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Paws-some: Shaman blesses dogs at Grand Army Plaza

Couldn’t have picked a nicer day: Henes gives Sascha a treat as her human companion Elizabeth Pongo looks on.
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These dogs get blessed in show.

A Prospect Heights mystic worked her magic on a bunch of fidos on Oct. 11, offering her rendition of the Catholic blessing of the animals for the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, which took place at churches across Brooklyn the week prior. Getting a pagan shaman to imbue your pet with good vibes at Grand Army Plaza was a no-brainer for pet owners who participated, according to the shaman herself.

“If you offer a blessing to a dog, who’s going to say no?” said Donna “Mama Donna” Henes, who has been performing rituals for the last 40 years. “It’s nondenominational. Not religious. It’s just a Mother Earth blessing.”

This was Henes’ second year giving pups her supposedly holy touch, but she has hosted equinox and solstice celebrations in the shadow of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Arch for decades, she said. The plaza’s circular shape and relative calm, she explained, make it perfect for communing with the gods.

“We started calling it ‘Mama Donna’s Plaza,’ ” she said. “We really claimed it as a ceremonial place.”

For the animal blessing, Henes laid out a ring of red cloth near the plaza’s fountain and invited passing pooches and their human companions to be consecrated. She sprinkled participating pets a special oil she calls the “Juicy Fruits of Life,” and gave each a brightly colored sticker that stood in for an Indian bindi. She then asked the universe to provide the pets what they want most:

“Long naps, long walks, toys, treats, and lots of love,” Henes said.

Park Slope resident Elizabeth Pongo and her dog Sascha were on their way to get some dog food when they stumbled on Henes’s blessing session.

“I thought, ‘Why not?’ ” said Pongo, who runs a personal training business. “Sascha’s a New Yorker. She has a stressful life sometimes.”

Other recipients of the spiritual spruce-up came from Henes’s inner circle. Megan Sheehan, who considers Henes her personal shaman, volunteered to lend a hand with the rites, and brought along her Boston terrier, Andy, to get in Gaia’s good graces.

Sheehan respects Henes for more than just her transcendental traits, she said.

“She’s just an amazing woman,” Sheehan said. “Whether it’s spiritual guidance, or knowledge about things. She’s just kind of an expert at life.”

Posted 12:00 am, October 15, 2014
Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260–8310. E-mail him at mperlman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.
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