When my parents’ beloved dog died over the summer, I saw how important pets can be for health and happiness.
My parents and siblings loved taking little Skippy for walks, and he was a snuggly companion around the house.
Since his death, there is less of a motivation for those long walks, and the house is quieter without his friendly presence.
I realized how loved that little dog was, and how happy he made my family. His death left a painful absence.
Animals go along with nature
Not everyone loves animals, but it turns out that those who do often care a lot about the natural world and the environment:
Recent studies have shown that affection for pets goes hand-in-hand with concern for the natural world. It seems that people can be roughly divided into those that feel little affinity for animals or the environment, and those who are predisposed to delight in both, adopting pet-keeping as one of the few available outlets in today’s urbanized society.
Does that sound familiar to you? Sure enough, many of my friends who own dogs also enjoy camping, hiking, fishing, and other adventurous outdoor activities.
Animals remind us to care for creation
Whether or not we have pets, we can all find ways to delight in God’s created world, including the many animals around us.
I don’t own a pet right now, but my kids love looking for birds and recording all the birds they see in their own little bird-watching notebooks. They also like to observe chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits, bees, ants, and many other animals in our yard and the nearby parks and forest preserves, often drawing pictures of them in their nature journals.
This attentiveness to the created world is beautifully resonant with Catholic teachings on the environment, which hold that humans are the “stewards of creation.”
Making a beautiful garden
Pope Francis has said, “As stewards of God’s creation, we are called to make the earth a beautiful garden for the human family. When we destroy our forests, ravage our soil and pollute our seas, we betray that noble calling.”
Perhaps our attention to animals, whether our pets or wild animals, can be a gentle reminder to care for God’s created world.
In this way we can fulfill Pope Francis’ call to Christians to nurture the environment, as when he said, “A Christian who doesn’t safeguard creation, who doesn’t make it flourish, is a Christian who isn’t concerned with God’s work, that work born of God’s love for us.”