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The Gift of Pets

The Gift of Pets

Spiritual lessons God can teach us as we love and care for animals
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I've always thought that one of the strongest proofs of God's existence is the love that can develop between humans and animals. It's something so seemingly superfluous and unnecessary. We don't need to love our animals to survive. They really don't need us either—many animals live in the wild just fine.

But there's something achingly sweet about seeing my long-haired black cat Tasa curl luxuriantly in the crook of my knee or feeling my cat Pudding at my shoulder as I read or watch TV. Then there's the mischievous Neptune, my red hunting dog, and what inevitably happens when I leave leftovers or treats in reach of his powerful nose.

Once I fruitlessly searched my huge bag for my gourmet muffin eventually deciding I must have left it in the car. I found out otherwise when I saw Neptune scampering away, his prize between his teeth. It's impossible to be angry with him. Instead, I laugh and think of my weight-loss goals: Better him than me!

What is it about our animals that enables us to love so unreservedly, so lavishly? What makes them so easy to forgive when we struggle to forgive family members or people in church? Why do 63 percent of us fill our homes with what primatologist Frans De Waal affectionately calls "furry carnivores?"

Learning to Love … From a Dog?

I took my musings to Leon Chartrand, visiting professor of theology, ecology, and ethics at Xavier University, who is also a wildlife biologist and former bear management officer for Yellowstone National Park; and to Christopher Savage, a monk at New Skete Monastery in Cambridge, New York, known to many for his Animal Planet show Divine Canine.

As a wildlife officer, Chartrand was on the road at all hours, living out of his truck, driving many lonely miles responding to bear calls. His dog, Neala, a black lab, was his constant companion and still is today, even in the classroom.

"My students seem more relaxed and more open to discussion when she's there," Chartrand says, adding that Neala brings with her a loving, relaxing presence emblematic of the relationship between canine and human that stretches back millennia. Her trusting brown eyes and wet nose remind Chartrand's students of a beloved pet they left back home or perhaps of a time when life felt simpler. Neala also makes hospice visits with Chartrand where she brings comfort to those in the last stages of life.

Chartrand explains that dogs are acutely sensitive to our moods, responding to our emotions in a deep way; to our smiles, our anger, our depression. They even express jealousy when the object of their affection needs to be shared.

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May 07, 2012  9:28am

I love this article! Not a day goes by that I don't think about my little Abby, who died nearly 3 years ago. I have no doubt I'll see her again someday. There has to be a place in heaven for creatures that love with so much sincerity and purity in their hearts.

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May 07, 2012  1:32am

Just 30 minutes ago I lost my little guinea pig, Skipper. I prayed to God pleading for Skipper but never in my prayers did I stop to thank Him for the love and joy that Skipper brought to us. Thank you God. Skipper was a blessing! I know that I will see Skipper again. This article came at the right time. It was God's way to bring comfort and reassurance.

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May 05, 2012  11:36pm

I am so glad and thankful that you have shared your experience with your pets. I thank the others also for sharing. I cried bitterly when my pet cats died, one after eight years of age (human years), and the other after 14years, plus. My pets showed me affection in their own way. I learnt a lot from them, most of all, a reminder of our loving and caring Heavenly Father who created them to enjoy life on earth as well. I once had a cat, "Tobby" who died due to a wounded paw that was infected. I could have seen the painful expression on Tobby's face as he looked up at me while in pain. All night I could not sleep, hoping that the next day early, I would take Tobby to the vet, but alas! My pet died, and I just broke down. It was then, God spoke to me. " You cannot do anything to help Tobby, but I could have done something while "Jesus was dying on the cross", and although I had the power, yet I had to look on without doing something" This profound truth, still lives with me today. You and I was the reason, our heavenly Father turned His face away at the suffering and painful point of Jesus dying on the Cross. I wholeheartedly believe, I will see my pets in time to come. God will make all things new as He has said, and if things are in heaven as I know there are, then, God's beautiful creation of animals will be there, and will be with us too in the new earth. God has blessed me with love for animals, so how much more is His love for them. When I observe humans who are 'fearfully and wonderfully made', and the different kinds of beautiful birds, beautiful cats, dogs, I can see the awesomeness, the greatness, power and love of our God. He said the day will come when the lamb and lion will lie down together. I may not get the opportunity to "hold" a Panda here on earth, but I believe I will one day. Thank you again for sharing.

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