By Leslie Albrecht
UPPER WEST SIDE — A chihuahua, a goldfish and a 19-year-old macaw named Chuckles were among hundreds of animals that got closer to God on Sunday at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine's St. Francis Day celebration.
The annual event honors the life of the 13th-century Italian monk St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscan Order known for his kindness toward animals.
A llama, sheep, goats and other creatures participated in a morning service inside the cathedral. Then cats, dogs and other pets assembled on the cathedral's grounds at 112th Street and Amsterdam Avenue to be blessed by clergy members.
Some people asked clergy to bless snapshots of pets that couldn't travel to the event. One woman brought a metal box containing her dead pet's ashes.
Ada Nieves brought her chihuahua, Tabasco, and the newest addition to her family, a Siberian cat named Martini Beethoven.
Nieves said she found Martini Beethoven wandering alone on the streets of Brooklyn three months ago, skinny and dirty.
Since then, the cat has become a beloved member of her family, which includes five other chihuahuas besides Tabasco and a "bulldog," Nieves' pet name for her husband.
"He blessed our family when he came to live with us," Nieves said of Martini Beethoven. "Being blessed by the bishop is just confirmation that he was supposed to come to us. He is my blessing. It was meant to be."
Canon Thomas Miller said the St. Francis Day celebration honors the special role animals play in peoples' lives.
"We live on the planet with animals, they're very good to us, and they're part of creation," said Miller. "And it's important for the church to remind people that creation is good. We're in one those periods in history where it's important to remind people of that."