I wish that the late Pope John Paul II of blessed memory had done more for
the animals -like writing an encyclical re the need to treat animals compassionately,
but he didn't. We have to be satisfied that he revealed to a group of people in
attendance that animals do indeed have souls. It was never said before, so this
was a wonderful breakthrough in Catholic thinking.
What that means to different people is of no real concern or interest to me. Some
I believe have already tried to water down its meaning, but people of compassion
Recently, when I was feeding bird bread that I had just purchased to the gulls
at a small shopping plaza that had a great empty parking lot, a truck appeared
and pulled over by me. The man who got out wanted me to know how much he
liked my '72 Comet.
I laughed remembering that a lady I asked to take my Comet out on the highway
to blow out the carbon observed when starting to drive my car that my brakes were
no good! She obviously had never experienced drum brakes before. I realized I
would have to ask someone else. Even my Florida brother-in-law had to get use to
them again before we went on the highway. Of course, they are old hat to me. I
would probably not like the tap brakes.
Yes, the man said he preferred the touch brakes as well, but then I told him that I bet
he would rather pay for my car tune-up than his with a catalytic converter. He agreed.
From there, I asked him if he cared about animals. Not really he responded. This
"good" Catholic reminded me that Ps. 8 said that God gave us dominion over the
animals and they were made for our use. Oh no, I thought -had he not learned to go
beyond the utility principle of St. Thomas Aquinas and learn to think for himself?
The Bible also says that God is kind and compassionate to all his creatures (Ps. 145).
Well, after more back and forth re the cruelty of chicken battery cages, he said that he
has some free range chickens- as though that would satisfy me. I wondered how can
anyone feel good about the existence of thousands of free range chickens when there
are billions of chickens suffering in tight battery cages? That's a no-brainer in my opinion-
but not to him, and he left saying only again that he liked my Comet. I wished instead
that he had said that he would give some more thought to how we treat the animals.
The accounts I am about to recount show that animals are intelligent and many of
them exhibit a special inner beauty which I feel God bestowed on them. Sometimes
they put us to shame when we read their stories of love, sensitivity, and concern for us.
HAWKEYE. I am sure many of you already have seen the endearing but sad picture of
this black Labrador Retriever stretched out before his best friend's casket during the
funeral service in church for Jon Tomilson. He was one of the 30 American Navy Seals
killed on August 6th when a rocket-propelled grenade took out a U.S. Chinock Helicopter.
Now tell me if there are any skeptics out there that this dog wasn't mourning because
only humans have that capability. Looking at him sprawled out before the coffin, I
imagine even brought more tears to the eyes of many in the congregation. This special
bond between Jon and Hawkeye was now gone forever.
Too bad Descartes had not seen this picture of dog mourning when he lived. He had
one time nailed a live dog to a board and cut him open and declared that the pitiful
cries of this dog were nothing more than mere automatic reflexes and that he felt no
pain. Can't believe that this man was one of the scientists par excellence of the Middle
Ages and that his asinine views were accepted.
GILLIGAN. I've already written about Gilligan in an earlier post but still can't
get over this dog's great intelligence, courage, and concern for the little boy who
he knew depended on him. The little boy, Michael, intrigued by the notion of a Polar
Bear Express train he learned about in school, one day disappeared from his backyard
with his best friend Gilligan to meet Santa on the mountaintop near his home in
Amazingly, both reached the mountain summit but to Michael's dismay, Santa was not
there. He was very disappointed but realized it was getting late and they would have
to resume their search again another time. So they made their way down the mountain.
Unfortunately, they took a wrong path and by now were hopelessly lost. Michael was
tired and hungry. I believe he even began to cry. Who wouldn't? Gilligan, sensing
the seriousness of spending a freezing night with his little friend so desponded, did
an amazing thing.
They were near a highway and Gilligan left Michael and went to the highway and laid
down on this road- hoping that a car would stop when they saw his prone body. What
marvelous thinking for a dog who in ages past was considered an automaton lacking
Yes, his ploy worked. A man driving a semi saw his prone body and stopped -thinking
he could help the hurt dog. But the "hurt" dog sprang to life and agitated greatly-
moving excitedly back and forth so that the man would follow him to Michael. It
worked! Later, one terribly anxious and worried mom got the best news of her life
when the driver called her up to tell her that one very tired little boy and his dog
were on their way home.
ROSELLE. This beautiful Golden Retriever was the guide dog for Michael
Hinson who on 9/11 had been working on the 78th floor of the North Tower of
the World Trade Center when the first plane exploded into the building above
him. Thank God for Roselle who safely led her blind friend down an incredible
1,463 steps to safety just minutes before the tower collapsed. Amazing, and
amazing as well were the rescue search dogs who spent days and days sifting through
the twisted columns and crumbled remains of the towers looking for survivors.
It is said that some of the dogs were even much saddened at day's end of searching
without finding any people alive in the rubble. They were indefatigable and were
willing to work as long as their handlers wanted them to. There were many bruised
and cut paws suffered by these heroic dogs.
CATS. I have checked the internet and there are also great stories of heroic cats. A
couple of them saved their owners by waking them up as fire started in their home. One
fearless cat jumped two pit bulls who were menacing his owner. Distracted by the
"ferocious" feline, the woman escaped to safety. The cat was also unharmed. What
daring and what courage. I know this cat was deeply loved and appreciated for his
act of courage.
HENRY. Care 2 member Andrew Quilliam submitted a true story about how his
friend's life was saved by a friendship with one of the tiniest members of the rodent
family. When telling this story he began by observing: "Having been an animal lover
for many years, I believe in their deep intelligence. I often observe how our pets
seem to come in knowing unconditional love, something it takes us humans years
to learn, if ever."
This is an unusual story because it is a story about a friendship between a man and a
mouse. Michael, a friend had come to spend a retreat for a month to live in a mountain
hermitage on the Island of Maui.