Four-Footed Ministers-Spiritual Sojourners


Change is Coming: Retirement

Alya here. Mom is typing this for me because, of course, I don’t have thumbs—but my dew claws work very well for some things, just not typing.

Mom and I decided that I should NOT renew my Pet Partners’ registration when it expires in December, 2014. Thus, I will be retiring from my active ministry helping mom with dog-ministry prayer-group gatherings. 

It has been a pleasure to meet the elders we visit every week who gather to hear mom proclaim God’s word and her stories that expand on those scriptural passages. My role for “dog-ministry” has been to invite individuals into our circle of wisdom to listen and then share their own experiences about their pets as related to the scriptural story. 

Thank you all for keeping up with our on-going journey. Mom intends to keep working on the growing loose-leaf book of stories with the aim of publishing them as a companion volume to her work, Four-Footed Ministers In Formation: A Training Manual on Dog Ministry. We invite you to continue to check in with our blog for further updates.

Blessings to you all.


Rev. Tanya and Bela-July 2014 Update

Update from:

Rev. Tanya Eustace, PhD in Christian Education & Congregational Studies 

Director, Children & Intergenerational Ministries

GBOD/The United Methodist Church

Below is an update on Bela, the Four-Footed Minister who has moved with her human counterpart to a new position in Nashville, TN.

"Our move/transition has gone well. Bela and I have officially been here for a little over a month. It was rough going at the beginning as Bela was extremely anxious, not wanting to leave my side and hiding behind my legs when we would go out to meet people (aka we went to visit her new doggy day care, vet, and trainer). However, the vet prescribed a pheromone collar for her to wear and that seemed to help. In a week she was back to her friendly self. She still doesn’t like the grass here in Nashville so trying to get her to go potty is difficult. We do have an amazing park that is 3 miles from our house so we are enjoying the trails together. Since she is now one she is able to go with me on short runs in the morning which is super fun for me- I’ve missed having a running buddy.

As for me- I’m still taking it one day at a time. I love my new job. I’m sad that Bela no longer is able to come with me to work. I miss her terribly during the day. Luckily, Bela LOVES her dog walker Bernie (when I interviewed her Bela climbed into her lap and fell asleep) who tracks all their walks with map my fitness and takes notes throughout the visit so I am able to see what they are doing while I’m at work. Bela also has grown to LOVE her doggy day care- she goes twice a week and plays with all her friends, swims in a pool, enjoys lunch and a nap, and has tons of fun climbing on their playground. The “Belmont Pet Resort” has a webcam so I’m able to watch Bela throughout the day when she’s there (Tues/Thur/and when I’m traveling) so it helps me feel a little connected to her while I’m off at work. I know she’s in good hands. I’ve attached a picture they sent me when I was traveling last week it’s of her playing with all her friends in day care.

Our new trainer, Kat, has been awarded best trainer in Nashville for several years in a row and we LOVE her too. We are currently enrolled in a Behavior Manners class which at the end of 8 weeks will conclude with the AKC Canine Good Citizen test. Keep your fingers crossed as this is our next step towards therapy dog certification/registration. Bela seems to be doing well with the preparations. I’m still considering returning to Chicago to attend the November Pet Partners orientation class and have Bela tested there as I really want to become affiliated with them. Unfortunately I have not found a pet partner’s certified test instructor here in Nashville. So that’s a bit of an unknown…Once Bela is certified/registered (she has the pretty black/white face)

and I have been here awhile I plan to ask for permission for Bela to come to work with me a few times a week. I am also looking into volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House and hope once Bela’s certified she’ll be able to join me there too.

Nashville is ok- it’s hard to get around but with my gps I’m beginning to find my way without too much trouble. We’ve also connected with another owner who invited us to their home (they have lots of land and a creek)….. So needless to say- it’s not Chicago but Bela and I never cease to have fun :). Sending our best,

Tanya and Bella

Jul 8

The Wonders of Modern Science

Dear Readers—Alya here.

In May, Mom discovered after a series of tests, that I had very low amounts of Vitamin B12. The recommendation from my internist (yes, they do have these specialties in the medical field for dogs), suggested a series of Vitamin B12 shots. Unfortunately, this particular vitamin is not absorbed well through the gut, so mom had to learn how to give me my weekly shot. 

