By comparison, even the best of us, are deceitful and self-serving, unworthy of their love. We give them the remnants of our time. Complaining bitterly of the inconvenience if their needs don’t fall within our routine.
They give us everything. At our beck and call, bowing to the demands of training, living their lives to our timetable and within our imposed restrictions.
They love us with the fullness of their hearts. Other than food and shelter, it is their only other need is love. That we try and love them with the same selflessness is all they ask. We fail them time and time again. Even when they are beaten and broken, all they want is our love.
A dog will give up its life to save you and yours. Your family is its pack and they will put themselves in harm’s way to save every member of their pack. Even the life of a stranger is worthy of their bravery. I wish I could say humans lived up to this standard. We don’t. Animal shelters are full of dogs. Dogs that are no longer wanted as consumption obsessed owners move on to a new and cuter pet. Dogs whose only crime was to grow too big, be inconvenient, need training or medical help. Dogs that have been starved and neglected, there are cages upon cages of them. Dogs that can no longer make money for their owners by breeding, fighting or racing are thrown from moving cars, discarded in the bush, put down all for the crime of outliving their usefulness. Then there are those who have been beaten and kicked, mistreated by beings who are so much lesser than the dogs they exert power over.
I remember having a debate with a minister of a church about whether animals have souls or not. He believed only people have souls. That animals were mindless (read dumb) creatures that humans were given dominion over; to use as we please. I think he missed the point. I think animals do indeed have souls, they show selflessness, empathy and love. They can grieve loss.
We may not understand the way they communicate or know if they possess the same sense self-awareness we do, but that does not mean they are mindless.
No, I tell you, animals, especially dogs, are more truthful in their interactions than we are, when they love it is with every fibre of their being. There is no agenda, no conditions to their love. I do not think humans were given dominion over animals. I think if anything, they were given into our care, to treat humanely, with care and respect. A task that we were charged with, one which we often fail.
I informed the minister that my staffy showed empathy and cared about other life forms, more than some people I know. I told him how she would play gently with our cats, right up until they caught some small creature. She would then growl and charge at them until they dropped the hapless little thing. Jemma would then stand over it, protecting it from the cat’s advances, and bark until one of the family came to rescue it. Once she saw it was safe, she’d return to playing with the cats, like nothing had happened. This same dog, would check on us if we were sick or upset, snuggle up and offer comfort. If an argument erupted in the house, she’d stand between the combatants and bark until they gave up and reconciled. If we hugged, she’d want in on the action. When playing with my nephews, she would play with each of them differently, according to their abilities. Both boys were of similar age, but one was lively and boisterous, while the other had issues with balance and coordination.
My husband and I currently have a 50 kgs ‘bits’a’ named Klunk. He has the most beautiful temperament, wanting only to make friends with any other creature he meets. ‘Klunk’ is an unusual name, but it suits him down to ground. It’s the sound we would hear as he scrambled under the house to hide when people came to visit. You see Klunk is a rescue dog.
He was 18 weeks old when we got him from his foster carer, he’d been rescued twice in the short ten weeks he’d been away from his mum and he was broken. He came to us with a double row of puncture wounds around his neck. He was under weight and had no idea how to play. Klunk is a rottweiler-staffy-lab mix and has the misfortune to look like a Pitbull.
It is my belief that at one point, he was taken to be a fighting dog, only he didn’t have it in his heart to fight and so was discarded. It took a lot of love and care to teach him how to play.
It took 6 months before he realised that he could walk away from his food without fear of going without. It took longer again before he began to enjoy going for walks and didn’t have to be cajoled out of the gate, afraid of every noise and stranger. It is one of my greatest joys to see him happy, to see that big weapon of a tail lashing madly through the air, to see him laying all-four paws in the air, upside down on the lounge snoring, confident in his safe haven of a home.
This goofy looking, big boofhead is a smart dog, easy to train and eager to learn, even so, at 6 years old, he’s still afraid of people he doesn’t know. He runs around barking and watching every move and gesture. Too much eye contact, from anyone except my husband and I, panics him. He so desperately wants to make friends with people, but his fear shuts him down. Even when he does eventually form attachments with our visitors, he needs to reform them the next day or the next visit. He is still broken and when he is afraid, he can’t seem to make long term memories. It breaks my heart every time I see that fear rise up in him and I am reminded that people did this to him.
I remember that I told the minister he was wrong. I am not overly religious, but I have to wonder how someone who purported to be a representative for God, who guides and counsels his flock on earth, could have so little understanding of God’s other creations.
Dogs do have souls, souls and pure hearts. More worthy of heaven that most of us could ever be.