Gabi is my little dog. I met her one Friday afternoon after I’d spent the afternoon doing some pastoral visits that left me angry and sad. I did not want to bring that energy into Shabbat with me, so I called my friend Julie and asked if I could stop by her place and play with the dogs for a bit.
Julie is one of the good angels of Poodle Rescue of Las Vegas, and she often has a foster dog or two around. That day she had a silver toy poodle with a big white bandage. The tiny dog was found on the street in Las Vegas sporting a huge tumor under one foreleg. She was filthy and her fur was matted from months of neglect. Animal Control notified Poodle Rescue, and Julie and Colleen saw to it that she got the health care and the grooming she needed.
When I walked into the house, that tiny dog began bouncing and trying to get my attention. I picked her up, and she snuggled into my shoulder as if she’d been my doggie forever. I was amazed by her trust, despite neglect, despite the cruelty of the street. She trusted me.
In the book of Genesis it says:
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
Many human beings have used that verse to support the idea that animals are here to serve us, that we can do whatever we want with them. That’s not how I read it. I believe we have been given our power over animals in trust. We are responsible to see to it that they are treated with decency, with respect, with the same care that their Creator would give them, no less. Judaism traditionally recognizes decency towards animals as a mitzvah.
If we have animals in our lives, if we have pets, or if we eat animals or animal products, how do we carry out that responsibility of trust? How can we as individuals and as a society do better?
Something to ponder.
If you are interested in acquiring a pet, consider adopting a rescue animal. Your local shelter has many animals that need homes. If you want a specific breed, try Googling “rescue” and the name of the breed. Your BFF may be waiting in a foster home near you.