I am often struck by the mystery of the relationship that dogs and cats have 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 a deeply mysterious reality to me 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, food, or just a back rub. He’s also a big talker, meowing all day long to greet people and get 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 a 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 from God. Scripture is also clear that 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).
In Revelation, John speaks of speaks of seeing a new heaven and a new earth (Rev 21:1), and he describes Christ from his judgment seat finally saying, Behold, I make all things new (Rev 21:5). I have little doubt that animals will share in that recreated and renewed kingdom where death shall be no more (Rev 21:4).
Part of the Kingdom! Without elevating pets (no matter how precious) to the full dignity of human beings, it is not wrong to think that they will be part of the Kingdom of God in all its restored harmony and beauty.
Perhaps in the mystery of our interaction with pets, God is giving us a glimpse of the harmony we will one day enjoy with all of 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 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 remade into its original harmony and the 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 sent 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 the 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 and an arched back, 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 us, humanity and all creation, for the birth of a new creation.
Photo Credit Above: This is a picture 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 of a dog looking with eager expectation to his owner. A friend of mine thinks this video was doctored, but I do not. Obviously 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 appearance of 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 actually 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.
26 Replies to “What Are Our Pets Really Saying? Perhaps they express the longing of all creation.”
Awesome. Thank you for a penetrating insight. I have been lifted up. Thank you.
Thank your for pointing out that Bible verse. We have lost several pets, so I have struggled with whether to tell my children that their pets went to heaven. I’ll be happy to point out this verse to them.
While animals are not equal to humans, I do think that they are gifts from God. Now, they give us companionship and some amount of protection, but not long ago, they were vital to our lives, protecting our flocks and homes and assisting us in finding food. .
Thank you for this essay. I have felt similarly about this topic, but was unable to put it into words like you have. In recent years I have begun to marvel at our pets, realizing that they are marvelous creatures fashioned by a marvelous God who has clear intents and purposes for them. Thank you for giving voice to such thoughts.
Amen! You stand with all the saints who had pets like martin dePorres who actually brought a dog back to life and refused to use any medical ointments if they had been made from dead animals and John Bosco who lost a dog when he was a boy and never recovered from it.Later in his life he met the mysterious mastiff he named Grigio.Thank you again
I cannot agree with you more, Msgr! I have a family of five! Two pugs, one black lab, one golden retriever, and one pyrennes. They are all rescues and all get along very well as they communicate with one another and myself.
Thank you for this beautiful essay. I have been wondering what we will tell out children when our family dog dies as he is getting older now. I knew that dogs didn’t have souls like us, and didn’t want to say that, but I am happy that I can tell them this.
I thought of “Barnabas” the dog in the Novel, “AT HOME IN MITFORD” by Jan Karon.
Gitanjali – Chennai – INDIA
Thank you for another delightful, insightful essay. Like other dog or cat owners replying, we have lost three wonderful Cocker Spaniels. As I write this our most intellectual fellow (Senior Dog now, like me) is napping on the office floor beside my chair. We adopted him as a coffee mug sized puppy in 2001. He was smart, even at that age, and was house broken in one night. He then began a life time of always talking with us when we pulled ears or scratched his tummy. A personal theory is that dogs especially are put on this earth by our Creator as a lesson for His two-legged critters as to what unconditional love really is.
I have had several pets over the years and hope that someday we will all meet again. Nothing is impossible with God.
Aww, the video did not work for me 🙁
Loved the article, sent it on to several people.
My dog died in my bed in the night last night. He was the best friend I’ve ever had. He was 5 lbs of white fluff. He volunteered at the hospital. He thrilled children, amazed to hold him, how soft his coat. Driving his remains to the vet, we passed the church. The priest was outside after morning mass. He blessed my pet and sent him on his way. These scriptures are very reassuring. I know that he was a blessing in my life and thank God for the opportunity to share our days. Thank you.
