Pets and Stewardship

As a pastor’s kid, I came to learn about many of the strange problems parishioners found themselves in. Money is a constant issue, or should I say lack of money.  What is interesting is how people in financial hardship often are unable to make the necessary changes in their lifestyle to get out of a money crunch.

One family I was aware of, was having financial problems. Same story, too much money going out compared to the money coming in. Interestingly, the family had a few dogs, a cat, a bird, and fish, if memory serves. My dad suggested they get rid of the pets. Nothing doing.

What strikes me about that story is how the situations we find ourselves in often results directly from the choices we make based on our values. The aforementioned family believed that their pets were more important than resolving their financial problem. Of course, the family wanted a handout, a quick fix to a rather systemic problem. But what interests me, is how common this notion is in contemporary society.  People, even those who call themselves Christians, are spending hundreds, even thousands of dollars on their pets for medical care. Many who do this are not rich by any stretch of the imagination.Owners are now paying to veterinarians to administer cancer treatment, various corrective surgeries, and more. Some owners now take care of their diabetic pets.

But I believe that whether you are rich or not, you should NOT be spending your money on expensive treatments on your pet. In a time where missionaries, the homeless are suffering privations, to see Christians spend hundreds and thousands of dollars on a pet is truly awful. Whenever the character more advices here online, learner evolve into more crafty.

Wouldn’t it be better to just euthanize the animal and get a new one from a shelter? Are people so emotionally codependent on an animal that they are guilted into spending God’s money on extreme and costly procedures that will do nothing for the kingdom of God?

Sad. Christians should be ashamed of themselves.  By the way, before the hatemail kicks in. I own 2 cats (indoor cats because I care about protecting wildlife from cat predation) and a dog.  The dog was a puppymill rescue, and a cat came from a shelter.  The other cat came from a family that was undergoing a divorce.  But make no mistake. If any of my pets (note they are pets not companion animals) get cancer.  They won’t be getting chemo.

  1. Stephen
    I agree mainly with your comments, but I’m not sure whether your view quite takes into account how important a pet becomes for (say) elderly people living alone. I’ve had experience of knowing well two such people, both spinsters (both Christians too), for whom their animals became like the child they never had. So much love is invested in such a pet that I think your (if I may so) rather cold rationale goes out the window.

    My wife and I felt pretty much as you do until our children grew up and left home, when our then dog, Penny – and now Molly – took over our affections to a greater extent. I wept like a child when we had Penny put down as she’d become the ‘family’ at home. Although we didn’t spend a fortune on chemo etc, I find it difficult to agree with your judgement that Christians who do should necessarily be ‘ashamed of themselves’. We don’t know the individual circumstances, nor how much the pet means to the person in question.

    Yes, people do get ’emotionally codependent’ on animals. Are they ‘guilted’ into spending money on them? Maybe sometimes. But maybe sometimes, they are driven only by real love and concern and are desperately frightened that they may be losing their most cherished earthly companion.

    Though there are many other things millions of Christians might also be guilty of spending inappropriately on, you’ve picked a pretty emotive area to take a pop at here! It’ll be interesting to see what comments you get.

  2. Stephen, If you select the material for your premise as carefully as you have done you are going to reach the conclusion you want. Of course, it is wrong to spend excessive amounts of money on keeping sick animals alive. It may even be cruel. But read the true story below. Only the names have been changed.

    CALIBAN AND LUKE

    Luke had difficulties from the day he came into the world. The medical people at the hospital did things to him to make sure they saved his life – things his parents knew nothing about until later. He was brought home and laid on the window seat for everyone to admire. Caliban the big old farm dog who had come into town with family came over and sniffed. He started at Luke’s toes and worked his way up to his head. It was a thorough sniffing and concluded with a lick right across the child’s face. Grandma was shocked that parents could be so irresponsible as to allow such treatment. Caliban sat back and looked at Luke. The family always said that it was at that moment that the dog took on the job of looking after the child.