Every Sunday morning for the past eight weeks, I have been very patient while she prepares the shot. She then grabs the skin on the back of my neck and… it is over in a flash. I feel so much better now and have my pep and energy back.

Though we had to give up our regular visits at Maryville because of all the walking, I still get the opportunity to visit with the assisted-living residents at St. Anthony’s Village. I really enjoy my work with them when we gather for dog-ministry prayer group once a week.

Take care and blessings. I think I feel a nap coming on…

Alya, still a Four-Footed Minister

Update from a Hospice Chaplain and her Four-Footed Minister

Here is an Update from a Hospice Chaplain in Ohio who now volunteers with her Four-Footed Minister, Susie:

On The Wrong Side of the Bed

Susie and I have been volunteering at a hospital in Florida, while visiting there for the winter.  It is truly paradise to be on the water and watch all the wildlife, especially the birds of all kinds.  Considering the weather at home, I am blessed to be in sunny, warm Florida. 

When we arrived in Florida, I went to the local hospital and volunteered to bring Susie as a pet therapy dog.  I had recently retired as a Chaplain, but you never forget those skills and the love for God that overflows.  We were welcomed and given a tour right away.  Susie and I ministered there for several months before returning home. 

While in Florida, I had an unexpected gall bladder attack which required removal of my gall bladder.  I was in pain and felt sorry for myself.  I was on the wrong side of the bed, not used to being in the bed but at the bedside.  I was in a strange hospital and feeling alone, although I had friends who were extremely good to me and took care of Susie.  I wanted my four legged minister, Susie, to be with me.  I missed her so much.  I asked the nurse if Susie could come in to see me and explained her role as a therapy dog.  The nurse checked and said she could come in.  When my daughter arrived she was able to bring her in to see me.  Susie came in walking beside my daughter, and when she saw me her tail started wagging, but she stayed in her role and was lifted on to the bed beside me where she lay quietly giving me gentle doggie kisses.  I felt so comforted by her closeness and felt healing energy coming from her.  I snuggled with Susie for a long time before getting tired. 

My daughter told me later Susie was “transformed” when she put on her therapy dog scarf and she was calm and the model citizen.   She walked into the hospital like she belonged there and when she saw me, she instinctively knew something was wrong but happy to see me.  Susie always brings joy into my life.  She is truly a four legged minister.

We are home now and will soon start volunteering again.   Susie and I miss doing our special ministry together and look forward to each time we are able to minister.

M and Susie

More Updates—Transitions in Chicago for Rev. Tanya

Here is the latest from Rev. Dr. (Yeah Team!) Tanya and Bella

"Life has been super crazy over the last few weeks as I try to wrap up this part of my journey and prepare for the next. 

Over the last month I left the Chicago Temple, finished my dissertation, Bela and I traveled to NJ to be with my nephews and to welcome my niece into the world. I defended my dissertation- YAY!, and went to Nashville to find housing, a car, and set up a few needed things for Bela. It’s been a whirlwind. In the midst of all of that my boyfriend of 1.5 years and I broke up and I am trying to grieve leaving a city I love and beginning a new ministry in a new place. It’s a lot, and I continue to know that God is indeed moving in and through all of these changes and that God journeys with me. I know that I am called to take the job in Nashville and I am super excited about the possibilities although sad to see this part of my journey end. 
Bela is doing well. We start her 5th training course,  a course designed specifically for teams interested in therapy work- we’ll see how we do :). Keep us in your prayers as I am still looking for a trainer in the Nashville area and the Pet Partner contacts in that area are limited. I originally thought we would return to Chicago at least twice a month to continue our training and to be with my boyfirend Ryan- but now it seems we are truly leaving everything in this city behind as we journey to the next land. I know that God will continue to use us- I’m just uncertain how. One of my hopes is that Bela and I will be able to do some work at the Ronald McDonald House that is close to my office- so I am committed to continue working with her and moving towards certification/registration. We shall see :) Although Bela can’t come to work with me on a regular basis she will be able to make occasional visits, and I hope to bring her with me on all my travels when possible. Part of my job includes a requirement for 4 hours of community service a month- so I intend to participate in a ministry with Bela. 
The good news is that when I was in Nashville I picked out a Doggy Day care, found a vet, and visited an agility course that she’ll be able to take in September. Now I continue my search for a trainer and a dog walker ;). I still believe it will all come together.”
Keep Rev. Dr. Tanya and Bella in your prayers. 
Blessings and thanx for the update, Rev. Dr. Tanya!
Dr. Jerilyn E. Felton
May 2

My Colleague has Transitioned

Alya here with some sad news to report.

