(Commander, the Biden family dog has just settled into the White House when along comes Willow, the new First Cat. He is appealing for heavenly help from Champ, the Biden dog who passed away a few months ago. This conversation was picked up through White House surveillance technology.)
Commander: Yo! Champ! You there? How’s heaven? I know you’re there because you were a perfect dog according to Pop. You outshone poor ol’ Major whose bad behavior landed him in another home. But something has happened recently which has made me nervous. I’m super careful to be nice to people, even Republicans who talk with Pop. I eat all my food, and use the outdoors for fun and you-know-what. But I feel I’m being replaced, losing the deference I once enjoyed.
Well, here goes. I have a request; in fact, I have a big problem and her name is Willow. She’s a cat. A bona fide cat meaning she sneaks up on me when I’m snoozing. She appears without warning slithering around corners, jumping from bookcases, hiding behind chairs. I’m a nervous wreck. At first I thought I was having eye trouble like sudden dark squiggles racing across my field of vision only to see the squiggly stop suddenly and turn into a cat staring at me from behind the leg of a table. And, she’s allowed on the furniture!! That’s a no-no for me but there she was – all stretched out on the family couch posing for pictures for the media, a grey tabby feline, mushy and alluring, to put it mildly and respectfully! She nestles around the legs of every visitor purring in some kind of sweet talk for ulterior motives. And people reach down and pet her ooing and awing about how sweet she is. Dignitaries of state lapse into baby talk like, “Oh you little darling. You have the prettiest eyes, little Snookums.” I can’t wait to see how Kim Jong-un will react.
So, what should I do, Champ. I don’t want to be a jealous dude; after all, I am a strong fellow and my job is more important than Willow’s, I think.
Champ: Let’s put Willow in perspective. She’s a cat. Her job is to provide comfort and cats do this quite well. She’s meant to be a pet, not part of the Secret Service like you. Get over it. All animals have a special place in God’s heart. Pope Francis wrote in Laudato Si, his amazing encyclical on creation and the environment that, “Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect.” And get this, he also said, “We are called to recognize that other living beings have a value of their own in God’s eyes.” A careful reading of the Scriptures will also enlighten anyone in the exploration of God’s love and connection with all animals. So, we need to be that way with our fellow sentient beings. The buzz here in heaven is that human beings are finally getting some of the message about the inclusivity of creation. Elizabeth Johnson’s recent publication of Creation and the Cross is a case in point. And look at the growing commitment to vegetarianism partly out of concern for the treatment of animals. Why, you and Willow just might be the examples Congress needs
to see how to befriend each other and achieve the goals needed on behalf of our nation. Your job is not more important than Willow’s; it’s just different. Oh, by the way, did you ever hear the writer Annie Dillard’s quote, “The creator loves pizzazz”? I think that’s why God created cats!!
(Commander meandered over to the fireplace and curled up.) He agreed with Champ that he needs to accept Willow as a partner and not a competitor for the well being of the President and his family.
The more we study topics such as climate change, food insecurity, poverty and environmentalism, etc., the more we become aware that the human race has brought us to a tipping point where we are looking at the destruction of our common home, the Earth. I suggest a deeper reading of the Scriptures and, if possible, an education in the true meaning of these Scriptures, not the easy judgmental literal reading which leaves out nuances of the original language and culture in which they were written. Let’s study. Let’s learn. Let’s read Laudato Si, (Praise be to you, my Lord) and deepen our spirituality to connect with and appreciate all of God’s creation.
Animals can teach us a lot and they do not read scripture or analyses of theological texts. What are the purity of lessons you learned from animals you have loved? How did they expand your appreciation of creation, your love of God? Please share this with us in the comment section.
Charity requires that we look deeply into the gifts God has given us and the material gifts are directly connected to Mother Earth. You cannot name one material gift that Mother Earth did not give, can you? What are the resolutions you can make to honor and love this common home? This is very serious to reflect on. Even Commander and Champ would say so. Their species depends on it as well.
Please read Laudato Si and reflect on what we are challenged to do as believers in the Gospels who look seriously at the state of our common home. (I hope to suggest some guidelines in future blogs to help your reading.)
Read other theologians now developing extraordinary scholarship on environmentalism and animal connections to human welfare. I suggest: Elizabeth Johnson’s Ask the Beasts and Creation and the Cross.
I will be suggesting other writers in future blogs but this is a good start. Please let us know of your animal experiences as related to spirituality. My dog, Lily, wants so very much to know!!
Thank you for this lovely look into what the First dogs might be thinking. I look forward to others’ reflections on how God speaks to them through our beloved pets. Take care, Margaret
My son has a toy poodle “Mister”, whom I dog-sit sometimes. Mister is a very needy type, loves to be cuddled and present with you. His love is like God’s–unconditional. He just wants to be loved and to love back!
Thank you, Chris for this kind note. There is considerable research on the science of animal affection and I try to keep up with it. I believe they are wonderful example of God’s love for everything in creation. Nothing holds back their love: money, politics, race, nationality—they just love. S. Mary Ann