What Are Our Pets Really Saying? A Meditation on the Eager Expectation of All Creation

I am often struck with the mystery of the relationship that dogs and cats set up with their owners. While I realize that we humans do a lot of projecting of what we want their behavior to mean, it still remains to me a deeply mysterious reality of how our pets come to “know” us and set up a kind of communication with us.

Dogs especially are very demonstrative, interactive and able to make knowing responses. Cats are more subtle, but my own cat, Daniel knows my patterns and also knows how to communicate when he wants water or food, or just a back rub. He’s also a big talker, meowing all day long, to great people and draw attention from them.

As I say, this interaction with our animals is a mysterious thing. I do not raise this to suggest they are on par with us intellectually or morally. Scripture is clear enough that animals are given to us by God, and that we are sovereign stewards over them. And while it is never right to abuse animals, it is right that we make use of them in appropriate ways, and even make use of some of them as a food source (cf Gen 9:1-3).

But animals, especially our pets, are also to be appreciated as gifts of God. Scripture is also clear that the animals will be part of the renewed creation that God will bring about when Christ shall come again in glory:

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9)

Hence, when Christ from his judgment seat shall finally say, Behold, I make all things new (Rev 21:5), and with John we see a new heavens and a new earth (Rev 21:1), I have little doubt the animals will share in that recreated and renewed kingdom where death shall be no more (Rev 21:4).

Part of the Kingdom! So even now, without elevating pets (no matter how precious) to the full dignity of a human being, it is not wrong to think that they will be part of the Kingdom of God in all its restored harmony and beauty.

Maybe now, in the mystery of our interaction with them, God is giving us a glimpse of the harmony we will one day enjoy with all creation. Scripture says,

For indeed, creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God (Romans 8:19-21)

Yes, creation itself is eagerly waiting for the day when God says, (in the words of an old spiritual) Oh preacher fold your bible, for the last soul’s converted! And then creation itself will be set free from its bondage to death and decay and be gloriously remade into its original harmony and life-possessing glory that was once paradise.

Perhaps the mystery of our pets is that they are ambassadors for the rest of creation, a kind of early delegation set by God to prepare the way and the connections of the new and restored creation. Perhaps they are urging us on in our task to make the number of the elect complete so that all creation can sooner receive its renewal and be restored to the glory and harmony it once had. Who knows? But I see a kind of urgency in the pets I have had. They are filled with joy, enthusiasm and expectation of something great.

Joyful expectation! Yes, I have powerful memories of the dogs of my youth running circles around me, running to greet me when I arrived home, and jumping for joy when I announced a car ride or a walk. Even my cats of recent years, though more subdued, saunter over to meet me at the door with a meow, arched back, and a rubbing up against my leg. And when I see this joy and expectation in my pets the words of Romans 8 above will sometimes come to mind: creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.

All deep mysteries to be sure, but surely pregnant with meaning, for we, humanity and all creation for the birth of a new creation.


Photo Credit Above: This is a picture of I took of my brother’s Alaskan Malamute “Kaila” lying down with the family parakeet in early fulfillment of Isaiah 11 quoted above!

Enjoy this video as a dog looks with eager expectation to its owner. A friend of mine thinks this video was doctored. But I do not think so. Surely the human voice coming from the dog is added. But as for the mannerisms, they are just what I used to see in my dogs. The eyes and ears mean the dog is hearing his owner suggest a treat of some kind. This leads to nervous gestures such as standing, yawning, pacing, and even a moaning which makes the dog’s mouth move as though talking, but he is just making small sighs, yips and moans.  As you view this video, consider the words: creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.

33 Replies to “What Are Our Pets Really Saying? A Meditation on the Eager Expectation of All Creation”

  1. This is a lovely piece. I agree our pets are gifts from God. They provide us with glimpses of what was once perfect and of the perfection that will at some time again return. Once when bounding around the yard with a new puppy, as it adoringly glared into my eyes, I was struck at the sheer joy this creature was experiencing by just being alive! 20 weeks earlier it was not even a thought or a mass of cells. If only I could look to God in that way and live with its same joy of life. This encounter was a view into eternity I have never forgotten.

