“In God’s hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.” Job 12:10
In many ancient Egyptian households, cats were believed to be divine; the death of a cat would be an occasion for great mourning. They were beloved and often buried beside their owners.
We might think that this is superstitious, but the loss of a family pet today can be heartwrenching, too. They have unique personalities and have earned their places as bona fide family members. Milo, the roly-poly orange tabby in my son’s household, had a resiliency that survived rambunctious toddlers and the amputation of a limb due to a falling dresser. Ultimately, however, he succumbed to kidney disease, and it’s a difficult goodbye to a creature who has cuddled beside them and loved them along the way. He will be greatly missed.
Animals share our nature, and their fate is inextricably bound with ours. To some native Indian tribes, an animal could be a totem, a spirit being. It chose you – you did not choose it, but had to discern it. The animal would guide you through life, in sightings, dreams and visions, and its strengths would be available to you.
Animals give up their lives to nourish us, but they are also close companions in life. In the Biblical book of Jonah, God expresses compassion even for the animals who would have suffered if the wicked city of Ninevah had not heeded the prophet’s warnings. They can possess keen intelligence and sometimes great loyalty. When my uncle emigrated from his native Holland, the family dog waited faithfully for him at the end of the driveway for many days.
We once had a problem with our neighbour’s dog who kept barking in the yard outside our bedroom windows. One moonlit night I looked out and saw that the dog was barking furiously at our cat, who was casually strolling across the top of the fence above him. It was a very good lesson to be aware of your part in any altercation before casting the blame on someone else!
They can expose our foibles. Our family friend once shared a story of receiving a cat from a co-worker. Unfortunately, the cat escaped soon after. Loathe to admit this, our friend pretended that the cat was doing well under his care. Like all lies, this expanded and eventually spawned even a litter of imaginary kittens. The jig was up once the man made plans to visit!
We laugh at the antics of playful pets, and they are companions in our childhood right through to our old age. They teach us love and faithfulness, and they give us much to be thankful for.
“If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men. ” St. Francis of Assisi