environment.

"St. Francis' feast day is Oct. 4. But we're doing it a little early this year," Lindquist said, noting that most of the animals that attendees brought to the Brattleboro Common were the four-legged ones who like to bark.

Two Columbian red-tailed boa constrictors and a bald python were there along with a tortoise, two goats, a calf, two rabbits and ducks. These animals came from a farm in Colrain, Mass. The Mattson family owns the farm and belongs to the parish.

Pets, living and dead, were remembered in prayer. Their names could be heard whispered by people in the crowd before the blessings began. Dog treats and carrots were offered to the pets gathered at the Common.

"This is a wonderful event we do every year," said Jean Smith, priest associate. "I think there's something about pets and nature that affect us regardless of age."

Besides the animals from the Mattson farm, Smith blessed seven dogs, a rooster and a photograph of two kittens who couldn't make it to the ceremony. By having the event at the Common, Smith said, it would be open not only to members of the St. Michael's congregation but the whole community.

Call Chris Mays at 802-254-2311, ext. 273.