No, Your Pet Isn't a Person

It was my first date with the girl who would become my wife. Wanting to make a good first impression, I cleaned out my car (Datsun 280 Z), and wore a nice pair of pants and a shirt. 

I arrived on time and walked up to the farmhouse front door.  Standing between me and the door was a large slobbering Labrador retriever barking at me.

It was the type of dog everybody fears—the enthusiastic crotch-sniffer with extra saliva.  The dog greeted me on the way to the door.  I glanced down, horrified to discover that my good pants now had a large dog slobber stain right by the uhh...equator.  I rang the doorbell, desperately trying to come up with a humorous comment about my sodden pants (hopefully a dry one).

My date’s father opened the door, “Very glad to meet you” he said. 
“Apparently your dog was too” I gestured towards the crotch of my pants.
“Oh that dumb dog” he replied. 

He got me some paper towels, and I attempted to dry the dog slobber from my pants.  So much for a good first impression.  Fortunately, I survived that humbling experience, and we got married a year later—without dogs.  Here’s a more recent experience that also involves animals.

While looking at flooring at Home Depot, I was surprised to feel a cold wet nose pressing against the back side of my pants.  I sincerely hoped it wasn’t a person, as I turned around to see what was going on.  It was another enthusiastic crotch-sniffing dog!  Right there in Home Depot. 
“How did a dog get in here?” I asked the person on the other end of the ineffective leash.
“It’s my service dog” the woman replied.
“Oh, sorry.  How long have you been blind?” I asked.  Long silence.…..
“I’m not….blind” the woman mumbled and hastily moved away from me.

That brings me to a modern epidemic in our American culture.  The service animal phenomena has simply become a cover for the emotional support animal.  I do support someone’s right to use a service animal if they have a legitimate disability, but an emotional support animal isn't a service animal any more than an inflated tire innertube is a 40’ sailboat.

People may find "comfort" in their wallabee, their pig, or a Tasmanian fruit bat, but you can't turn Home Depot into an orange zoo just because it makes you comfortable.

emotional-support-pig.jpg

Your comfort is not the concern of everyone else, and the rest of us are significantly less comfortable when forced to share our accommodations with a bunch of non-human critters.  A blind man using a dog to get around is wholly understandable, a woman trying to take an emotional support peacock on a United Airlines flight is just ridiculous.  Fortunately, she was denied.  For now.

America is in the midst of an emotional support animal epidemic.  It is evidence that many people are self-centered and immature, and the whole thing is just another symptom of the increasing infantilization of American culture.  It's also—I should note—dishonest.  A woman pretending that her favorite pet is a service animal is no different than a woman who pretends to be crippled so that she can go to the front of the line at Epcot.  For some reason we don't treat the emotional support animal scam with the same contempt that we treat a car illegally parked in a handicap spot, but we should.  It's dishonest as well as annoying and childish. 

But I think the problem runs deeper.  It is symptomatic of what Apostle Paul wrote in Romans—that people would worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25).  When we reject the God of creation, we subsequently reject the image of God in humanity, dooming us to look for a replacement.

“But Pets Are People Too”

What lies at the root of the emotional support animal craze is an increasing humanization of animals in western society, coupled to a general devaluing of human life.  A person who insists on bringing their animal everywhere suffers from the delusion that his animal is basically another person and deserves to be treated as such.  

O       According to Rover.com, 54% of dog owners might end the relationship if the pooch doesn’t like the spouse or partner.

O       81% say their pet gets more kisses than their spouse!

O       63% of pet owners would rather stay home and cuddle with their pet on Valentine's Day.

O       Pet owners are more likely to buy a gift for their furry friends (69%) than their significant other (61%)

O       64% said they would be willing to give up social media to have their pet live forever.

O       94% see their dog as a member of the family.

O       80% like their dogs better than other people.

O       A majority of respondents in the UK said they would be more devastated at the loss of a pet than their spouse.

O       71% of millennials would take a pay cut if they could bring their pets to work with them every day.

It's not a shock that people would develop these bizarre notions in a country where we take our pets to counseling and buy alcohol-free wine for our dogs and spend 69 thousand-million (69 billion) dollars a year feeding and pampering our animals.  

In our culture, we tend to empathize more with animals than our fellow human beings, and many in the younger generation prefer the company of lesser creatures so much that they've decided to have pets rather than kids.  Of course that's not as disturbing as the large share of parents who have both pets and kids, and consider their "fur children" and their real children to be equal.  Really?  According to the above statistics, many Americans prefer to spend time with their pets rather than their spouses.

If anyone doubts this to be true, just look at the outrage over the death of a gorilla in Cincinnati (just down the road from us) to protect a child.  I will forever be disgusted by the number of people who sincerely suggested the child was more expendable in that situation. 

My Pet Hasn’t Hurt me So I love it More Than People

Oh please.  Relationships (good ones that is) are all about forgiveness, joy, growing together and sharing that most precious gift of all—the ability to give & receive love.  Each of us have rough spots in our lives, and God often uses our relationships with other people to bring healing and resolution to those rough spots.

Sure, there may be people that we are better off with some distance between us and them, but loving an animal more than humans is the ultimate idolatry, and an unmistakable barometer of your emotional immaturity. “But my pet has never hurt me”, they say.

A rutabaga has never lied to me, gray limestone has never cut me off in traffic, and a mushroom has never constructed a pipe bomb to become a jihadi terrorist.  Should I therefore love them? It’s not because of their superior virtue, it’s because they have no virtue.  At all. 

It's not that a pet is making better moral choices than the humans in your life, it's that he's not making any moral choices at all.  It is a real shame that so many people prefer a creature that lacks the capacity for evil over a human who has the image of God and the capacity for goodness.

We mature by taking chances, trusting God for the outcome, and forgiving others as we hope to be forgiven ourselves.  When we do that, joy results.  And joy is a marker of maturity.

I Think God Has Something to Say About This

“For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain. Is it about oxen that God is concerned? Surely he says this for us, doesn't He? Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest.”

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny ? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.  And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:29).

“If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out?  How much more valuable is a man than a sheep!” (Matthew 12:10).

If you have animals, treat them decently (Proverbs 12:10).  Don’t make them into an idol as did the Canaanites and almost every other pagan culture.  And if you have an emotional support animal, for heavens sake stop pretending that it’s a service animal.  It isn’t. 

Its primary function in your life is to keep you emotionally and spiritually immature.  God has something better for you.

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