Read an Excerpt
Wagging Tails in HeavenThe Gift of Our Pets' Everlasting Love
By GARY KURZ
CITADEL PRESSCopyright © 2011 Gary Kurz
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Animal-Human Relationship
Brevity will be one of my main objectives for this chapter. Shelves are already filled with books on the history of dogs, cats, horses, and domesticated animals of all sorts eligible for the title of "pet." I doubt that I could add anything significant to those works in just one short chapter. Instead, I simply want to give a quick overview of the history of animals from a biblical perspective, a point of view that is seldom addressed in other books.
Predictably, I take a creationism position, but I do not do so blindly. I have studied both evolution theory and creationism and have drawn my own conclusions based on all the evidence. I doubt most evolutionists and few creationists can make the same claim. Both usually follow the lead of others and dismiss the opposite point of view as myth without having studied it out for themselves. I will not discuss the differences between these two beliefs in detail here as I address them in great detail in Cold Noses, and I do not wish to be redundant.
That said, the Bible tells us that originally all animals were made to companion humankind. God even allowed Adam to name them at his pleasure. I think most of us wonder where he came up with names like aardvark and platypus, but let us not concern ourselves with that here. Animal history begins with its creation. Animal history with humankind began one day later when man was created.
When the fall of humankind occurred, animals had nothing to do with it. They suffered under the curse that was brought upon this world by man's blunder. Whether that was fair or not is not in question. It is factual. Whatever history we humans have had, animals were compelled to go along for the ride.
As a result of the curse, many of the animals turned wild. Perhaps it was not so much that they became wild, but rather that God put a fear of man into them, which more closely represents the wording in scripture. That fear exists to this day. It is even present in some domesticated animals, though they are more readily befriended than their wild counterparts.
Through the ages that fear has caused a deep schism between man and wild beast. One day that will be remedied; the fear will be removed and animals will be restored to their original state of tameness. But that too is another story for another time. Since it is the domestic animals, in particular, pets, that are the focus of our study, let us concentrate on them. In so doing, I do not mean to suggest that the creator does not similarly providentially provide for wild animals. Indeed, he does. Rather, I merely want to adhere to the intent of this book and bring understanding and comfort to people regarding their pets.
Please suffer me one additional disclaimer: when I refer to pets, I will primarily be referring to cats and dogs as they represent the majority of animals kept as pets. I am not excluding horses, pigs, goats, ferrets, and a variety of other animals and exotics that have found their way into our homes and hearts. I merely want to keep it simple by not having to name all types of pets every time I use the word. Accordingly, do not feel that the things said here do not apply to your pet simply because it is not a dog or cat. That is not so.
Animals have companioned and worked for and with humans for the duration of our time on earth. Often they have played the role of working or service animals. From sled dogs to guide animals to farm mousers, they have performed services that we could not do ourselves. When a need arose that did not fit the abilities of a certain dog or cat, science and ingenuity stepped in to develop a new or diverse breed, specifically suited for the job. Evolution may want to claim some credit here, but these changes were affected by human intervention and nothing more. Even the most elementary effort at researching the development of a particular breed will bear this out.
The average pet does no work, yet is still a contributing member of the household. How many cats have awakened the family to a smoldering fire? Who guards your home from intruders with a threatening deep growl and bared teeth? Who greets you at the door after a hard day's work with a thumping tail or soothing purr? Who keeps guard over your children?
In most Western societies, pets are an important component of the home. Almost invariably they become our closest and most trusted friends. Nothing is superficial about their devotion. They accept us as we are. It doesn't matter to them if we haven't bathed. They don't wince if we use our sleeves to wipe our mouths. They don't care if we have smoker's breath. They just want to be near us. Who could ask for a better friend than that?
In the United States over 70 million households keep pets. That boils down to about 80 percent of our homes, apartments, and mobile home parks where pets are allowed. The pet industry has doubled in size and revenue twice in the last decade. There are radio talk shows, cable television shows, and community activities all dedicated to celebrating these wonderful personalities we call pets.
Across the United States there has been a substantial increase in no-kill shelters and rescue organizations as society becomes increasingly more aware of our debt to these wonderful, loving creatures. People are getting involved and contributing to the welfare of animals like never before. And I for one say, "It's about time." We owe them so much.
