We get our kids pets to accomplish several things in their lives and in ours. Pet ownership teaches responsibility and the value of life to our kids, it teaches the value of companionship, care of those around us and of the ill, such ownership teaches about suffering, the frailty of life and the eventuality of death…that all things live must eventually come to an end, and let us not forget about the ability to make those difficult decisions and following through with them. And the overall lesson is about the glory of God, His love for us, and what happens to us, as creations of God, upon our eventual demise.
“Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows.” ~Michael Landon, Jr.
There are many ways we can take the above quote from Michael Landon, Jr. No matter how you slice it, we need to know and understand we will not live forever and, therefore, we must understand that we have a limited amount of time to accomplish in our lives and on this earth certain things. We need to understand salvation of ourselves and others. We must find our truest purpose, in God’s eyes, and we must determine our vocation (how we will survive and pay our bills.) And if you look at it, objectively, men and women live to the ages of 84 and 86 respectively. Relatively thinking, that is a short period of time. Consider that most people sleep away 1/3 of that time…approximately 28-29 years of that. Of course, these estimates are based upon the premise that you live that long! So, now we are down to 56-57 years on this earth awake. You can lop off another 20 years for school, some college and or some military time…36-37 years now. See how quickly time just erodes away.
But if you get right down to it, the context of this post is primarily about the first 20 years of your life. The Bible commands us to take care of the animals under our care. One of the signs of a righteous man, the Bible says, is that he takes care of his animals (see Proverbs 12:10). Even the animal of an enemy was to be treated kindly: “If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to take it back to him” (Exodus 23:4). One reason God commanded His people to rest one day out of seven was so their animals would be refreshed (see Exodus 23:12).
If we are to show care to our animals, and for that matter we will be judged upon how we treat our animals, we must act as the animals we take on as a responsibility for the care of one of God’s created creatures. That said, we must care for it, feed it, take it to the veterinarian for health and legal reasons. This is a great responsibility for anyone, let alone a child. But this is how we teach our kids by delegating responsibilities. As they become more and more accustomed to doing such chores and as they grow older…they receive more responsibilities. Some families give a stipend or an allowance for doing such things…but that is not the crux of this post, so I will not waste my time on such.
God thinks highly of all His creation, remember when Jesus spoke on the sparrows?
“Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God.” ~Luke 12:6 NKJV
God does not forget about any of His creatures. Even in our darkest hours, God is right there with us. Even though there are times we do not feel His presence! He is THERE with US! This includes His animals, as well. Tending the animals was one of the tasks that Adam and Eve were ascribed to perform. Both tending animals and taking care of the garden.
The tending of the animals is where we are now, after all, is this not the same position that King David started in? The most humbling of positions of all, a sheep herder, caring for his family’s flock? He kept them together, sough out the lost sheep, he protected them from wolves & bear, and other predators. We learn much from such humble beginnings. Which means basics are the building blocks for our lives. It was from these basics that King David was able to cut down the giant Philistine, Goliath. And the rest was history.
In these humble beginnings I would believe that David learned to physically care for his flock by tending their injuries, if need be, to feed them if there was nothing for them to eat, and those which were injured beyond his ability to care and nurse them…he would have been forced to put them down, or euthanize them.
No one, myself included enjoys making such a choice for any animal under their care. But, sadly, these decisions will not make themselves and if you just wait for the animal to just die…such could be considered animal abuse.
In Genesis 1:26 God declares, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” Essentially, as the highest order of created beings on the earth, humanity has full authority over all other creatures on the planet. While having dominion over the animals includes the right to kill animals for food (Genesis 9:2), it goes far beyond that. We are caretakers/stewards of God’s creation. We are all, in a sense, to be shepherds over the creatures that share this planet with us.
We have been given power over the animals of the earth, we are not to abuse them but we are to care for them. I honestly do not believe God wants us to blow up buildings or kill people over such abuses that occur these days, but rather for us to take all necessary actions (legal & moral) to aid, prevent, stop, help, etc., the animals that God has created.
Our kids can learn much and become greater citizens of this world if we will love them, teach them the necessary lessons that they need, in order to equip them to live a wise and moral life. And many of those lessons can be taught through animal care. By understanding that the animals they care for will one day die, they will come to the realization that they will one day die. Such a reality can reward them with a structure in their lives by learning of their Creator, what will happen to them upon death, seeking their purpose, their vocation, etc.
Each and every parent goes through the arduous task of determining what pet to get, yet when it is time for the pet to be put down…they seek to protect the child from such input and harm to their psyche. Don’t get me wrong…IT IS DEVASTATING! Even to me! I cry like a baby every time a dog must be put down, because they are part of this family. We recently had to put down the farmer’s horse, but my wife and I were taking care of him for the last 5 years of his life. He was a beautiful horse who was put down just shy of his 32nd birthday. He had cataracts on both eyes and was stumbling badly at times. Sometimes he had such life in him where he would whinny because he heard you coming or he heard his name called. But with the tornado season coming and high winds, our mare would run him ragged and he had the susceptibility to get injured (potentially very badly). And yes, I cried like a baby when he went down! And being present when a horse is euthanized is far worse than that of a dog.
But this is how we teach our kids the responsibilities for their adult years. We are to train them throughout their youth to become the people they are meant to be. Through accountability and through training. But these ways of the old seem to have gone to the wayside. Most kids these days expect everything to be given them, not because they have earned it or deserve it, but because they exist. Perhaps, the old ways will come back with a vengeance…we can only hope & pray such is the case.
Until next we meet again, dear brothers and sisters!
MK Murphy, PhD, DD