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     Here is the outline of a prayer-service session used in a research project conducted in a parish setting in 2004 and used again in the Maryville Nursing Home 2010-2011 research project. The unique element of both projects was the part that the dog played in these sessions. A therapy dog or dogs were able to interact at will with the volunteers. While the dog was not the focus of the session, the dog's presence helped the individuals to connect to each other and to the Divine.  
     In both studies, there followed a time for reflection to consider a question based on a theme. The participants were invited to share their pet stories and reflect on how the scriptural story related to their own experience. The participants were further invited to share insights about how these connections enhanced their relationship to God. At the dismissal, those who attended were commissioned to carry their insights into their daily lives. The session began with a call to prayer. Then followed a short time of silence for reflection and centering. 

     Below is an example of a prayer-service build on loyalty, a quality often attributed to both the dog and God. The scriptural story in this instance was taken from the "Book of Tobit." In the story a dog is specifically mentioned in this reading (Tobit 6: 2 ff and Tobit 11: 1-4). The dog departed with main characters, Raphael and Tobiah, as they set out on their adventure, and is specifically mentioned as returning with them.

 Sample Service based on the Theme of Loyalty


 Call to Prayer:  "Let Us all rest in God's Spirit as we begin this time of prayer and meditation."

Silence: Time for centering, connecting to Spirit.

Scriptural Reading: Reading from "The Book of Tobit." Pose the question for consideration based on the theme for the day. 

For example, "How does the scriptural reading and your own experience show you how God is always there for you?"

Silence/Sharing: Time for reflection. Invite participants to share their pet stories. Conclude with Psalm 51 and a hand cleansing.

Conclusion/Sending Forth:  "Let us now pray... Holy One, as we reflect on the beauty of your creation, let us carry the lessons we have learned into our community to spread

Your joy, Your love, and Your peace. Amen"