I found out in April that my dear sister (we were always called “sisters” because we looked so much alike) has passed away. Caterina passed away on April 9th. Mom’s ministry partner is very sad at the passing of her best buddy and our first Four-Footed Minister. Thank you for your healing prayers for us.

I must also report that I am cutting back on my ministry commitments. An aging back and gastric problems caused us (Mom and me) to suspend our visitations to Maryville Nursing Home, effective at the end of May. So many people want us to visit to offer comfort and care, but all the walking (between one and two hours on my paws) is just not possible as I am almost 13 years-old (people years) and I can no longer tolerate extensive time on those aging feet. 

Thank you so very much for your support of dog ministry. Please know that Mom is always available to take your inquiries and questions. Please also note she changed her email address. Her new address is:

If you have her old address of “” please discard it.

Blessings to you all!


Alya, Four-Footed Minister, here. Mom decided to let me upload some “selfies” that let you all see that ministers love to get out and “re-create” themselves because self-care is an important part of ministry.

Because I don’t have thumbs (drat, though dew claws can often can function as such), I had help from Mom who did the typing and my good buddy at Lazy Dog, Crazy Dog, Bel. Bel actually snapped the pictures you see here and did an AWESOME job capturing my best side.

Blessings and remember to take time to “re-create,” doing whatever gets you in touch with God who is constantly delighting in His creation.


Mar 8

Appropriate Addition for Lent

Faithful Readers:

If you happened to purchase my training manual on dog ministry (see link below), you will notice that I have included examples of the dog-ministry prayer-group gatherings that made up the Maryville study. In the 2013 publication of a new Pet Partners’ Student Manual, there was greater emphasis placed on hand-washing to insure that everyone who interacts with the dog team is safe. 

In discussing this additional emphasis on sanitation with a colleague, I was at a loss of how I might incorporate this into our group gathering without breaking the prayerful atmosphere we had created. The solution suggested by my colleague was to pray Psalm 51 out loud. Thus, before the concluding prayer, I pray verses 3 and 4 from Psalm 51 and have my attendees repeat the segments of these verses after me as I go around the room providing them with a dab of hand-sanitizer. This is a great and unobtrusive way to help all my elder attendees to get their hands clean and ask for God’s forgiveness.

The training manual for dog ministry can be found at:

ISBN: 978-1-4759-7208-5 (print copy)

ISBN: 978-1-4759-72092 (eBook format)

Thanx for your support of Dog Ministry.

Dr. J and Alya

The latest pictures from Rev. Tanya and Bella.

It just goes to show you how much a good belly rub is appreciated by our Four-Footed Minister!

Blessings on your life journey.

Update on a Four-Footed Minister in Training

Below is an update from Rev. Tanya and her Four-Footed Minister in Training. Pictures to follow—
Bela is now 8 months old and while she’s demonstrating adolescent behavior at home (she refuses to come out of her crate when I have her harness in my hand), she continues to do very well while at work and school. Her trainer is very please with her behavior. We are halfway through with our 3rd puppy training course, and we have signed up for our 4th class which will begin in March.  She’s working on her down stays, increasing duration and distance.
She did beautifully on the train today- keeping her down for most of the 40-minute train ride. Along the way we met a lawyer who had a lot of questions about therapy work, training, and certification/registration. We had a lovely chat while Bela practiced her “down stay.” It was a lovely train ride.
When we got to the church Bela went immediately to the security guard stand to look for her favorite security guard and did a nice sit while being loved on. Next, we headed to the second floor and the church offices. Bela was greeted by staff and by a group of college students who had just arrived at the church for the afternoon tour. Bela did extremely well as the students took turns petting her and loving on her.
We are now settling in to our work in my office. Bela is playing (currently maneuvering a treat ball to get her lunch) and I am organizing my thoughts and to-do list. It continues to be a pleasure and a joy to share Bela with others. She truly is a gift and despite her adolescent behavior and she continues to bring joy to the many people she meets. We appreciate your prayers as we continue the training process. It takes lots of work, practice, and patience (both on mine and Bela’s part- she often gets impatient with me :) ). 
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Tanya and Bella