April 29, 2007
By Jim Hammond
Cats. Hmmm. Cats are indeed inscrutable. Are they intelligent? Well, consider this. Cats lie about all day while you go to work to support them. They are petted upon demand, fed daily – usually more than once, and they take over the most comfortable places in the whole house – and will NOT move. They don’t do anything they don’t want to do, and you can’t make them. You want humiliation? Try putting a leash on your cat so you can take it out for a drag. You are the cat’s willing personal servant. And that’s a dumb beast, huh?
Here’s a Haiku:
Rule for today: Touch my tail, I claw your hand. New rule tomorrow.
But at the same time, is there anything more relaxing than a cup of tea and a purring cat in your lap? Is there anything more attractive than a kitten? Is there anything funnier than when your cat goes into “Krazy Kitty” mode, and tears up and down the hall or stairs with her eyes all buggy and her tail stiff? You are a willing servant, just for those moments when your kitty looks at you with those love eyes.
No! Our pets are NOT just property! They are full-fledged members of our core families. They are our non-human children or siblings. Lydia calls them “fur babies”. They teach us valuable lessons about life. My childhood dog, a Lab named Jet, taught me about fidelity, and perseverance, and responsibility, and to turn around three times before lying down. Take a dog for a walk, it forces you to observe what the dog is interested in. Show some patience and really see. You will be taught how to truly experience every element of your walk, for no rock, or leaf, or log, will go unexamined, no rustling bush will be overlooked, and even the very air will be inhaled, pondered, and noted as being full of valuable information.
Some people, I’m sure even some of you here, kindly listening to me, will say; “But it’s just a dog, when so much is happening to people in the world it’s just not worth the time and effort”. I once read an essay on that, I can’t remember the exact words but I do remember the sentiment, and I found it echoed my own feelings. I will tell you truly some of my best moments have come about with “just a dog.” Many hours have passed when my only company was “just a dog”, but I did not once feel lonely. Some of my saddest moments have been brought about by “just a dog”, and during other sad times comfort was afforded me by “just a dog”, and in my days of dark despair the cold nose of “just a dog” gave me a reason to get up in the morning. So if you, too, think it’s “just a dog,” then you will probably also understand phrases like: “just a friend”, “just a promise”, or “just a sunrise”.
I strongly believe that the Church should be more proactive in it’s teaching about animals as important creatures of God, creatures that deserve our love and respect. Creatures that have a basic right to a good existence and are not simply here to work for us or for our amusement. Dogs, horses, and other animals work with us, and do so willingly. It’s part of our mutual relationship, for our mutual benefit. They are not our slaves. Some church denominations actually teach man’s dominance over animals as a “Divine Right” to get what we can at a minimum of effort or cost to us. And then when the “resource” is used up, dispose of it and get another. Other denominations just don’t say anything at all.
No, I am NOT ignoring the fact that we eat some animals. That some are raised with their use or consumption being the reason for their being. As a person who enjoys a nice thick, rare steak, I am not condemning this. That is their relationship with us. But is that any reason to mistreat them by denying them the green grass, or the sky, or natural light, or freedom of movement, or even being able to lay down at all during their entire lives? I believe God just wants us to give these animals some dignity, a little empathy. Allow these animals to spend their time here, as God created them to spend it. Show them some kindness while they are here, and when the time comes, end their lives as humanely as possible.
Getting back to my main subject of pets, dogs in particular. If allowed to become truly a part of your life, if you spend the time to develop a close relationship, a friendship, that you put in the time needed for the dog to get to understand what it is you expect from them, they will do gladly whatever they can to make you happy. That is what they do! Put forth the effort and you will see that a dog is a very noble animal, that there is much to admire and little to dislike.
James Thurber said;
If I have any beliefs about immortality, it is that most dogs I have known will go to heaven, and very, very few persons…”
Well, I’m not quite that cynical. I believe that the dog is one of God’s greatest gifts to man. I wish everybody could have a dog as fine as some of my dogs have been. I believe the world would be a better place for it. Especially those who can’t get along with other humans, they would find love. Yes, I believe that pets are much, much, more than property. I also believe that we are truly blessed by God with the presence of these creatures that share our lives for such brief periods of time.
And, I firmly believe that our old friend Will Rogers was quite correct when he said;
If there are no dogs in heaven, then when I die, I want to go where they went…”
© 2007 Jim Hammond. All rights reserved.