I recently took a tour of a new fitness facility that just opened in our area. This place is the bees knees of Exercise-dom, with everything you can think of from a juice bar, spin classroom, group fitness area, basketball court, pool, sauna, and all manner of state of the art equipment.
The draw for me? The child care room.
So when I greeted my tour guide with toddler in tow, that’s immediately what I asked to see. She swiftly guided me to the Kid’s Club Zone, and upon further inspection, my son and I approved. The tour continued throughout the complex where I Ooo’d and Aaah’d a bit, and basically waited to hear what a pretty penny this place would cost.
Finally, the guide turned sales rep on me and sat me down to go over the membership fees. As I listened, my son squirmed and managed to wriggle away, but only within arm’s length beside me. Nevertheless, my attention was diverted. The sales rep sensed it and tried to endear herself.
“Not to worry, I’ve got my eye on him, too!”
“Okay, thank you,” I said.
The conversation carried on and was about to conclude when I turned around to see my son straying a little further off.
“Oh, they are quick, aren’t they?” She said. “You’ve just got one, I’ve got three . . .three four-legged children.”
I grinned…out of both politeness and surprise. What else could I do? She just equated her dogs to children. And she also seemed to place value on the numerical amount in relation to my only having one …child.
Now, I don’t begrudge this lady. She was trying to be nice and relatable while doing her job. Only, certain (sarcastically serious) things come to mind upon further reflection of this common worldview:
1. I know! Just give a barren couple a dog! It’s the same, right?
2. Or three…they’ll certainly forget about their suffering …with more dogs.
3. Dogs are people, too. (Um, why do people say that about non-people?)
Anyway, apologies in advance to all you animal lovers out there. I have a dog. I like him fine. And I know that they can seem like children. (Especially the housebreaking and destroying things part.) But you hopefully get what I mean. Pets certainly can and do bring comfort and pleasure, but they are not people. Dominion over animals in Genesis 1:26 defines that they have a different value, both to us and to God.
And it is worth delving into a bit deeper for a minute. As so often articulated here, children are a gift from God. And while animals are certainly gifts for our use, too, Jesus did not die on the cross to save Fido from his sins. Animals have not been inspired to be reconciled to God like we. Otherwise we’d see caribou, tigers and giraffe baptizing each other on safari. (“On the left we have the King of the Jungle immersing Simba into the family of God…”) Oh boy, I’ve been watching too much Disney and Pixar.
But essentially that sales rep was viewing my son as such…as equitably as her pets. And that’s wrong.
So, go ahead. Go Dog Whisperer on your canine and put him on the treadmill. Train him to do all sorts of tricks. Snuggle and even pray that God keeps Fluffy healthy and safe. Just please, oh please, do not put animals on the same plane as humanity. Rest assured humans, and only humans have souls which are uniquely created in God’s image as creatures to be in communion with Him. And we are given a unique responsibility to carry out those distinctions in how we treat each of God’s creatures, human and animal separately.
But, heck, what do I know? Who’d like to be so bold as to try to advise a barren or secondary infertile couple that a pet will be an equitable stand-in or replacement for a child (biological, foster, adoptive or otherwise)? Let me know how that goes!
In the meantime, you’ll find me working out (mommy-sans pet owner-stress) in the gym.