So sorry to hear this. I know the loss of a pet is awful and have endured it several times. One of the things that makes in herder is that we cannot really say thanks to them or farewell. May your consolations be many
Missed the video. Clicked on Gloria.TV (the icon on the top right) and the site stated the video was removed 🙁
Really enjoyed this post. Having outlived 9 dogs so far, I think dogs do not live long enough. But maybe we are meant to learn that everything here is transitory, on a journey, including us!
I repaired the link.
There’s a great video by Wendy J Francisco on YouTube called God and Dog that perfectly expresses the truth that a dog’s love can teach us (a little) about the infinite love of GOD.
Thank you for this great post! It is so consoling and reassuring. Through the years I have come to see pets as beautiful gifts from God given to us to care for and at the same time communicate to us God’s love and care for us. Many years ago when I was a young adult I was suffering from a very deep depression. It took all the energy I had to get up, go to work, and come home. One day a young cat appeared on my porch and came daily. She seemed so excited to see me and so intent on entering my home, until she finally did…and stayed. She would receive me with such enthusiasm when I came home from work and on nights when I was especially sad and felt like my heart was hurting, she would come some time in the night and curl up right next to my chest, always making me feel better. Well, now my older parents live with me in my home and my young pet is now also a “senior citizen.” She bring them such joy. And it never fails that when either one of them is not feeling well for whatever reason she cuddles close to them or showers them with special attention. I marvel at this little creature and thank God for having given me her as a special gift to love, care for, and be loved by in return. Gods creation is truly a masterpiece!
I am always amazed as Gods Creation of a slightly lower order the unconditional love and care they provide to us humans. And thier ability to recieve and anticipate Love in return. God is most surely Love.
I know pets share in an afterlife. Our family dog who had passed away several years earlier made her choice known to me as we picked out another dog some time later. She truly helped us pick out our next pet.
Thank you for your eloquent insight. I too have outlived many beloved pets. Each time praying that if they have a soul, God will receive it, thanking God for yet another opportunity to experience that unconditional love. acceptance and peace.
I loved this essay, it brought me to tears as I sensed the truth being spoken in this mystery of Creation. God loves us so much! God shows His love for us in so many way. Looking into the eyes of a beloved pet reveals glimpses of His love for us and glimpses of a restored creation!
I love this! I have quite a few rescue cats now and I’m very attached to them and them to me (so you have to know I’ve developed a devotion to St. Francis). They are living, breathing, feeling creatures and I absolutely believe there is a spiritual component to animals even if they don’t have souls like humans do. They’re animals but they are family too, and God has plans for them just like He does for us (unless I’m wrong on that).
I’ve lost some cats that I haven’t gotten over and do hope at some point to see them again, just like with the current crew that I have. God bless you.
Thank you. We lost our beloved 17 y.o. cat Bernie yesterday, after a long struggle with illness. I treasured her and haven’t grieved this hard since my dad died. Our pets are extensions of us, and I do hope you are correct about seeing them again.
All things bright and beautiful
All creatures great and small
All things wize and wonderful
The Lord God made them all
Each little flower that opens
Each little bird that sings
He made their glowing colors
He made their tiny wings
I feel that Jack my Jack Russell gives me a glimpse of the unconditional love God has for me. Through his loyalty and desire to always be with me I have been able to contemplate even how much more God loves me and it is such a grear feeling because my dog loves me SO SO much. He is thrilled when I get home he follows me everywhere, he is sad when I leave and I just stop and think that God’s love is inginitely more than that…I am SO grateful for this gift HE gave me- I know that Jack could have ONLY come to me from God to teach me so many lessons including how to be childlike and play again!
Thank you Lord! I love YOU
Thank you for an encouraging and thoughtful post. I’m right with you on how animals, dog’s especially give us a beautiful glimpse of the wonderful world we have to come. My dog Loui is a great gift from God, loyal, trusting, courageous, affectionate, obedient, slightly eccentric with a hint of stubbornness. He follows me everywhere and gives me a glimpse of what my relationship should be like with God. Total dependence, limitless love and constant prayerful contact. Its going to be awesome in Gods Kingdom!!! Just AWESOME!!
I think you are right and Aquinas was wrong on this one, saint and genius though he is. Didn’t he say that animals and their souls are only for this world ?
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