culture

Critter Cringe

sad-looking pug wrapped in a blanketThe radio show was in progress. A poor guy, obviously grieving, said, “ … and I had promised him I’d be with him when the end came <sniff>.” I thought the man had lost his dad. Turns out, he was talking about his dog.

I fear being misunderstood here. So please know that I grew up surrounded by beloved dogs, cats, chickens (our pet rooster Tuffy perched on our shoulders!), baby calves, a duck—not to mention the wild squirrels, birds, butterflies, and lightning bugs. We even loved dodging the 17-year locusts. (OK, we weren’t fond of sweat bees.) But is it possible things are getting a bit off balance?

Note the increasing number of products related to designer pet food, pet strollers, pet health insurance, diagnostic kitty litter, alternative medicine for pets (cat reiki, for example), satin-lined pet caskets … There are even pet weddings (pet to pet and—I can hardly bear to say it—pet to human). There are seances to help people contact a dead pet. (One online commenter described the death of his pet 60 years ago as “the most devastating loss of my life.”)

The zodiac calendar of China and Japan features a certain animal for each year in the repeating 12-year cycle: year of the rat, year of the ox, etc. Legend has it that a god (or the Buddha) called all the animals in order to say goodbye, but only 12 came. So the years were named after those “faithful” ones. Paganism features animals in the role of gods, “spirit animals,” and the like. Think of ancient Egypt’s cats, dogs, crocodiles, baboons … Historically, God’s people too have been enticed by such. Remember Aaron’s foolish creation of the golden calf? (Exodus 32; see also Ezekiel 8:9, 10; Romans 1:23)

Consider these bits related to pets, other animals—and even insects:

  • Certain churches hold “pet blessing” events, typically Feast of St. Francis occasions. Apparently, Francis of Assisi taught that animals are our brothers and sisters. I wrote a related post sometime ago (which included one church’s stated intention to bless “camels and bumblebees”).
  • A 2019 article informed the community of various pet-blessing locations, listing “where to take your divine dog …”
  • An old piece in The Wittenburg Door (Nov/Dec 1991) excerpted details from a brochure about such an event. There was to be:
    • a prayer “for all the dairy cows … who drowned because their owners and other concerned people were unable to rescue them during the floods of this year.” (Wait. They’re dead. Were they to be prayed out of some kind of cow purgatory?)
    • a prayer of peace for “cougars who have fewer places to hide from the hunter’s gun.”
    • a prayer—(this is my favorite)—that we would “appreciate the sanctity of life in all its forms, from the much maligned slug to the most beautiful exotic bird.” (I can’t recall hearing anyone malign the dear slugs.)
  • Did you know there’s a patron saint of bees? We find this note online: “Bees have been associated with our patron saint, St. Ambrose, because of a legend that his father found his infant son’s face covered with bees. This was taken as a sign of his future eloquence, or speaking with a ‘honeyed tongue.’” (Call me strange, but if I found my baby’s face covered with bees, my first thought would not be about eloquence!)

I confess that part of my critter cringing is based merely on “that gritty feeling” about all the prominence being given them. But what if our view of animals and the insect world—especially as connected to spirituality—is being propelled from reasonable care and appreciation toward … toward … Well, read this post again and finish the sentence yourself.

 

 

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