SOMERVILLE, NJ - One by one, they bounded up the steps and filed into St. John's Episcopal Church to sit patiently in the pews alongside their owners.

There was Alfie, Oliver and Humphrey, joined by Gracie, Fritzy and McMuffin.

And there was Bowie, Solo and Benson, along with Holly, Winter, Augusta, Bella, Rosie and Precious, and dozens of others.

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Sunday was the 20th annual Blessing of the Animals presided over by Rev. Canon Ron Pollock ,rector of the West High Street Church, who greeted each dog's owner and repeated a short prayer for each of the animals seated in the pews of the church during the special service, which began at 3 p.m.

The Blessing of the Animals commemorates the work of St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226).

Pollock recited a prayer for the owners and their pets, attributed to St. Francis:

"By your word, Almighty God, all things are made holy. We pray that you will pour down your blessings on these animals and pets. Grant that all those present who give thanks to you and who take good care of these animals may receive, through your almighty power, health of body and protection of soul. We pray that you will keep these pets and animals safe from all harm and take care of them in your divine providence."

A reception for the owners and their pets followed in the church hall.