Saturday, May 14, 2005

Seven things I learned about God from my pets

I've been reflecting on the expression of love I had from Good Old Boy, a late, great golden retriever. I wonder if one reason God puts these great animals in our life is so we can learn from them.

Here are some things I've learned from my pets I can apply to my relationship with God:

1. Unconditional love. Good Old Boy showed me this time after time. His favorite thing was to lean against my legs and look into my face adoringly as I stroked him. If I was seated, he would deposit his big head on my knee and do the same thing. This is truly Agape, God's love, that is spiritual and selfless. He just loved me, no matter what.

2. Forgiveness. To have the kind of unconditional love Good Old Boy showed, one needs forgiveness. Good Old Boy came to me from awful circumstances, He had been a beloved pet, then his owner died. He was left in the rain and the wet in the back yard with no one to take him. Most of us humans would harbor some bitterness, but not Good Old Boy. He was just overjoyed to be going home with me, and he made himself right at home with me and the other animals, as if he had always lived there. Joyfully.

3. Joy. Mollie McGuire dances with joy at the prospect of going for a walk or a ride with me in the car. My cats teach me this, too, purring contentedly, taking joy in the smallest things: a ball to play with, a treat, a rub. Take joy in life.

4. Trust expectantly. Both cats, Elvis and Jack the Brat, lie on their sides or back, paws curled up against their chests, waiting for me to scratch their tummies. They leave themselves vulnerable, expecting only good things from me. And if they get what they don't expect, they forgive and forget quickly. See No. 2 again.

5. The Commandments. When Betsy was a puppy, she quickly learned it displeased me greatly if she relieved herself in the house, but she got praise and pets for going outside. Now, she will never mess in the house.

I know the things that please and displease God the most. If I can only apply that knowledge as well as Betsy does.

6. My Master's voice. All the animals are attuned to the sound of my voice and respond to it, to my instructions (well, most of the time). They recognize my moods from my voice.

7. Stewardship. I get the feeling my cats and dogs think they take care of me, and in many ways they do, as when Betsy snuggles against me to comfort me when I'm sick. The cats shower affection on me when they know I'm down. They remind me to take care of everything with which God entrusts me, including my pets.

There are so many things I could list. I want to learn to put them all into better practice.


Jim said...


Your post is a veterinary analog to Marcus Borg's well-written thoughts on Jesus as the model for what God would be like if [s]he were human.

I loved it. Thanks.

CafeCath said...

What a wonderful salute to your pets.
This is a great list. Thanks for sharing.