There is an old saying that says – Dog spelt backwards is still man’s best friend.
Often a person will get asked – are you a dog person or a cat person.
Because they are different.
In fact it is often said – you own a dog but a cat owns you.
They have different temperaments.
Cats can be more fussy.
It was also once said that a dog gets fed, gets patted, gets pampered – and they think to themselves of their owners – they must be God.
A cat on the other hand gets fed, gets patted, gets pampered – and they think to themselves of their owners – I must be God.
Whether you’re a cat person, a dog person, a fish person, a bird person – or you don’t like pets at all – animals are part of the created order and given as a gift to human kind as companions.
It’s interesting that apart from the birds of the air and the fish of the sea, the animal kingdom share the 6th day of creation with human beings.
So there is a close connection with chimpanzees sharing something like 97 to 99% of the human DNA.
In Genesis chapter 2 we read of the original purpose for the animals that God had created:
The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found.
So as we know God created Eve from Adam – bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh.
So we see that the animal kingdom has a special role in the life of humanity and it is part of our role to love and care for them.
It was in the very first chapter of Genesis when God said: “Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
And to rule over means to care and provide just as God cares and provides for us as he rules over us.
Not everyone is a pet type of person but it is hard to deny that pets and other animals play an import role in the life of human beings.
Whether it be for providing food – or warmth through clothes.
Animals have played and continue to play an important part in people’s lives.
And that includes seeing eye dogs – assistance animals – even sniffer dogs to protect our borders and canine squad with the police to help with crime prevention.
But for many people companion pets have provided much love and companionship for the lonely.
In fact I was reading an article last week about Australian swimmer Shayna Jack.
You may recall earlier this year she tested positive to a performance enhancing drug and was kicked out of the world championship in South Korea.
She posted an emotional message to Instagram, admitting she “couldn’t stop crying” after she tested positive to a banned drug. But she also posted a picture of herself with new puppy Hugo, who she writes helped her during her darkest moments after the drug scandal broke.
There is something about a companion pet that mimics the love of God.
It is unconditional.
It is forgiving.
I’ve often come home late from a visit or meeting and while everyone is busy and doesn’t notice me coming home,
the dog, however, is looking out the window because he has heard my car from a distance.
And he then runs to the door grabbing a ball or toy along the way wanting to greet me and play.
While not everyone is a pet person or has the ability to own or care for a pet, we are thankful to God that for so many people a pet has been their saviour in providing companionship in loneliness – unconditional love when there is no one else.
My experience reminds me so much of the parable of the prodigal son.
Here was a father who lost a son but never stop waiting a watching out the window for his son’s return.
He never gave up hope that his son would return home.
And when he gets a glimpse of his son returning home he runs excitedly to meet him.
He doesn’t ask questions.
He doesn’t tell him how disappointed he is in him.
He is just happy that he has come home.
God’s gift of animals and pets also form part of the worship of God as we hear in our Psalm today:
Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths, wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds.
Even St Francis of Assisi is believed to have spent time preaching to animals, particularly to the birds to encourage them to bless God with their singing.
He reports that the birds remained attentively gathered around him until he blessed them and they flew away—some heading north, some south, some east, and some west—going out in all directions as if on their way to pass along the good news of God’s love that they had just heard to other creatures.
We have so much to be thankful to God for and whether or not we are pet people or not let us never forget and give thanks to God for the companionship and love that they provide to so many people without whom their lives would be filled with sadness and loneliness.
Praise be to God.