  2. I don’t see why some people believe that pets or animals won’t be in heaven. Sure, they don’t have the intellectual capability to “choose” God or not, but what they do have is feeling and true emotion. They get sad, hurt, even sometimes “angry” in a different way, happy etc. All one has to do is look at a dog to see these emotions. God likes to make things happy, and animals do have some form of intelligence, they are not mindless. Why would he not bring them to himself? Why would he let their “souls” disipate into nothingness after they die? I don’t think he does. Animals aren’t nearly as smart as humans, that’s not debatable, but sometimes I think they have more of an intelligence than humans give them credit for. Dogs can sense cancer cells in patients, they know something is wrong. What about the animals that are taught to speak? I had a cat once that said “give me some” when it wanted some food somebody was eating. It doesn’t look as if we taught it what that phrase meant, but it obviously understood what it was saying. Domesticated animals are far different from wild ones, and even then, there have been sudies on apes picking up sticks and using them as objects or tools to accomplish things. They had to use some sort of “reason” (in a loose sense) to “figure” that out. I believe specific animals, at least our pets, will be in Heaven, they feel emotion and have a sense of “knowingness”, I don’t think God would disipate them into nothingness when they die. They know what suffering is, they feel pain. Plants don’t, that’s the difference.

    1. I am not sure what to think about the inner life of an animal and I know we do a lot of projecting of our selves into them. However, do surely do display signs of joy excitement, fear and sadness. I like you am not so sure animals will have no part in the kingdom to come when God “makes all things new (Rev 21). It would seem that they do share in the designation “all things” There are legitimate debates about how a “new earth” interacts with heaven, but there are surely many mysteries involved in how all this will unfold. All this said, there is clearly a strong distinction between humans and animals and though the similarities are many, the differences are more. Meanwhile it is well that we love our pets and allow God to reach us through them as he does through all creation.

  3. Personally, I pray that all my pets will be present with me in the coming New Creation! And unlike now, they will be free to roam wherever they want. I won’t have to feed them or clean their boxes (I’m a cat person), and they will be free to roam and enjoy God’s creation to the fullest, alongside me! It will be so fun!

  4. Epistle 226
    My some thoughts about “the homily” of Msgr. Charles Pope are here below:
    Firstly, in the homily, Msgr. Charles Pope questioned about what are our pets really saying?
    In the homily, pets are dogs and cats.
    However, in the broadest sense of word, pets are persons or animals that you touch them in an affectionate way.
    Secondly, now permit me to discuss some matters to relate to the theme of the homily hereafter:
    In this comment of mine, I like to say that my pets are landowner and workers in Matthew 20: 1-16 because Vietnam is an agricultural country, nearby 80% area of Vietnam is agriculture and peasants.
    Some my remarks of the Gospel of Matthew are here below:
    First, in the Gospel of Matthew, landowner is Lord.
    Second, Lord agreed to pay workers (peasants) a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard to work. This means that in society of that time (around 20 A.D.), money was used to pay workers.
    Third, paying works was calculated according to negotiable price, that is, works were hired first, they expected to receive more, but each one of them received a denarius for the day. And works were hired last worked only one hour, but each one of them also received a denarius.
    Fourth, Lord has right to do what he wants with his own money.
    For yesterday’s story, when Lenin petitioned Wassily Leontief (an econometrics) to build five-year plans for USSR, but Lenin only paid Leontief a daily portion (the amount of food that is given to one person at a meal) with its price was around $1.
    However, when Leontief Leontief was allowed to leave the USSR in order to come to US, he here wrote a “scientific report” called input-output method and he won the Nobel Committee’s Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1973 with prize money was around 1 million $.
    Thus, in my opinion, paying workers in USSR was wrong, and paying workers in the US was right.
    In Vietnam today, paying workers or civil servants are similar as USSR did.
    I am a Doctor of Economics, but my monthly salary now is around $700.
    While monthly wage of a worker is around $200.
    Therefore, the Vietnamese working class is opposing Vietnamese Communist Party and its Socialism because Socialism is unfair./.

    1. I don’t think, Nguyen that it is right to call animals “persons” though there may be a language issue at work here. I also puzzle over your application of the parable as you do.

      Finally I would like to encourage you to understand that most readers of this blog know little about Vietnamese politics and your recent tendency to link almost every post to this reality is something of a misfit in a blog of this nature. Going from dogs and cats to the pay scale of Vietnamese workers is a bit of a stretch.

  5. God bless all our pets, and God bless all organizations that help abused and neglected animals such as the Humane Society.

  6. I own two spaniels, hunting dogs. The investment of time spent training in and of itself is rewarding but also trains me in patience for my fellow man. Anyway, when I come home the dogs of course greet me with huge excitement. One day my wife remarked how we should show the same excitement greeting our Lord every day. Ever since then, when my dogs greet me at the end of a day coming home from work, I am reminded to say a short silent prayer of greeting and thanksgiving to Him…..and my wife lead me to that daily moment. I enjoyed this article. Thanks.

  7. Did you see ” … So these two dogs walked into a restaurant…” That was really special. Get it on PatrickMadrid.com. or Google it.

