I have a friend who is currently embarking on a new lifestyle. Dog owner. Actually, she is sharing custody of a dog with a friend of hers who has begun to travel for work. So, in a way, this is a very good situation for both families, and the dog! First of all, I’m going to say that the dog she is caring for is just about the sweetest and most mild tempered dog I’ve ever met. She is curious, gentle, and enjoys interacting with the family. I think it helps that this little dog is 6 years old. My friend doesn’t realize the gold mine that she has stumbled upon. She has never owned a dog before and has been very intrigued by the fact that this dog seems very satisfied with just a little bit of attention and acceptance into their family. The dog is content to learn how to please her owners with obedience and gentle affection. Obviously, what we have here is a well-trained dog who has been taught good boundaries.
Well, in response to my friend’s new found pet-friendship, I’ve decided to write a post about some of my very deep thoughts on pet ownership.
The Value of Pets
Maybe you are wondering, what does pet ownership have to do with anything spiritual? Well, first of all, our pets are an awe-inspiring part of God’s creation. I’m saying this with all seriousness. The idea that dogs came from wild beasts and then have been domesticated (into all sorts of shapes, sizes, and temperaments) doesn’t take away from the fact that God masterfully pieced together the original wolf. Powerful, smart, and beautiful – He even decided to endow wolves with the potential for domestication. (Fyi – any of you who want to argue about evolution, natural selection, blah, blah, blah… whatever. This is not my intent for this post, so send me your thoughts and we’ll save them for another day. Maybe.) I think the word “potential” really is the crux of this conversation. Why would God give some animals the potential for domestication?
Well, there is something to be said about domesticated animals providing ancient people with an additional resource for survival. It is also worth mentioning that some dogs are known to provide protection. I think, however, over-riding reason that God enabled wolves to be domesticated is for the blessing of companionship. I cannot even begin to explain the comfort and joy I have experienced through my relationships with my family dogs over the years.
A Friend at All Times
How many times have you read the paper, watched the news, or stumbled upon a TV show that featured a pet-owner explaining the near miracles their dogs have performed. I’ve heard of dogs rescuing people from burning homes, scaring away burglars, staying with lost children… I even heard a story the other day that a certain lady’s dog can alert her when her blood sugar is dangerously low. These amazing creatures do so much to bless their families, I’m sure we don’t even know the half of it. I know for a fact that my dog has made it his mission to rid our yard of moles by personally excavating every mole hill. To top it off, they don’t require much in return. Food, water, shelter, exercise, and some training (to teach them manners and give them a job) are really not too much for them to ask.
When our dogs aren’t trying to serve their families in heroic ways (they will find a job for themselves – you can either assign the job through training, or they will find a hole to dig… all for the sake of their family), their soft faces and unconditional love can bring immeasurable blessings to a soul. Every time I walk in the door, I only have to wait a moment before I receive a furry, tail-wagging greeting. George, my husky mix, often bellows an energetic howl when we enter the house. In quiet times, especially when I’m doing homework, I’ll often look up and notice that my dog has curled up on my feet, providing warmth and affection when I’m not even noticing. Many of you can vouch for me on this one, how many times have your tears been washed away by a gentle tongue or muzzle?
Amazingly, our pets just give and give of themselves, asking very little in return. And often, when life is busy, we offer very little to them. Somehow they never seem to hold a grudge.
I want to mention a difficult thing now. My family recently had our sweet and beautiful German Shepherd, Greta, put to sleep. She had injured her leg and was in pain. We didn’t feel that the proposed surgery was in her best interest, so we had to let her go. My grief over the loss of her presence in our lives is very deep. Any of you who know me, I’m sure you can imagine the slobbery mess that I am while I sit here writing.
Having felt the emotional blessings of my dogs’ companionship, I can say with complete conviction that they are not human. They are not even human-like. Some of you might be saying, “but, my Fido is like a son to me!” If that’s true, you have completely missed what, I believe, is God’s purpose for our pet’s lives. The truth is, unconditional love and complete devotion, are completely un-human concepts. We do not have the capacity to pour ourselves out for one another in such a way. Honestly, if I had a friend who treated me the way my dogs treat me, I’d probably think she was emotionally unstable. Even with our best efforts, at some point our selfish natures will cause us to fail. Our dogs are hard-wired by God for these displays. Dogs display a “pack-oriented” nature and respect for “alpha” position that enable them to provide loyalty and selflessness. We receive this behavior in terms that we understand, love and devotion. Our dogs are not meant to be compared to our children. They are, however, meant to display a creative imprint of God’s character.
Creation Displays God’s Character
“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made…” Romans 1:20 (New American Standard Bible)
I have found much spiritual encouragement considering the awesomeness of God in light of his beautiful creation. Majestic peaks speak of his enduring power. The new spring blooms speak to my heart of His thoughtful and creative blessings. My dogs remind me that whether or not I deserve it, His love is there for me.
Every morning as I’m waking up, I slide my hand out from under the covers over the side of my bed. All I have to do is rub my fingers quietly together and there will soon be a furry head (or bottom?) under my hand. A slow, quiet wag and cheerful eyes say, “good morning, I thought you’d never get up!” What a fantastic reminder to tuck away. If my dog looks forward to an intimate moment in the morning, how much more does my Heavenly Father look forward to another day with me?!
In honor of my sweet Greta, I submit to you this plea:
Don’t treat your dogs as though they are human. Treat them with the proper dignity deserving all of God’s creation. Enjoy them, take care of them, and look for God’s blessings as a result of their lives.