The Spirituality of Pets

Aug 13 2017


Many of you have had children and know the love and devotion with which you care for your children. Many of us, whether we have had children or not, know the love and devotion with which we care for our pets. It really doesn’t matter if it is a dog, cat, horse, rabbit, bird, guinea pig or fish. We love them; we take care of them; we grieve when they are gone; and we talk to them all the time as if they are human.

Some would have us believe that they do not understand us. After reading the book that was the basis for last year’s sermon, I am convinced that not only do they understand us, but if we listen closely enough, they will communicate with us – not necessarily in words, but in actions and in thoughts that we discern as coming from them.

For today’s sermon, I read a lot of stories dealing with pets. I also read a book called “The Spirituality of Pets” by James Taylor. I was disappointed because Mr. Taylor focused on what we can learn about our spirituality by watching and loving pets. It really had nothing to do with the direct spirituality of pets.

One story I read was about a cat who would come close, but didn’t like to be touched until its owner got sick. The cat was there every moment and finally lay down and curled up under the owner’s arm. I read about soldiers in the Battle in the Ardennes during WWII. After an ambush, they had six fellow soldiers whom they needed to get back for medical care. They had no idea how they would do it. After fervent prayers, a horse appeared. They put four of the injured soldiers on the horse, two soldiers carried the remaining two injured soldiers and all of them were taken back to a chateau for medical assistance. When they went back outside to give the horse a treat, it had completely disappeared.

But the story that really stuck with me is a story that I am going to share with you today. It speaks not only to the bond that animals can forge with humans, but also to the bond that they share with one another and the hopes and dreams that they can have for that forever home and a family that will love them and take care of them.

SAM AND SADIE by Sharon Surber

On a sunny day in Southern California, a little mutt named Sadie roamed the city streets. She had been on the streets for a couple of days and had but a few thoughts in mind-food, water, a warm bed, and lots of love. Well, I'll let her tell the rest of the story, since she's the one who really knows it best:

Here comes a pretty lady in a neat looking truck. Maybe she'll give me a ride to her house where I'll get lots of food and love. The lady picked me up and put me in her truck. Sitting next to me was the funniest looking dog I'd ever seen. She claimed to be a Lhasa and Poodle mix, but she had the longest body and the shortest legs. She said her name was Sam. I could tell she seemed a little nervous, and perhaps sensed trouble.

When the truck pulled up at our new home, I heard many of my own kind talking. Some sounded sorrowful and some very scared. What is this place where the truck has taken us? The sign on the front of the building read "Animal Shelter." The truck lady took me and Sam inside, and put us in kennels side by side. They gave us some food and water. I curled up next to the wire fence and Sam curled up next to me. We kept each other warm and secure.

As days passed, a few of our friends were taken out the back door for walks, but never seemed to return. We wondered where they had gone! People came in the front door, sometimes walking briskly up and down the aisles. They seemed to be looking for something specific, I'm not sure what. On this particular day, a nice looking couple came by my cage and stopped for a while. The man shook his head and walked on, but the woman stayed a while looking at me. Oh, I almost forgot, my name is Sadie. I tried to look cute, but I really didn't know what I was supposed to do. They walked off, the woman talking, but the man was still shaking his head. I watched as they drove away.

I tried to get Sam to play with me, but she didn't seem very interested. Most of the time she didn't even want to eat her dinner. Once in a while, the lady who picked us up in the truck would open a kennel door and take my friends out for people to see. They would be petted, and sometimes picked up and held. I wanted someone to pick me up. The people and my friends would walk out together and get in a car and drive away. I thought they were so lucky!

A couple of days later, the woman and the man who visited before came back, and they had the lady who drove the truck with them. Maybe they were coming to see Sam and me. They walked my way, and the next thing I knew, the truck lady was opening my cage door. My heart was pounding wildly. They patted me on the head, picked me up and I gave the woman a lick. She smelled so good. The man was talking, but he didn't seem to know what he wanted. They put me back in the cage and walked down the aisles looking at my other friends. Then they came back. The truck lady took me out of the cage and put a rope around my neck.

As we walked away I noticed the truck lady didn't open Sam's cage. Wait! What about my friend Sam! You can't leave her here. I tried not to walk, but they were dragging me. I kept looking back at Sam. She was my friend; I couldn't leave her here. The nice woman stopped and talked to the man. He shook his head no and kept pulling me along. They took me down the ramp and into an office where they filled out paperwork and paid for me. As we were getting ready to get into the car, I kept pulling at my new leash, pulling towards the kennels where Sam was barking and running up and down the cage wildly.

The truck lady kept looking at her watch and seemed impatient, as it was almost closing time. The man and woman talked to each other some more. Then, all three of us went back inside where Sam was jumping up and down at the kennel door. I couldn't believe it! The man motioned for the truck lady to open Sam's cage door. As the door opened, Sam jumped into the man's arms and gave him a big kiss. The man nodded yes and smiled at the woman. They took Sam and me back into the office and repeated the same procedure.

Sam and I and the nice couple all got into the car and went to our new home. That night as we were cuddling up in our warm beds to go to sleep, we overheard the man and woman talking. They were talking about how the truck lady told them they were planning to take me and Sam on one of those walks out the back door. The same ones we saw our friends go on that never returned. Our walk was scheduled for the following morning. (from UNFORGETTABLE MUTTS reprinted in UNCONDITIONAL LOVE, pp. 77-79, a Guideposts publication.)

Sam and Sadie had not only forged a bond with one another, that bond was so strong that Sadie just could not envision leaving Sam behind. Their story was written in 1999. At that point there were very few “no kill” shelters in the U.S. Approximately 78% of dogs and 55% of cats now taken to shelters each year are saved – not all states have or actively support “no kill” shelters. Best Friends Animal Society (a no kill sanctuary in Utah) has as its goal all animals saved by 2025 – all shelters becoming “no kill” shelters.

We were not created to have dominion over the animals to do with them what we wish. We were created to take care of all of God’s creatures. Killing any form of God’s creatures because they create an inconvenience for us is unconscionable. Killing them so we can have fun is also unconscionable. We have a responsibility as Christians to take care of all of God’s creatures, large and small, and to make for them a loving environment. They were here long before us and will probably be here long after we have passed from this earth. While we are here, let us love them, care for them, and treat them as the loving companions they are. Amen.