  8. I do not think Isaiah 11 refers to Heaven, but to a future time in this very world. First of all, many theologians have believed there are no animals in Heaven (Aquinas, for instance. Whether or not they are right is besides the point: they clearly knew about Isaiah 11 but still believed no animals to be in Heaven). Second of all, this same book speaks of “he who dies at 100 will be thought a mere youth.” That, of course, cannot refer to Heaven.

    Rather, I believe it refers to the promised Glorious Reign of Peace (NOT the millenarianist heresy), the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, etc.

    1. I too think that the Isaiah reference is to a renewed earth which John sees and describes in Rev 21 when he says, I saw a new heaven and new earth. I think what is unclear is how heaven and earth are related and interact in the new creation. I respect that many theologians exclude animals from the high heavens, but what of the renewed earth? And, how do these realities inter-relate. I can only speculate that they will relate even better than now yet still remain distinct. As regards the absolute exclusion of animals form heaven I wonder though in that the four living creatures are said by many biblical scholars to represent all of creation and they are before the throne in heaven. Again, I remain respectful of the tradition but prefer to allow the mystery of the great parousia to unfold. I think there may be a danger in trying to have everything too figured out. Thus I am willing to tip my hat to various traditions as long as we are not claiming to be too certain of what remains, in this case, mysterious.

      1. Glad to have such a fine priest as yourself in agreement with me on that :-). I sure take a lot of flak for it, even from orthodox Catholics.

  9. This is a lovely piece. It makes me think of 2 Peter 4, God partook of our nature so that someday we can partake of his nature. I have often wondered if this is also speaking of the domestication of animals. Even down to companion animals such as cats and dogs. It seems the more an animal has contact with us the more tame they become. I wonder if this is a foretaste of what is to come in the new heaven and new earth.
    In Christ

  10. Years ago, my sister had a dog named Bodo, unfortunately he bit everyone and everything, if he’s in the new creation I hope to see him only from a distance.

    1. Too bad, sounds like a mean dog. Probably abused as a puppy since most domestic dogs might be a bit territorially aggressive but they are not generally mean unless they are taught to be or abused.

  11. Oh, I’ve missed you on the road and this was the perfect reflection to read first, especially since we had to give away two of our four pets. You can imagine our sense of loss. We kept the two older pets (a dog and a cat). So here we are in sunny SC and we hope to make a trip to DC after we are settled. We will definitely come to St. Cyprian for Mass.

  12. Msgr. Pope, this was beautiful! I shared it with my daughters, esp. the oldest who has been an animal lover for all of her fifteen years. 🙂

    We then talked about how absolutely joyful and anxious and exited our cats get at dinnertime each day. Even though it happens every day without fail, they will start to “remind” us that it’s close to time; and then when the food is actually put in the dish and placed before them–oh, the joy! And we talked about what it would be like if we approached the Eucharist with even half that much joy…

  13. Monsignor Pope, you forgot horses. I realize King David did not like them, but evidently God did. Witness that wonderful passage in Job, and the fact that the four horsemen in the Apocalypse (Revelations) ride…horses!! I wonder if Elijah’s chariot was drawn by the horsemens’ horses doing double duty?

  14. I recall a young girl asking a priest whether her recently deceased pet would be in heaven. His brilliant (to me) answer was: If you need your pet in heaven to be perfectly happy, he’ll be there.”

  15. In my religion, unfortunately, there is no doggie heaven. But God knows when every animal, large or small, dies. So that helps. 🙂 My dog is a mutt, but very sweet, and small…and fat. ;D I love him very much. 🙂 That video totally made my day! :]

  16. I surely believe that “God will make all things new” and that He will not destroy all the beautiful things He’s made for us and above all for his Son, Jesus “through whom and in whom all things were made”. Yes, I believe we will see these beautiful creatures with us in Heaven. Our God is just that generous, loving, and creative. He doesn’t need our gnostic versions of what Heaven should look like.

  17. check out the youtube video “God and dog” by Wendy Francisco. if you haven’t already seen it, it may bring a tear to your eye.

  18. This is a great article and very helpful. We found a homeless dog, who was abandoned and I have tried everything to make him part of the family. We took him on vacation with us, I bathe him every night after his walk, he gets hugs. We love just like a real baby, I even give him water from a baby bottle, because he doesn’t drink enough. He is a 13 lb mixed poodle/bischon. We recently had 4 of his teeth pulled because of his past neglect and until I read this article, I never realized why he keeps acting the way he does. I try not to leave him home alone too long, but he does go into the crate for 8 hrs somedays, because we all got to work and/or school. But once we get home, he gets the most love any dog can ever get.

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