Ms. Daisy is becoming pretty popular these days. That’s partly my fault, since I love to post on social media about the adventures of our lhasa apso-poodle mix. She’s just … fun. Her playfulness is contagious and her affectionate nature is capable of melting the hearts of even the most hardened dog haters.
She’s also sweet, in the opinion of her “fans.” Of course, I think she’s sweet, but I’m biased. Personal feelings aside, I do find it intriguing that people pick up on her sweetness even in a picture posted online. Is it her eyes? The way she holds herself? Regardless, folks are finding Ms. Daisy’s sweetness irresistible.
Why? What is it about sweetness – in a dog, cat, bunny or any other kind of pet – that pulls us? It isn’t what the animal does, or how it looks, but what happens inside of us when we encounter it.
It has less to do with the animal itself than it does with our yearning for God’s love and the way it is reflected in his creatures. Animals, in particular the soft, furry kind, evoke compassion in us. St. Francis knew all about this. In fact, he warned about men who do not have compassion for animals.
“If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have menwho will deal likewise with their fellow men,” he said.
That’s something about which to think. St. Francis wasn’t raised to the honors of the altar for spewing gibberish. His words are a lesson.
So, when I think of this in respect to Ms. Daisy, I realize it’s not just that she’s cute, sweet or does funny things, but that she touches a part of people that needs to be touched. She is for them – as she is for me – a small sample of God’s incredible love.
An exorcist once told me he takes his dog – a gentle, loving, big-hearted canine – along with him to exorcisms. The dog waits outside the room until the exorcism is finished, and then his master brings him in. The dog offers compassion and love to the person just exorcised, a welcome comfort after the ordeal. The dog has a healing effect on them, the priest told me. I can well believe it.
For as much as I love Ms. Daisy, I’m also aware I must not love her in the same way I love human beings. There’s a vital difference, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches.
“Animals are God’s creatures. He surrounds them with his providential care. By their mere existence they bless him and give him glory. Thus men owe them kindness.
“We should recall the gentleness with which saints like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Philip Neri treated animals” (CCC, 2416).
We not only can, but must, appreciate the animals in our lives. On the other hand, there are limits.
“It is likewise unworthy to spend money on them that should as a priority go to the relief of human misery. One can love animals; one should not direct to them the affection due only to persons” (CCC, 2418).
I’ll keep on posting about the irresistible Ms. Daisy, lavishing her with affection and soaking up her affection for me for as long as I can. I hope it’ll be a good long time, but she’s middle-aged, and I know she’ll die someday. In the meantime, I’ll let her continue to bring joy to me and to others. I’ll use her adventures, not only for entertainment, but also as a means of revealing hints of God’s love for us.
(Fenelon, a mother of four, and her husband, Mark, belong to St. Anthony Parish, Milwaukee. Visit her website: www.margefenelon.com.)