Many statues of and monuments to hero dogs and horses are found across this great land that they helped make so great. Museums, websites, magazines, e-zines, and myriad other initiatives that honor these noble friends of humankind are innumerable. Books, comic strips, poems, and songs have been dedicated to recognize collectively their importance to our culture. Again, it is about time. Special tributes are made to police and military K9s that gave their all to protect officers and soldiers. Even animals that were not heroic in a combat sense of the word are often given great honors. Take for instance the story of the passing of a dog named Shackles.
I will not give you Shackles' whole story, but rather pick it up exactly where it contributes to the point I am making. While an officer on active duty with the United States Coast Guard in Hawaii, I received an electronic message from one of our isolated Loran Stations in the South Pacific. Actually, I received stacks of messages each day, mostly requests from our outlying units for additional logistics or personnel. But this one was different and I knew I had to take immediate action, so I called out to my chief: "Chief, this is a hot one," I said, somehow managing to say it in a quivering voice as I choked back tears. "Please stop what you are doing and get this message out to all units, top priority."
"Aye, aye, sir," came the customary nautical acknowledgment as the chief grabbed the message and hurried off in the direction of the Communications Center.
After only a few steps, however, apparently having read the first few lines of the message, Chief Petty Officer Smith (not his real name) stopped suddenly in his tracks and turned back toward me in disbelief. His mouth opened, but he didn't say anything. He didn't have to. I knew what he was thinking and solemnly nodded my head in understanding. Composing himself, he turned back around and headed again toward the Communications Center. The message would be electronically forwarded to major Coast Guard units in a matter of minutes for further dissemination to smaller units. Soon everyone would know.
I glanced again at my copy of the message. The officer in charge of a Coast Guard Loran Station was sending the sad news that Seaman Shackles had passed away during the night. Seaman Shackles wasn't really a seaman. He wasn't even a person. He was a dog, but a very special dog. He had been the cherished mascot of that Loran Station for over a decade.
Most of the 200-plus Coast Guard operational shore units that dot America's coastlines are staffed with a station dog like Shackles. This unofficial member of the crew is usually enlisted from a local shelter and made an honorary member of the crew. Breed and gender are not important. The only prerequisite for the job is an affinity to love and be loved. To this end, the station dog must be able to stand up to constant pampering and endure massive amounts of stroking and hugs.
Once on board the base, the station dog must also work like any other member of the crew, albeit at somewhat less demanding duties. He or she must patrol the compound (in search of handouts); escort emergency crews to their response boats (for a pat on the head); and enthusiastically greet those coming on watch (to conduct an olfactory once-over of their lunch bags).
The station dog, who was a crew member, is at liberty to dig holes, jump in vehicles with muddy feet, and borrow with impunity the only softball during a scheduled off-duty game. They are first in line at chow, are last to settle down for the night, and enjoy amnesty for anything chewed, buried, or soiled.
Generally, these animals are the best fed and most pampered on the planet, but they earn those privileges. They render a service that no other crew member can provide. They make a station a home, and that is important to service members stationed away from their real homes. Shackles earned his privileges. He made his station a home. He was eleven human years old when he passed, but during his short life he built a legacy that would far outlive him. Hundreds of sailors had been stationed at this isolated outpost during Shackles lifetime, and he had befriended them all.
In the days when e-mail and cell phones were nothing more than growing ideas in the minds of electronic engineers, families were not just a push of the button away. Often mail would take a month to arrive. Dogs like Shackles played a critical role as companion and friend. It was common for sailors to become lonely and homesick on this little strip of land in the middle of the ocean. Many found a piece of home in Shackles. He wanted to be everyone's friend. If you were lonely, if you needed a friend, he was your boy. He always had time for you. Without realizing the role he played, Shackles made life on the island bearable for many. One could run up the beach with this loving communal canine and forget, at least temporarily, that they missed Mom and Dad or the wife and kids. Over the years he had made an impact on thousands of lives in just this way.
