Inner Life

Pets - one of God's greatest gifts

Jeff Parker reflects on the role pets play in our lives

By Jeff Parker

October 12 2017 

I have found that people are either ‘pet lovers’ or not. If they are not then they find the relationship between a person and their pet a bit of a mystery. It’s only a dog or it’s only a cockatiel they might think or even say out loud.

I have always been a pet lover and as I grew up the family always had dogs, cats, budgies and other kinds of birds. In fact, even that wasn’t enough for me. I would find snails and put them in a shoe box and give them names. One great adventure of mine was when I collected ants (I thought all ants were the same) and put them in a largish jam jar and watched their antics for a couple of weeks. They must have hated it.

My most memorable effort though was to catch some tadpoles from the local creek which used to run past my primary school and watch them as they turned into frogs (actually some kind of toad). It was fantastic seeing them grow legs and crawl out onto the rock I cleverly placed in the middle of a large coffee jar. I would catch a lovely fresh housefly and disable it somehow. I won’t say how in case any children are reading this. Then I would place the poor buzzing insects on the rock and watch these developing amphibians scloooop them up with their incredibly long sticky tongues. I can still see it now, nearly fifty years later. That was amazing.

Today I simply have a little Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Doogie, some tropical fish and a worm farm. Doogie is one of my best friends which goes without saying. He loves me no matter how well or badly I behave. We walk the streets of Dandenong together most days. He comes to remind me to put him to bed each night and he wakes me in the morning. I am for him the source of treats, his breakfast and dinner most days and lots of belly scratches. He is a source for me of much affection. He speaks to me with his eyes and snores like a train when deeply asleep. He is such a great little friend.

Doogie

I know that others think about their dogs in the same way. Cats are different, of course, but I know their owners love them very much. One of my parishioners named Ruth speaks to her pet cockatiel as if he were a person, one of her best friends, and I find nothing unusual about that.

That’s why I really enjoy the Blessing of Pets in October. People really do love their pets and they are legitimate life-companions, part of the family or maybe even their only family in some cases. I was surprised when we blessed the pets last year as to how well the animals behaved. After a first few tense moments and sniffs and growls, the pets were quieter than my regular Sunday morning congregation. Halleluiah!

So I think I will always look to ask our creator God to bless the pets where I am serving now and the future. They truly are God’s gift to us, often tense and lonely human beings. They can and do change a person’s life bringing them a special brand of joy and comfort. I know they have changed mine.

The Ven Jeff Parker is the Archdeacon of Dandenong and Vicar of St James Dandenong.