I firmly believe pets make us more human, which is to say they make us better people. Maybe it’s just me, but given the animal shelters which struggle across the US and the pet store aisles filled with treats and toys, I have the feeling I’m not alone.
As a Christian I worship a God which I see reflected all around me. One area in which He shows up regularly is in nature. I don’t however worship nature, though I know that’s gaining in popularity. Nature is a gorgeous sunset, but it’s also in the winds of a hurricane. Nature brings life from the cold, dead ground in the spring, but it also casts aside animals born with imperfections. A deep breath of “nature” can feel like a cure for the soul, but if you’re downwind from a raging forest fire, I wouldn’t suggest it. After all, it’s not nature, but the unnatural way we treat our pets, which does its work in us. Improving us, from the inside out.
The way we care for our pets, runs exactly counter to how nature dictates. The runt of the litter is cared for the most. Imperfections are dealt with through great expense, or more likely great acceptance. Every need is not just fulfilled, but fulfilled with variety, joy and love.
I’ll admit to spoiling my pets in ways I’d never spoil my kids. Every so often, as I let my dog out into the yard, I’ll see one of my cats “eyeing” the open door. “Go for it,” I sometimes think. You’ll be back in ten seconds wondering why the yard isn’t filled with cat toys and delightfully-soft perches. At this point they could never make it in the cold, cruel world – and that’s just what I intend. By creating for them an environment filled with love, I’ve gotten used to it myself.
I believe we become more caring, by caring. We become more tolerant, by tolerating yet another mystery-pile on the carpet. We become less frazzled by life’s softballs, by realizing another chewed pair of slippers isn’t the end of the world. Yes, there are a million other ways to adopt these character traits, but none of those will warm your lap or lick your face.
Pets can instill in us a practice of putting something, or someone, ahead of ourselves. To me, that’s the Golden Rule in action. Pets reveal to us a love that comes from accepting and embracing a creature just the way they are. That’s the love of God in action.
Their short life spans and ability to live in the moment, reminds us that we too, are only here for a little while. So as I go about my day of cleaning, feeding and petting, I’m reminded that the frequent smile, which breaks out across my face, is due to the antics of the creatures with which I share a home. Wrinkles and smile-lines aside, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What about your pet makes you smile?