I woke up yesterday morning to find that Emily, one of our Chihuahuas and the smallest one at barely five pounds, had died in her sleep. It wasn’t a surprise. In fact, a daily dose of steroids was what kept her alive for the last few months. We always knew when she needed more prednisone; she would just fall over. Even with that, she had been in decline. She couldn’t always keep her tongue in her mouth, and she would list when she walked as if she’d had too much to drink. Nevertheless, she carried on as usual being curious and feisty as ever.
Pets are given by God as something to love and something that will love back. Especially dogs, who seem to love unconditionally. Their aim in life is to please us. They are devastated when they do something wrong — even though they probably don’t know what it was, they just react to our displeasure — and they respond, if you’ve left them alone for five minutes, as if you’ve been gone for weeks. Of course we project human feelings on them all the time, but they can seem almost human.
My favorite verse in the Bible about animals is found in the very last verse of Jonah. You probably know how Jonah was reluctant to preach to the town of Nineveh for fear that they would actually repent and God would save them. Jonah was obviously hoping for a different outcome for a people he judged and despised. It’s an attitude we can understand as we often condemn people in the world for being so sinful that we wish judgment on them instead of mercy.
So in the end of the story, when he does finally go and preach to the people and the people do repent, Jonah is indignant, and goes off to sulk by himself. That’s when God chides him for not having any compassion. Jonah clearly didn’t have any grace to turn outward. And God’s final word to him is the last verse of the book: “And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left — and also many animals?” (Jonah 4:11)