"Get away from that animal!" my father called out. "He'll bite!"
Dogs wandered the streets in the city of my birth, Kolkata, India. They were wild, skinny, cowering, and sometimes rabid, and my thoroughly non-westernized parents taught us to fear them. When we moved to a country where some people seemed to revere dogs more than they did their aged relatives, I just didn't get the great American pet fixation.
But then, reluctantly, in response to the begging and wheedling of two four-year-olds and my husband, I agreed to acquire Strider (a lab, see photo). Over the years, I moved from keeping a distance to letting him follow me around the house with adoring eyes. And I grew more and more thankful for his presence. Immensely so, because when our boys got older and became more taciturn, still the conversations, stories, and jokes about Strider continued. Manly to the core, they jettisoned stuffed animals and squirmed away from kisses, but their affection for and cherishing of their dog intensified every year. Basically, he kept their hearts soft and open, and I became a firm believer in the power of dog therapy, expecially when it comes to teen guys.
In fact, all humans are made to be stewards -- for our own good. God's command to rule over the living creatures on the earth (Genesis 1:28b) is actually given as a blessing:
God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Genesis 1:28, NIV).As a vulnerable creature looks to us for food, water, companionship, exercise, and protection, or a small garden relies on our tending and watering, we glimpse a bit of God’s joyous, nurturing heart. You might not have the space or money for a pet, but you can still volunteer at an animal shelter, make a weekly visit to the city zoo to check in on some favorite residents, or even grow vegetables and flowers in pots. Animals and plants keep us human; they need us, and we need them.
As for us, with Strider's days sadly numbered, we brought Zipper home yesterday for our boys' birthday present. After all, there's nothing like the sight of a man of few words squirming and chuckling on the floor while he gets covered with puppy kisses! Not to mention the new member of the family is a major chick magnet (that's me holding Zipper so I can check out the girls coming to visit ...)