Very early in my ministry as a Vicar of a small church in Ghana, I got myself a puppy as a pet. That was my first pet. I am tempted to think that that puppy was the most popular and well cared for puppy in that little town. Unfortunately, I had to give him away because it grew increasingly violent and bit a couple of kids. In his later years, I understand he was kept in a pen and never let out.
My second pet was a daschund -Sweetie. She was a cute little dog which my wife and my two older daughters picked at a shelter. They had talked about getting a dog, and when they got one, he too was a little too violent and so we took him back to the shelter and got Sweetie. She lived with us for about five years until we gave her up. My family wants to get a new pet but we are yet to settle that issue.
Pets, be it dogs, cats, sheep, fish, birds, rabbit or any other animal very often becomes a part of a family; we may see them in family pictures, on family vacations or walking along on a sidewalk. These are moments of immense gratitude, for although we recognize that our pets are not necessarily human like we are, they also deserve our care, attention and love. And much as I understand that the love of a pet is reciprocal, yet, it is always unconditional.
It is within the context of reciprocity that I tell a story of an unconditional love shown by a pet to an older parishioner who lives by herself with her pet-a cat. This parishioner has an aide who helps her during the day but she leaves sometime early evening. On this particular day, after the aide had departed, this parishioner unfortunately took a heavy fall. And because she could not get up by herself, she laid on the floor through the night till the aide arrived the next morning and found her on the floor.
As she narrated her story to me, the incredible part was, that as she laid on the floor with no support or help from anyone, her pet-the cat, came and sat by her all through the night, offering her the presence and comfort that she needed but didn't have. I am sure the cat thought that even if there was no way she could lift her up, she can at least lay by her side and offer her the presence that no one else could offer at that time. There is something to be said about the unconditional love of pets.
I believe the cat loved her just as much as she loved her. But how do you quantify the love of your pet? One might ask. Well, you cannot quantify it, because it is given, it is unconditional. Does it sound like the love of God which is both given and unconditional? In many ways it does.
Think about the dog which jumps all over you and licks your hands and face when you open the door to your home. Think about the dog and cat who sometimes believe that your bed belongs to them. Think about the cat which follows you and desires to sit by you. Think about the rabbit which feeds from your hand. Think about the horse which enjoys your company when you stroke it, pet it and ride it. Think about all that you give to your pets, yet all you receive from them is the gift of presence. Maybe, that's all that God requires of us-presence, to ourselves, others and all of creation. The love of a pet which is both given and unconditional, is made perfect in his or her presence. I believe that's the presence our parishioner felt as her cat simply laid by her side.
May you also feel the presence of a loved one. Manny.