4th October, the last day of the Season of Creation, the Feast Day of St Francis of Assisi, Animal Welfare Sunday, and for the Upper Wylye Valley Team it was our Zoom Pet Service. A wonderful service attended by many well-loved, and well-behaved animal companions.

Being rural, with many farms in and around our benefice, animal welfare is an important focus for the UWVT. We recognise that small changes can have a huge impact; for example, committing to using only free-range eggs, creating wildflower areas in our churchyards, encouraging our congregations and communities to create bug homes or put out food and water for the birds. We may wonder what our putting up a bird box, or making a bug home will actually achieve, but as we are seeing across our country, our small actions do create change. Our small actions raise awareness amongst our family and friends. When we tell them about our new bird box, our commitment to support organic produce, to only buy free range eggs, these conversations invite questions and discussions, they raise awareness, and in time changes hearts and practice.

Hosting our Zoom Pet Service certainly has created many discussions with our congregations, their families, our communities and beyond. People have asked “why are you having a pet service?” allowing us to enter into a conversation about God’s love for every part of creation. Seeing the latest rectory chickens rehomed from a caged hen farm raises awareness of the condition’s animals live in as they produce food for us. And many new friendships were formed as we introduce our beautiful pets to each other.

Rev Jayne Buckles summed up the importance of our pets reading the words of ‘GoD and DoG’, a wonderful song by Wendy Francisco, which when uploaded to YouTube in 2009, received over a million views in the first 40 days.

“I look up and see God, I look down and see my dog.
Simple spelling G O D, same word backwards, D O G.
They would stay with me all day.  I’m the one who walks away.
Both of them just wait for me, and dance at my return with glee.

Both love me no matter what - divine God and canine mutt.
I take it hard each time I fail, but God forgives, dog wags his tail.
God thought up and made the dog, dog reflects a part of God.
I’ve seen love from both sides now, it’s everywhere, amen, bow wow.

I look up and I see God, I look down and see my dog.
And in my human frailty .... I cannot match their love for me.”

Wendy Francisco (1955 – 2017)