December 9, 2016

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

God gave us dominion over, and resulting joy from, the animals

Cynthia DewesBesides their two front teeth, all that many kids want for Christmas is a pet. They favor dogs and cats, but when Mom has an allergy to animal hair, as one of my daughters-in-law did, they settle for goldfish. That sounds kind of sorry to me, but then, I’m not allergic.

My first pet when I was about age 4 was Mitzi. She’s still first in my heart. Mitzi was mostly Pekingese, but her coloring was brown and white. She was smart and feisty and a survivor, big time. Someone snatched her from our yard when we were away one day, and she was gone for about two years.

One day, my dad was driving down the road when he saw a dog that looked just like Mitzi walking along. He stopped and opened the car door and called, “Mitzi!” Immediately, she hopped in and showered Dad with doggie kisses. And she remained with us until she was 13.

Other pets followed. We had two barn cats named Umbriago and Herman. Umbriago was named for a character in a Jimmy Durante comedy routine, but he was a serious fellow. He was the boss, and Herman was his dimwitted lieutenant. Herman had blue eyes that were totally blank, but he was as sweet as he could be.

Others followed, including a black cocker spaniel named, I’m embarrassed to admit, Dinah, and another Peke called Chubby. I think that the experience of caring for and being responsible for the well-being of pets is extremely important for children. And even though fish are not the most responsive of pets, caring for them is great for their boys and girls.

My husband’s first, and most beloved, pet was a German Shepherd named Mike. When his family moved away and Mike went to live with a neighbor, he constantly reappeared on the doorstep of his former home. Eventually, he had to be put down because of his loyalty. What a testament to that virtue!

We purposely bought a dog for our kids when they were small, especially because a couple of them were afraid of animals. The ploy worked, because today our son is a pet lover who provides them for his own family, and our daughter can tolerate and even pet them. However, gerbils and hamsters are the closest she’s come to actually having animals in her home.

Our first dog was Max, whom we called The Noble Dog. He was mostly Beagle, a serious dog but excellent with children. He was a natural hunter, and you’d see his tail waving back and forth through the neighboring field until suddenly he’d run a rabbit or another critter right past you.

Unfortunately he had one fault: he hated a certain neighbor dog. One day, absorbed in chasing this fellow, he was hit by a car coming the other way. We all cried for hours.

We had another part-Beagle named Scout. She was sweet-tempered, and not much of a hunter. She and our mentally handicapped son would play a little game in which Andy would sidle up to her, nudging her paw, while she growled menacingly. Of course, he never stepped on her paw, and she was never really angry.

God gave us dominion over the animals, allowing us to use them for our good, and in turn, being responsible for their well-being. It would seem that getting a pet for Christmas is not only appropriate, it’s downright spiritual. †

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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