    Luke had many problems, physical, mental and emotional. The family supported him as well as any family could, but Caliban was always there for him. If the child wandered away, the dog was there to see that he came to no harm. Later when there were difficulties with school work or music or parents or anything else, Caliban was a constant friendly and sympathetic presence. Inevitably, he was the subject of ‘Show and Tell’ and of various compositions and pieces of poetry. Sometimes, when nothing seemed to go right for Luke, one glimpsed him in his room sitting on his bed with Caliban sitting sadly in front of him – a sympathetic and listening presence. Once when the family sat at table, ‘friends’ became the topic of conversation. ‘Who is your best friend, Luke?’ an older brother asked. ‘Caliban’ The reply was without hesitation.

    A time came when Caliban did not want to come in at night. One eventually had to go and lift him out of the snow and carry him inside to his box. Later, it became necessary to carry him out side. The vet X-rayed him and pointed our the shadows on his image. He had cancer. It was not easy to convince Luke that his adored, best friend would have to be ‘put down’. I suppose it would have been done, had not the family returned from church one Sunday evening to find Caliban dead beside Luke’s bed. ‘That shows’, said the child that he was thinking of me when he died’.

    I have not told the story well, but I think I have made my point. Something is lost, Stephen, when you reduce so important a matter to a simple formula.

    Peter

    PS I wonder what St. Francis would have said!

  3. Stephen et al – you know I didn’t get the feeling that Stephen was being heartless here as Peter and Chris seem to infer, but equally I don’t intend to justify his words for him; I’m sure he can do that more eloquently than I, if he were to choose to.

    I am interested in the way that this post sits alongside the many and various issues which we are not really allowed to discuss in today’s society; others might include man’s part in the present climate change, the right and wrong of homosexual practice, faith and death etc. etc.

    It seems to me that the nub of Stephen’s post is the correct use of resources and yet the responses thus far have majored on the value of animal companionship? That’s interesting too.

    I know a number of people who are devoted to their animals and as I think about it, it is generally the non Christians who will keep spending and sometimes with a huge outlay for just a day or so of time more with an animal that is struggling with pain.

    I’m in danger of degenerating into a long ramble: time to stop….

  4. Clearly my post has shown that Christians need to think seriously about the money they are spending on their pets. I have no doubt that people become attached to their animals, just as one can with inanimate objects. The issue is whether it glorifies God to do so. It is sad that people have to find companionship with an animal because we are too busy as a people to interact with each other.

  5. Chris Lazenby

    Stephen
    I still think you are correct in your views re chemo-therapy (etc) for pets, but your comment ‘It is sad that people have to find companionship with an animal because we are too busy as a people to interact with each other’ is patronising and shows a lack of understanding. I love my little dog very much and I certainly do NOT lack human companionship. But even if I did, I can’t understand why you’d have a problem with that; after all, there could be a thousand good reasons for my loneliness other than my being ‘too busy’. In fact, being busy socially and then returning to an empty house can exacerbate the loneliness for people who live by themselves.

    Finally, you make a point about whether or not we glorify God by our attachment to animals and inanimate objects. You’ve thrown a false premise into the argument here. Animals are NOT inanimate objects. I may not glorify God by caring for, and loving my car, but caring for, and showing love towards, conscious animals is a very different thing.

    For millions of people living alone, however full (or otherwise) their social life may be, a pet is something to come home to; something to love and be loved by. I’m sad that you don’t see this and hope that over time your views will soften a little.

  6. It does bother me that at my church, we bless animals but accept homosexuals only on condescending terms; if they ever came, they would receive a half-hearted welcome. Peter

  7. Well I believe the Church should welcome homosexuals along with every other sinner into the church. After all, that is what the gospel is for to deliver us for evil lifestyles that stand as open rebellion to God.

    I will accept homosexualism along with other sins because I too am a forgiven sinner , but the church should never affirm any sinful lifestyle. Christ loves us to much to leave us trapped in our sinful condition.

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