I am often struck by the mystery of the relationship that dogs and cats set up with their owners. While I realize that we humans often project what we want their behavior to mean, I am still fascinated by the 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. My cat, Jewel, knows my patterns. She also knows how to communicate to me that she wants water, food, or just a back rub. She’s also a big talker, meowing each time I enter the room. I wish I knew what she wanted.
Yes, this interaction with our pets is indeed a mysterious thing. I am not suggesting that animals are on a par with us intellectually or morally; Scripture is clear that animals are given to us by God and that we are sovereign stewards over them.
But animals, especially our pets, are also to be appreciated as gifts of God. Scripture is also clear that animals will be part of the renewed creation that God will bring about when Christ comes 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 when with John we see a new heavens and a new earth (Rev 21:1), I have little doubt that animals will share in that recreated and renewed kingdom where death shall be no more (Rev 21:4).
They are part of the Kingdom! Without elevating pets (no matter how precious to us) 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.
Maybe now, in the mystery of our interaction with our pets, 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 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 will be gloriously 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 begin to forge the connections of the new and restored creation. Perhaps they are urging us on in our task of making 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 over the years. They are filled with joy, enthusiasm, and the expectation of something great.
They show joyful expectation! Yes, there was a kind of joyful expectation in the dogs of my youth: running in circles around me, dashing to greet me when I arrived home, and jumping for joy when I announced a car ride or a walk. My cats have always sauntered over to meet me at the door with a meow, an arched back, and a rub up against my leg. Somehow our pets manifest this Scripture passage: Creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed (Romans 8:19).