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The Rev. Justin Cannon, center, of S. Giles Episcopal Church, blesses Nelita Antezana's, left, two goats during a blessing of the animals ceremony on Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013, at Saint Mary's College in Moraga, Calif. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)

MORAGA -- Nelita Antezana had her hands full with mother-and-daughter goats who were getting frisky as they stood in a circle of dogs, two rabbits, a tiny lizard and their human companions during a blessing of the animals Sunday at St. Giles' Episcopal Church.

Fortunately, the goats were standing right next to the Rev. Justin Cannon, making them first to be sprinkled with water cast by a rosemary twig during the blessing ceremony at the church.

"God's spirit is present in all of his creatures, and animals are devoted companions who offer so much grace in their own way," Cannon said before the blessing, the second he has overseen since joining the congregation, which worships at the chapel at Saint Mary's College.

"Our animals bring us lots of peace and happiness," said Antezana, on why she and her friend Lidia Mostaghimi brought 3-year-old Florinda and 1-year-old Florintina. The goats also keep the grass in check at Antezana's ranch in Lafayette.

More than two dozen animals, along with a basket of stuffed toy animals, were blessed during the brief ceremony held on the lawn outside the chapel.

Mostaghimi collected the donated toy animals so that they could be blessed for the parish's "comfort ministry," which provides stuffed animals to youths going through family law and juvenile court proceedings in Contra Costa County.

Raphie, a 4-year-old Australian labradoodle, munched on a dog biscuit given to him by his owner, Caroline Wood, of Moraga. This was the fourth time the dog has attended the event.


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"Since they don't get baptized, blessing is the next best thing. They bring us peace, joy and serenity," said Wood.

She explained that Raphie is short for Raphael, since dogs don't answer to three syllables.

Benjamin Hanks, a 6-year-old Moraga resident, carried Mountain Climber -- a 3-inch long Western fence lizard he found on a family hike in the East Bay hills -- in an insect box. Other children peered inside before Benjamin brought the lizard out to climb on his shirt.

It wasn't only the pets of parishioners who were blessed by Cannon. The rabbits in the group -- Felicity and Perpetua -- belonged to Cannon and his partner, Christopher Dombrowski. "They were rescued from a shelter. They had three homes before," said Cannon. "This will be their last home."

In previous years, horses and chickens have been blessed at the event, which has taken place for the past two decades. But this year, there were no horses, chickens or cats, though Antezana did consider bringing her feline.

"I almost brought my cat," she said. "Goats use too much (energy) just to keep them in one place."

Contact Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her at Twitter.com/EastCounty_Girl.