All of them had come and gone, but he remained. The sailors were honored for their yearlong sacrifice of isolated duty with military decorations and great fanfare, but not Shackles. He remained an unsung hero, but he didn't mind. He enjoyed doing his part, and that was all the reward he needed. Nevertheless, when he passed, a fleet of heartbroken, grateful sailors finally sang his song as the message was forwarded from unit to unit. A shipmate had fallen and it was time to remember him for his service.
Shackles' story is representative of why we honor animals in our society. Some are heroes and some are workers, but all are devoted and loving companions to someone. They are dogs, cats, horses, parrots, and more; the list is indeed a lengthy one. So, too, is their history of walking alongside humankind.
I realize that there are those who do not care for animals. This is very difficult to grasp for those of us who have known the love of a pet. Nevertheless, we know it is true. There are people who absolutely have no use for animals other than a food source. There are even people who purposely abuse and misuse animals. I had thought to say something here to persuade those few to reconsider the way they think and act, but it occurred to me that someone who did not care for animals would not be reading this book, so the effort would be wasted.
For the rest of us it is a totally different story. We feel that no honor is too great and that no tribute too emphatic for these wonderful fur angels who have walked along with us through history and guarded our way. They are deserving of great respect and often great honor. As a side issue, I do not use the word "angel" loosely here as you shall see in subsequent chapters.
Again, there is so much we could say about the history of animals, but for the topic at hand, we must only establish the connection humankind and animal kind have shared in their history. It gives us a springboard for other, more important topics we will cover.
Chapter TwoDoes God Care About Animals?
You may have had difficulty figuring out what the theme of this book is from what was covered in the opening chapter. Simply, I intend to show that animals are significant creatures that are important to God. God is their creator no less than he is ours. From the importance that he places on them, coupled with the things he says in his words about them, there is much to learn about their present life and what the next life holds for them.
While I acknowledge that animals are subordinate to humans because God gave us dominance over them, too often people relegate them to nothing more than a food source or service animals. That simply is not the case. When God had finished creating them, he assessed then as being "very good," and that sounds pretty good to me. Man is wrong to assign them less worth than God does. In scripture we have a candid view of how God feels about animals. We might note at this time that the word animal does not actually appear in scripture. Rather, words like "beast," "kind," "cattle," and "creature" and terms like "every living thing" and "all that has breath" are used instead. These essentially mean the same thing, but we will use animal so there is no misunderstanding.
Our first introduction to animals is in the creation act in the Garden of Eden. Animals were made to be companions for man. They were not a food source and not beasts of burden or service animals. They coexisted with humankind in a pristine environment void of fear, disease, and death. I have often heard the word "tranquility" used to describe that first environment, and I think it is very appropriate.
The next significant mention of animals is when God clothed Adam and Eve after the fall. God clothed them in animal skins (Genesis 3:21). Later, their firstborn, Abel, made an offering unto the Lord of the firstlings of his flock (Genesis 4:4), and that offering was well received by God. Indeed, this practice of sacrificial offering would become a requirement for the Hebrew nation.
I will not discuss this practice in detail here as I address it at length in other titles, but I would like to offer a few thoughts for clarification purposes. The initial impression one has is that animals were insignificant to God because they were used for sacrifices. That is not so. In fact, just the opposite is true. They were (and are) quite significant. They were used for sacrificial purposes, which in itself spoke to the immense importance animals had to God. Animals were innocent creatures without sin. Sin offerings could only be realized with the offering of innocent blood. Without the innocent blood of animals, people at that time could not have realized atonement. I should say this underscores the absolutely critical importance of animals. Moreover, the sacrifices were a picture of the future sacrificial offering of God's only begotten Son, who would be offered as the innocent Lamb of God on the cross for sin. Until the Messiah came and his perfect blood was offered for sin, the innocent blood of animals had to suffice.
The next time animals came into special focus in scripture was at the great deluge or flood. God had Noah build an ark to preserve animal kind in the world. We all know the story, so I won't even hit the highlights here. Moving forward after nearly ten months afloat, the ark came to rest and God made a covenant with Noah not to flood the earth again. God made it a special point to extend that covenant to the animals, a very significant gesture. It speaks to their significance to him.
Excerpted from Wagging Tails in Heaven by GARY KURZ Copyright © 2011 by Gary Kurz. Excerpted by permission of CITADEL PRESS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.