DENNIS GARVIN: Dogs, Cats . . . And God

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Dennis Garvin

Let’s consider dogs and cats. They are the two commonest animal groups that are domesticated and possessed as pets. I want to ignore the guppies, parakeets, and house broken pot-belly pigs. Likewise, I want to exclude service animals. I want to consider a generic pet dog and a generic pet cat. If you were a Philosophy major in college, think of the Platonic Forms: what does your mind conjure when you hear the words ‘dog’ and ‘cat’?

Two things to bear in mind: while you might own a dog who acts like a cat or a cat who acts like a dog, (ie, an affectionate cat or an indifferent dog) the exception does not disprove the rule. Second, I don’t wish to discuss the reasons why some people are cat lovers and others are dog lovers. Your preference for the behavior of either animal does not influence that animal’s generic behavior.

If we look at standard dog behavior and standard cat behavior, we find remarkable similarities. While certain dog characteristics may be greater or lesser depending on the breed (and cats, likewise), nevertheless a dog is a dog and a cat is a cat.

What do we consider as pretty much universal attributes of a dog? We think of loyalty, affection, tolerance, forgiveness, playfulness, protection and the ability to display both joy and sorrow.

When we consider a cat, we think of indifference, independence, self-involvement, detachment, and ingratitude. With a very few exceptions, their generic face is incapable of a display of any emotion other than ‘attack mode.’ They come to their owner for unreturned affection or for food, fluid, or to come in/out of the house. Rubbing against your leg and purring is a pretty poor return on your investment in affection.

Looking deeper, we see that dogs sense our sorrow and our joy and find a way to share in it. They come to us when we are afraid. They watch over us when we are ill. They flee when we are angry but forgive and forget the occasional cruelties that we visit upon them. The average cat displays none of these characteristics.

Why the contrast? I believe that the Creator provided these two animals to us humans to demonstrate the typical responses of humans to Creator; and Creator to human. The canine displays the same love and companionship that God demonstrates to us: loyalty, love, forgiveness, sympathy, and joy. I further believe that the feline demonstrates the way most humans relate to God: independence, indifference, detachment. Humans come to their Creator for their sustenance or to have their emotional tummies rubbed; all the while devoid of gratitude.¬¬

One interesting point: we hear the phrase ‘forgive and forget’, but nowhere in the Bible does it call on humans to do both things. Only God can, and does, forgive and forget (Heb 8:12, Isa 43:25). Dogs seem uniquely capable of this same grace.

One other issue: the average dog would sacrifice his/her life to protect the human owner and his family. Fearless, unambiguous, loving sacrifice. In this respect, we need to go back to the original proposition: would the Creator Himself die to save us?

Hmmmm. Seems to me that I read a book about just that very thing. Perhaps that is why ‘GOD’ spelled backwards is ‘DOG.’

Dennis Garvin