Dogs: One of God’s Wonders

April 11, 2020

by Maria Fontaine

A while ago someone drew my attention to some poems that had helped them after their beloved pet died. The poems moved me to tears, recalling the pets that I had had—and lost—when I was growing up.1

If you are saddened over the loss of a pet, these poems might make you cry even more. However, crying isn’t a bad thing; it’s part of the natural process of mourning. For many people, losing a pet can feel similar to the loss of a family member. My question was: “Are the benefits of having a pet worth the emotional difficulties that this or any emotional connection can bring?”

As I further pursued this topic of how pets can help us, I began to realize how important they have become in many people’s lives. Some might feel that developing such strong bonds with pets is somehow wrong, but these emotional connections can help many in times when they are struggling with loneliness or are trying to cope with traumatic events. I believe that many times the Lord provides the emotional support people need through such bonds with pets.

Often in this world where loneliness and isolation are widespread, a pet that responds to the owner’s love in consistent and simple ways can help fill the deep human need for companionship. In many cases, dogs seem to be especially adept at becoming companions and a vital part of someone’s life. Dogs and some other animals have an uncanny sense of their owner’s needs.

Pets can provide their owner with a sense of purpose in feeling that they are needed by their pet.

After thinking about what God has given to the world through domesticated animals, especially dogs, I have been amazed! I think they’re one of God’s wonders!

Some of the many ways in which dogs help mankind include:

Guide dogs: The first school for guide dogs was established in Germany after World War I in order to assist soldiers who had been blinded or injured during the war. The assistance of guide dogs has changed the lives of many thousands of visually impaired people, serving as their eyes and protecting them from danger. In recent times dogs have also been trained to act in a similar way for the deaf.

Protection/Guard dogs: A well-known job for certain types of dogs is that of a guard dog to protect families, properties, or businesses.

Therapy dogs: A therapy dog’s sole purpose is to help people feel better. They have also been found to help reduce PTSD symptoms in soldiers and other victims of trauma. They seem to provide a calming spirit and emotional support when these people need it. You’ll see them with their human partners walking the halls of hospitals, retirement and nursing homes, hospice centers and disaster relief areas.

Herding dogs: These amazing animals help maintain control of livestock, rounding them up when it’s time to bring them in from the fields. They also help protect the herds.

Search and rescue dogs: These dogs are trained to take advantage of their amazing sense of smell and direction. They go into serious disaster situations to find and help retrieve lost people.

Detection dogs: These sleuths can find just about anything they’re trained to locate, from drugs to explosives, specific foods, humans, and even money. Detection dogs can be found at airports, police stations, border crossings, and schools. Some detection dogs have even been trained to sniff out certain illnesses in people, including cancer.

Sled dogs: Imagine a pack of dogs having the strength, discipline, and organization to effectively pull a sled full of goods and humans through the coldest winds and harshest snows. Sled dogs have unmatchable resilience, and many people in the most northern corners of the world often rely on them for transportation and deliveries of crucial goods, such as medicine.

Companion dogs: In recent times, when societies in general have become increasingly splintered and the family unit has been weakened, a major side effect has been a worldwide epidemic of loneliness, isolation, and a serious lack of physical contact.

We were created to live in communities and families, and physical contact is an essential part of our survival. People who are lonely, disabled, or suffering often turn to pets for comfort. God in His love has created dogs, as well as other types of pets, to provide a substitute to help us fill this most fundamental of human needs.2

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One social worker described two examples of the importance of dogs in the lives of those she helps care for:

Jackie, a pound-rescue pooch, is the lifeline of love for my friend who lives alone in a housing project. Jackie gets her favorite bacon treats as often as her mistress can manage.

Rascal, a mini wolf dog, lives on the streets with his master, a metal-studded man who sees that Rascal wears his coat when it is cold and sleeps next to him at night to ward off the wind.

When I first encountered homeless people with dogs, I was judgmental, thinking, “How can they pay for dog food and the vet? Isn’t that poor money management?” Over time I learned that the dogs were key to their survival.

The dogs reflect the love that they receive back into the hearts of those who they have bonded with, no matter how imperfect it may look to us. Dogs don’t care if you are old, or didn’t get the promotion, or flunked the math test. When you return home from a 20-minute errand or a day away, they greet you as if you were the most important person on the planet. It’s as if God created dogs and other pets as one more way in which He reaches into our hearts with His love.

So, to my way of thinking, dogs are sort of like four-legged ambassadors of encouragement, a reminder of God’s love that is in our hearts that sometimes we lose sight of in the midst of troubles. They remind us that God still loves and cares and protects us not for what we have, or do, or look like, but for who we are inside.3

(Maria:) Someone brought up the point to me that dogs in the Bible were often seen as representative of something very base and disgusting. While that is true, on the other hand, a further search of historical records in biblical times indicates that some dogs were domesticated and some people considered them healing animals. In the story of Lazarus and the rich man, it says that the dogs licked his wounds. Many considered this a method of promoting healing.

The dogs referred to negatively in the Bible were packs of wild dogs, scavengers who were at times dangerous and carried many diseases. Dogs weren’t usually treated as pets in the present sense until Victorian times, when they were seen as companions for the rich. In the 1900s, dogs became pets for the common people.

People often wonder if their pets will be with them in heaven. God loved these animals enough to create them. He declared that His creation is good. He has promised to restore His creation, and the Bible says that no good thing will He withhold from us. The Bible talks about many animals being in heaven. I believe they are a touch of God’s compassion for humankind when we need that extra connection in a way we can see, touch, and experience. Personally, I can’t imagine heaven without them.

3 Adapted from Judy Knotts, “A Sacred Bond: The Unconditional Love Between a Dog and His Person,” Austin American-Statesman, May 10, 2017.