Franciscan Sister Christine Bowman was handing out two types of medals to dog owners at Dog Day Afternoon July 9 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
“They are getting St. Francis of Assisi, of course, but they are also getting St. Anthony,” said the director of cathedral relations. “Because we know how easy it is for some dogs to get lost.”
Luckily, there were no lost dogs at this year’s “sniff and mingle” annual event that drew about 1,000 dogs and 1,300 owners, most who live in downtown Los Angeles. Guests on two and four legs were invited to hang out on the Cathedral Plaza on this warm summer evening for visiting, music and a light meal (Dodger dogs were on the menu as well as doggie treat samples.
Hosted by the Cathedral and the Downtown Center Business Improvement District (DCBID), the event has become a beloved date for many downtown residents. “I have been to almost all of them and I look forward to this every year,” said Cathedral parishioner Jean Gonsoulin who brought her dog Cowboy. “I am Catholic and I love that the Cathedral does this. The courtyard comes alive!”
Many dogs — and some owners — were dressed up in costumes, including a “Flying Nun” pomeranian (a la Sally Field), a tuxedo-clad terrier, and a sunglasses-wearing chihuahua “driving” a car.
Elsewhere, a big Irish wolfhound towered over a dwarf chihuahua, bassett hounds rolled in the grassy shade, and bulldogs snorted and panted in and out of their owner’s legs.
“We have two-and-a-half acres of plaza and tonight we are sharing it with our canine companions that give us so much,” explained Msgr. Kevin Kostelnik, Cathedral pastor, who was introducing his dog Joaquin to the crowds. Msgr. Kostelnik credits Hal Bastian of the DCBID (and his dog Scooter) as partners in creating the canine-centric event.
“That first year we probably had 50 dogs,” he said. “Now look at it. We like to say that ‘dogs of all faiths’ are welcomed here, but we also mean their owners, too. We are a cathedral of the people.”
Among the adoption booths and vendor and resource tables, the Cathedral was represented by Sister Bowman who, in addition to handing out saint medals and blessing dogs and people, also reached out to the community to Catholics and non-Catholics alike. “We have been signing folks up to be parishioners,” she said.
This was Sister Bowman’s second Dog Day Afternoon. “Seeing all the different shapes and sizes and kinds of dogs reminds us of how unique each of us is to God,” she said as poodles, dachshunds and mixed breeds frolicked nearby.
“Dogs also are a reflection of God’s unconditional love for us,” she added. “We have a lot to learn from them.”