Thursday, October 27, 2011

It's 'Just' A Dog

As I write this there is a cocker spaniel and a beagle curled up beside me on the couch. The beagle has crawled under the blanket that is covering the couch and the spaniel is content to lie beside her. Both have a rhinestone charm hanging from their fashionable collars and both could probably stand to lose a pound or two. Yes, they are pampered or as I choose to say, 'well loved'. 

I understand that not every dog gets to live the life that 'our girls' do and that became very evident to me just the other day. I had arrived at my destination and happened to see a beautiful dog tied to a dog house in the back yard of the house next door. I was just thinking of what a shame it was that this beautiful creature should have to be tied on such a short rope, when the owners came home. So I sat, in my car, for a few more minutes, hoping to see the glad reunion of dog with master. But it was not to be.

When the owner got out of their vehicle the dog started furiously wagging its tail and prancing around, hoping for some attention and affection, but they had packages to carry into the house. When they disappeared inside the head of the dog hung down and its shoulders slumped and the tail stopped wagging. It was turning towards  its dog house when it heard the door of the house open again. Now that the packages had all been taken inside, now, for sure, the owner would go and speak to the dog. Surely they could hear his excited cries and could see the wagging tail.

 I found myself hoping with the dog, but we were both to be disappointed. The owner, who was completely oblivious to the dog, went inside the house and the dog laid down by the dog house, forgotten once again. I can tell you I was heartbroken for the dog.

Why do people get a dog if they can't care for it? Oh, I know, the dog probably had water and food and shelter, but anyone who has ever owned a dog knows, they have a heart that wants companionship, a heart that needs companionship. A dog will do anything it can to please its owner. They are faithful, loyal and true, which is more than I can say of this particular owner. 

Maybe you're reading this and you're thinking 'it's only a dog, what's the big deal? It's not like it's a child' Well I believe that you can tell a lot about a person by the way they treat the animals that are in their care. If they have compassion on 'just a dog' then they will most likely have compassion towards people who are made in the image of God. If a person is kind towards an animal, they are generally kind towards people too.

However, a person who is cruel to a defenseless animal will undoubtedly be cruel to defenseless people. Modern psychology confirms this, with many studies finding a relationship between childhood animal cruelty and adult criminal violence.

King Solomon said in Proverbs 12:10 that a 'righteous man cares for the needs of his animal.' God expects us to show kindness to the creatures of the earth. That doesn't mean that we have to hold them in higher esteem than we do people like some activist groups tend to do but it does mean that we are not to be cruel in any way. 

Throughout the Bible we are given many examples of how we are to treat animals and in fact, Rebecca was chosen as the wife of Isaac because of her kindness towards the camels of Abraham's servant. When he asked for a drink, she gave him a drink and watered his camels too. (Genesis 24) By this simple act of kindness she was deemed worthy to be a good wife for Isaac.

Mankind was  given dominion over animals (Gen. 1:26), which gives us the right to use animals for legitimate needs. Animal flesh can be consumed for food; animal skins can be used for clothing. We can have animals for protection; we can use animals to carry loads and make our work easier. However, dominion does not give us the right to cause pain or harm. Dominion does not mean dictatorship. Dominion means responsibility for those under us. 

Because we have domesticated dogs to such an extent they have a close bond with us; closer than any other animal on earth. They have feelings too. Just scold a dog for something they've done wrong and see their reaction. Wait for a couple of minutes and see if that dog doesn't try to get back into your good graces. That is just one example of how they crave our attention and approval. 

Animals are one of the gifts God has given to mankind and pets, even more so. How are you treating your gift? Are you not only meeting their physical needs but their emotional needs as well? A dog will never judge you, never criticize your actions. They will listen to you no matter how long you need to talk and they will always be happy to see you. Its never too late to improve the life of a dog that has been 'just a dog'. All it takes is a little kindness on your part for you to reap so many rewards: undying devotion, loyalty, faithfulness, friendship, acceptance, laughter, joy........

If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow man.
St. Francis of Assisi

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