Pilot Staff Writer

Little Joe the sugar glider peeked out of his tiny cloth pouch, blinking against the afternoon sun. The marsupial's big brown eyes were not accustomed to bright sunlight.

The nocturnal native of Australia was brought to the Star of the Sea Catholic Church by his owner for the annual blessing of the animals on Friday. B.J. Ferris, who rescues and raises exotic animals, also brought along Clarice, a brilliant green and blue veiled chameleon.

andquot;She slowly changes colors when she's put on different backgrounds,andquot; said Ferris, with Clarice perched on her head.

andquot;These blue patches are new. She's been changing to the most beautiful colors lately.andquot;

Father Karl Claver presided over the event, lightly showering his subjects with a sprinkler dipped in holy water.

Collin and Dylan Roberts served as altar boys.

Among the many dogs and cats that showed up to be blessed were ferrets, a horse, a pony and a baby tortoise.

Carol Owens comes to the animal blessing each year. She brought along her three ferrets, Traveler, Shygirl and Mimi.

Owens has had Traveler and Shygirl since 1996.

andquot;They're brother and sister,andquot; she said. andquot;I helped birth them.andquot;

Mimi was born last year.

Owens said she enjoys attending the animals blessings because it gives her the opportunity to get out and let people see the ferrets.

andquot;It's nice to go there and everyone gets to see how they are. I think because they're part of the weasel family, people think they're vicious creatures, but they're not. It's good to educate the public.andquot;