pets

The Weirdest Lenten Sacrifice

I’ve never done a weirder thing for Lent before.  Even before my current medical-dietary troubles, I’d decided that I didn’t want this Lent to be about food any more than already dictated by canon law.  I’ve made everything in my life about food, and past Lents were certainly no exception.  I wanted this year to be different. So I thought back to the preparatory penance I’d joked about making during this past Advent.

“What if I stopped talking in Sigma’s voice?”

My husband laughed–not because he didn’t know what I was talking about (as you likely don’t), but because it was a weird idea.

“Why would you give that up? It doesn’t hurt anybody.”

“I know,” I said.  “It’s not like there’s anything illicit in channeling your dog’s voice.  I don’t know, though.  Maybe it would be a good way to school my thoughts.”

I didn’t think of it again until the aforementioned gallbladder attack peaked one week to the day before Ash Wednesday.  Giving up Siggie’s voice it is.

What does that mean, even?  It means we’re crazy, that’s what it means.  Lots of people have pets.  Lots of those people talk to their pets.  We, however, make them answer back.  I’ve done this for all of my pets since my first cat at age 9 (his name was Hobie, and his voice sounded a bit like a fat, lazy C-3PO).  This guy…

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… is Sigma.  Isn’t he handome?

“Of course I am, Mommy, and you’re awesome, too!”

Aw, thanks, Siggie.  Siggie sounds and acts a little bit like Emmett from The Lego Movie, only more enthusiastic.

“Tennis ball? Awesome!  You’re taking me for a walk? Awesome! You dropped a french fry? AWESOME!!!!”

We have whole conversations, too.

“Doggies, did the girls feed you?”

Siggie replies, “No, they didn’t, Mommy.  I’m so hungry! Any food is dog food!”

From the bathroom down the hall, “Don’t listen to him, Mommy! I fed him!”

“No, she didn’t.  Don’t be ridiculous.”

Thunderstorm? He’s marching in front of me everywhere I go.  “Don’t worry, Mommy.  I’ll protect you from the scary thunder.”

“Actually, Siggie, I’m not really afraid of thunderstorms.”

“Of course you are.  Don’t be ridiculous.”

It’s a lot of fun having conversations with the dog.  It’s certainly not hurting anybody.  What kind of penance is giving up conversations with the fictional dog voice for 40 days? I didn’t even know… until today.  Today’s first reading is from Jonah, towards the end, where the king of Nineveh declares a fast and penance that extends even to the animals.  Why?  It’s not like animals need to work out their salvation in fear and trembling.  So what’s the point?

“Man and beast shall be covered with sackcloth…”

How can covering an animal with sackcloth help humans get closer to God?  Because it gives us a break from using God’s creation for so much pleasure.  Imagine this fluffy sock- and pencil-destroying angel covered in burlap:

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That’s Rapunzel.  Punzie doesn’t talk much, but she is soooo soft and fluffy and cuddly and… soothing.  It’s soothing to have these routines with our pets.

Lent isn’t necessarily about giving up sin.  Life is supposed to be giving up sin.  Lent is about becoming more like Christ in that we accept the cross rather than denying it for the sake of comfort, whether that comfort is malignant or benign. 

So that’s my weird Lenten sacrifice.  What’s yours?  Food? Money? Adding prayer? Adding charitable acts? Don’t toot your horn so much as offer options to anybody reading who might be looking for options of their own.  

7 Quick Takes Friday: A Catholic Looking for the Rainbow Bridge

Join up with Jennifer at Conversion Diary for 7 Quick Takes Friday!
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I sort of have a built-in theme for today (not sure if that’s how we’re allowed to do 7QT, but I’m a rebel). Last night we put our older dog, Willow, to sleep.

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–1–

Putting a pet down seems like it would be a complicated matter for someone who is against euthanasia. It’s not. Pets are family… but they are not people. Pets cannot gain any spiritual benefit or moral strength or dignity from suffering. We can. That’s one of those things about being made in the image and likeness of God. Our suffering is never wasted–unless we choose to waste it.

–2–

Pets are not made in the image and likeness of God, but like all creation, they do give us an image of God’s love for us, if we’ll just look. Did Willow ever give me the cold shoulder because I’d ignored her, forgotten to give her my table scraps, or yelled at her for being so very in the way with her 90lbs of cluelessness? In the event I might have, say, forgotten to let her back in on a 20F day because the toddler was puking in the basement… did she hold it against me? Never. There is no sin so great that will keep a dog away from you. God’s like that.

–3–

On that note, let’s talk about faith vs. works, a topic getting a lot of press these days. God doesn’t need anything from us. Duh. He’s God. If you have faith in Him, hooray for you. If faith is all you choose to have for him, what’s your relationship with Him going to look like? It’ll look a lot like the relationship of someone who ignores her dog all the time. That dog will still be sitting in the corner, waiting to be loved. The owner will be patting herself on the back, saying, “I rescued her. That’s good enough for her.” Is it? That owner won’t get to experience the reciprocal joy of a belly rub:

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If simply owning a dog isn’t the same as giving her a loving home, then how can we think believing in God is the same as making a loving home for Him in our hearts?

–4–

The more we allow ourselves to love and care for our pets, the more we–and our children–can see the merciful love God has for us. For instance, let’s talk about the time that Willow ate our Lenten Sacrifice Wreath THE NIGHT OF GOOD FRIDAY!

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Her “sin” contained her punishment: all that salt dough makes for a beast of a lab who has to spend her usual sleeping time asking to go outside to pee. All she needed was our forgiveness and compassion–and someone with functional thumbs to open the door for her.

–5–

Our ability to love deeply is an image of God’s love for us. However much we miss Willow right now? That’s only a fraction of how much God misses us when we turn away from Him.

–6–

Willow taught me how closely my kids are listening to me. There were times when I muttered under my breath how “stupid” she was. There were times she was barking at the joggers passing down the sidewalk and I yelled at her to “shut up.” I didn’t think anything of those things… until I heard my kids say them to Willow themselves. Something to think about.

–7–

And now a word about The Rainbow Bridge. Ask anybody who went to Catholic School, and they’ll tell you, “Those heartless (nuns/priests/brothers/whathaveyou) told us that our dogs and cats and hamsters and iguanas WILL NOT GO TO HEAVEN!”

Okay. I’m going out on a limb here. I’m pretty sure this is not heresy: I think those nuns/priests/brothers/whathaveyou overwhelmingly meant really well, but they may have been answering the wrong question. Do pets have souls in need of redemption? Of course not. We do. I think all that means is that, while we are capable of choosing Hell, pets simply are not. If a sparrow can’t fall without God caring about it, how much more must He care about pets who taught us, His very favorite creations, about how to have a closer relationship with Him? If there can be precious stones in heaven, and if God promises to wipe every tear from our eyes, then I humbly submit that it is possible that God has put pet beds in the many rooms He has prepared for us.

And I’d like to think Willow is snoring in one of those beds right now.