By Wendell Cantrell
Enzo, the dog, has just written a best-selling book called “The Art of Racing in the Rain” that teaches us how to be better humans. More accurately, the book is written through the eyes of a dog by novelist Garth Stein. Stein had gotten the idea from a Mongolian legend that some dogs become men after they die. As annoying as the underlying worldview of reincarnation is, my main issue with the book is the whole idea that a dog has the intelligence level of humans and processes information similarly. Can dogs think and write books? Well, they have been speaking in movies for 30 years, so why not? We are seeing a trend that our forefathers could never have imagined. Remember, last month we spoke of the trend of ascribing human form or attributes to a thing or being that is not human (anthropomorphism).
As our esteem for pets has risen, our bond with them has strengthened. This article will address what is called the Human Animal Bond (the Bond) and hoist a yellow caution flag about the direction the Bond is taking us. Out of curiosity, I perused the top 100 listings of the Bond on Google recently. Can you think of any Top 100 list in which all posts are positive? Maybe it is time to insert some common sense into the equation. We will address three troubling personal issues that the growing Bond has raised. We will examine some priorities that get misplaced when pets move from the backyard into the family bed (don’t laugh—a colleague of mine was turned down as an adopter by a dog adoption group recently when she shared that her bed was off limits to the canine). We will look at the Bond’s effect on Faith, Finances, and Family.
“They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is forever praised. Amen.” (Romans 1:25) Paul warned his readers of the dangers of turning from their Lord. This passage warns of worshiping idols instead of our creator God. What does a modern idol look like? It is basically anything that we elevate above our relationship with God (and it usually takes a disproportionate amount of our time and money). Can that cute ball of fur be an idol? A good gauge of that might be our pocketbooks. If the cost of food, treats, and medical care exceeds our giving to the church or missions, then we might have a problem. Certainly we would expect this behavior from our secular friends, so we should not be shocked. We expect the world to reject the Creator’s good design and replace it with selfish pursuits. We expect the world to go against the grain of God’s universe and to ignore the laws that He has built in, at least until the consequences are unbearable. What is disturbing is when the church acts like the world. God’s constant warning to Israel was not to be like their pagan neighbors. And this is certainly God’s concern in the New Testament as well—that his people would “not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2). Yet in vital areas, such as our views on the family, the church often appears no different from the world. The following real and recent scenarios should catch our attention:
• A church retreat leader who agonized (verbally) the whole weekend over her separation from her kenneled dog.
• Postponement of a missions commitment due to pet health care concerns.
• A Christian employee who is emotionally disabled and unable to work due to loss of a treasured pet.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21)
Is pet care taken out of discretionary income in today’s culture? I believe that, for many, this is not the case. In other words, a teeth cleaning for the family cat gets the same priority as a family member’s routine health check. A friend’s pastor agrees with me. In his premarital counseling, he cautions engaged couples not to get a pet for the first three years. His observations:
• The first pet quickly becomes the child (more on that with the family discussion).
• Top quality care is sought (though not a problem with ample cash) and lesser expensive options aren’t likely considered.
• Unwise credit charges ensue, leading to marital discord.
Then on the other end of the spectrum is the senior citizen on a fixed income who insists on buying her 7 year old Golden Retriever a top line senior pet food that helps with joint disease. She affirms to the dog food salesman, “I’d go hungry before I would take him off of that food.”
Let’s face it—childbearing is a costly obstacle to self-centered personal fulfillment. Pets are far more affordable and convenient. A recent study showed that in the city of Seattle there are 45 percent more dogs being raised than children. Have you heard any couples over fifty bemoaning their lack of grandchildren? At least monthly, I will hear this common refrain, “…No, but we have three grand-dogs.” Let’s look at the problems grand-dogs can bring into the family. My very own 88-year-old mother worries about having the active little guys underfoot when grandkids visit and bring their pets. But, to leave them at home, or to leave them outside—mercy, No! Another friend recently was dealing with dueling adult children at their house over the need to have the pets inside in spite of the allergy issues.
From “The View” with Barbara Walters, there was recently a panel of young wives speaking from their heart on why they don’t need kids because their pet fills that emotional need without the Mohawks, drug concerns, sex talks, driving lessons, or college expense!
Certainly, we are all tasked with caring for God’s creatures to the best of our abilities, yet showing caution when faced with issues concerning animal rights that can at times appear to supersede the rights or duties of human beings. It has been said that animal rights will undoubtedly be the next major civil rights movement in the developed world. We walk a fine line since it is very tough to take a biblical stance sometimes, without appearing regressive and cruel. There is a continuing need to engage our culture in this discussion emphasizing humane responsibility and stewardship, but standing by the TRUTH of our dominion and animals’ lesser status. We must continue to point our colleagues, friends, and clients to the ultimate relationship: Jesus Christ as our personal savior! Go ahead and check out latest article about natural treatment for ringworm in dogs.
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