Animals—A Gift From God
HAVE you ever visited a zoo or a circus? Did you yearn to hold or pet one of the beautiful animals—perhaps a majestic lion or a huge Siberian tiger? You may have been thrilled to see an animal trainer or a caretaker do so. Indeed, a Bible writer nearly 2,000 years ago said: “Every species of wild beast as well as bird and creeping thing and sea creature is to be tamed and has been tamed by humankind.”—James 3:7.
Animals of all kinds respond to loving care and attention. It can indeed be a joy to see them interact with caring humans who have tamed them. Roman writer Pliny, who wrote about the same time as the Bible writer James did, spoke of the taming of elephants, lions, tigers, eagles, crocodiles, snakes, and even fish.
Actually, the taming of animals to become pets goes back to much earlier times. Long before James and Pliny wrote, the Egyptians tamed wild animals and kept them as pets. Today many animals you find in a zoo can also be found in homes in some places.
Early Relationship With Humans
The Bible, the earliest record of human history, reports that the first man, Adam, gave names to the animals. “Whatever the man would call it,” the Bible says, “each living soul, that was its name. So the man was calling the names of all the domestic animals and of the flying creatures of the heavens and of every wild beast of the field.” (Genesis 2:19, 20) Evidently, Adam became thoroughly acquainted with the animals in order to name them appropriately. But he needed no protection—even from the wild ones. They were at peace with him, and how he must have enjoyed their companionship!
God charged both Adam and his wife, Eve, with care of the animals. According to God’s purpose as declared in the Bible, humans were to “have in subjection the fish of the sea and the flying creatures of the heavens and the domestic animals and all the earth and every moving animal that is moving upon the earth.”—Genesis 1:26.
A Continuing Close Relationship
When people exercise proper dominion over animals, the result can be heartwarming. A beloved animal may be viewed as a treasured companion, even as part of the family. That this was true thousands of years ago is seen in the account in the Bible about a poor man’s “one female lamb, a small one.” The prophet Nathan told King David about the lamb, saying regarding the poor man: “From his morsel [the lamb] would eat, and from his cup it would drink, and in his bosom it would lie, and it came to be as a daughter to him.”—2 Samuel 12:1-3.
Many today can understand how an animal can become a beloved companion, like a family member. Consider a family living near Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe. The parents bought each of their children a dog to serve as a companion. When one of the boys, about eight at the time, was walking with his dog, suddenly a large poisonous snake called a mamba dropped from a tree in front of him. The mamba attacked, but with lightning speed the dog intervened, saving the child’s life. Can you imagine how precious that dog was to the family?
Particularly treasured by the deaf are dogs that have been trained to assist them. One woman relates: “Twinkie hears the bell, and she comes and taps on my leg and leads me to the front door. Similarly, when Twinkie hears the buzzer on my oven timer, she runs up to me, and I follow her. In the event of a smoke or fire alarm, Twinkie is trained to attract my attention and then lie down to indicate potential danger.”
Especially noteworthy is the useful relationship between the blind and their guide dogs. Guide-dog trainer Michael Tucker, author of The Eyes That Lead, believes that a guide dog can open up a whole new world for the blind, giving “freedom, independence, mobility and companionship.” Truly, the rapport between such dogs and their masters is often a pleasure to behold!
The situation is similar with those who are disabled in other ways and who have a companion dog. A dog owned by a woman confined to a wheelchair has been taught to pick up her telephone and to lick stamps for the mail! Another dog responds to 120 commands, even gathering cans and packets from supermarket shelves. The disabled owner uses a laser dot to identify items that he has chosen, and his dog then takes them to him.
Pets benefit the elderly as well. A doctor of veterinary medicine said that animal pets, including dogs, “give purpose and meaning at a time when the elderly often are alienated from society.” The Toronto Star reported: “Companion animals are associated with lower stress, fewer doctors’ visits and even better survival rates after heart attacks.”
The New Encyclopædia Britannica makes this interesting observation: “Keeping pets offers the opportunity to teach children the close dependence of privilege on responsibility and also something about sex. The process of mating is soon noticed, followed by such matters as gestation periods and the varied problems involved in the birth and care of young.”
Devotion to Pets
The remarkable loyalty of animals actually causes some people to have stronger love for their pets than for family members. In divorce cases, custody of a pet is at times awarded as part of the settlement in property disputes. And people have named pets in their last will and testament as beneficiaries of fabulous wealth.
No wonder pets are big business today! There are books and magazines that provide advice on every matter relating to pets. Realizing that some pet owners are willing to provide extravagant luxuries for their pets, businesses offer whatever pet owners want.
For example, one may consult highly specialized doctors who treat all manner of ailments affecting pets. There are pet psychiatrists who will prescribe an antidepressant for a pet. In addition, there are pet lawyers and insurance agents as well as pet grooming services and training institutions. Funerals are held for pets. And offers are made to clone pets—all at a price, of course!
Clearly, love of pets is widespread. In her book The Animal Attraction, Dr. Jonica Newby concludes: “When a dog comes running up to us, wagging its tail and licking us as though our coming home was the best thing that had happened to it all day, it seems fair to call it ‘love.’” Surely it is understandable why many pet owners are moved to reciprocate that “love.”
Yet, efforts to humanize a pet can have a detrimental side. After all, a pet cannot fulfill one’s needs the way fellow humans can. Moreover, the urbanization of pets—that is, their adapting to city environments—poses problems for some pets and their owners. We will examine such matters in the following article.
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Wild animals such as these have been tamed
A detail from The Great King of the Parthians Hunts With His Tame Panthers by Giovanni Stradanno: © Stapleton Collection/CORBIS
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Israelite shepherds treated lambs with tender compassion
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Pets can help the disabled and the elderly