Last week, I was drawn to think about our animal brethren and how Christ used them as examples to follow. Think of it: creatures we consider far below us — certainly as far as intelligence is concerned. But Jesus found them worth our study.
This week, I’m focusing on the animals we bring indoors to become members of our family. We don’t refer to ourselves as pet “owners” but as pet “lovers” and caretakers. Often enough, however, it’s the other way around.
Since God is everywhere, it follows as night the day that anyone who has ever loved and cared for a pet can learn something God-like in the relationship between humans and pets. Ignatian spirituality teaches the practice of finding God in all things, and I’m suggesting that this can include our pets – preferably furry ones.
Yes, I’m serious: pet lovers are likely to be at an advantage in understanding divine love.
Now wait, isn’t that a stretch? What about meaningful relationships with humans? Sure, but you must admit that they’re frequently more difficult to love than pets. Do let me continue.
Let’s look at the world and its humans. What would an alien think if he/she/it were to land squarely in the middle of the typical living room? The TV blares, showing police cars racing after perps, sirens screeching. What about the many mug shots on the nightly news, people photographed at their worst? There’s a hopelessness there, and maybe no remorse. [We won’t even mention the political news.] From what the visiting alien sees of planet Earth, its inhabitants don’t seem to like one another.
But now let’s suppose the alien arrives in the living room of a pet owner. It’s late afternoon. The daddy is stretched out on the sofa, relaxing after his day of bringing order out of chaos. By his side is this strong, furry dog, breathing a sense of “all’s right with the world; you’re OK here.” You can practically see the smile on his face as he adoringly guards his sleeping friend.
Or, the kitty you’ve just finished scolding for knocking over a plant, or boldly sitting on a forbidden piece of furniture. Sure you’re annoyed. But at the same time, you’re amused and maybe even secretly proud of her because, after all, she’s acting like a cat! Which is what she should be doing, just as we ought to act like the human beings God intended us to be.
Here, then, are these two pets: one projecting the strength, care and fidelity of God Himself. The other, loved and admired in spite of her naughtiness, just as God loves us in spite of (or maybe even because of) our human failings.
Pet companions are shining examples of unconditional love, given and received.
Yes, Fido had an accident on the carpet. Maybe you made him wait too long? Yes, Fifi woke you up, meowing loudly, at 3 in the morning. Well, she is a nocturnal creature, you know. And even after we scold them roundly, they don’t hold it against us. No grudging, no judging.
I’m just saying: when we, like Ignatius, talk about finding God in all things, one of the easiest places in the world is in the behavior of the pets we’ve been given. Thank God for them!