Family Pets


An excerpt from Earth Psalms, available October 4:

Writers of the Bible taught lessons through all aspects of the natural world, including plants and animals, reptiles and insects. King David used metaphors of sheep and pastures. Solomon wrote proverbs about sparrows and dogs, pigs and vipers, ants, hyraxes, locusts, and lizards.

I’ve loved animals since I was a little girl. People dumped kittens along a busy road not far from our house. I’d find one, pet and hold it, and put it down again. Then I’d walk home v-e-r-y slowly. Of course, the kitten followed. Who wouldn’t with that kind of loving attention? And then I could tell my mother the truth: “I didn’t bring it home. It followed me.” My favorite was Tiki, a tiger-striped cat that slept with me.

We had a German shepherd named Bullet (a name courtesy of the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans television show). One of the neighbors had a large black dog everyone thought was part wolf. When riding my bike home one day, that dog came after me. Screaming, I pedaled as fast as any terrified eight-year-old could. Bullet broke his chain and got to the dog just before that dog got to me. I have never forgotten that dogfight. The black dog punched some holes in Bullet, but Bullet got him by the throat and wouldn’t let go. My father had to drag him off. Thankfully, the black dog survived. And he never bothered me again.

Rick’s dachshund, Bonzo Silverquelle, of Frankfurt, Germany, nicknamed “Beau,” adopted me when I became part of the Rivers family. He liked to sit in my lap. He lived a long, happy life. We adopted sweet-natured Lochinvar, a beautiful black-and-white German shepherd–collie mix who guarded Trevor when he was a baby in a bassinet.

With three children, pets became part of family life. We had goldfish and tropical fish; Samantha, the box turtle who dug her way to freedom; two water turtles we released into a natural pond; a Conure who ended up a breeder at the bird exchange; a cockatiel named Spike; two white rats and mice. Our children bought a couple from the pet store (without their mother’s permission) so they could set them free in the greenhouse. They were surprised the mice didn’t stick around. We also had various lizards and snakes and even some dryland hermit crabs that could have lived up to seventy years, if I hadn’t forgotten to remove them from the house when the pest control people came for the yearly service. I still feel guilty.

We have had a number of German shepherds over the years. Hercules (Herk) ate an entire five-pound frozen roast, along with the Styrofoam tray and plastic wrap he snatched off the kitchen counter. He also managed to reach and scarf down an entire family pack of T-bone steaks, bones and all, then ate an entire large homemade apple pie and a tray of brownies. He didn’t even burp.

Shabah (Arabic for “ghost”) came next, sweet and timid, adored the grandchildren. Now we are enjoying Sarge, another 120-pound German shepherd. He loves children, grown-ups, and animals, including the deer in the green space. The pizza delivery guys usually look terrified when they see him at the front door, but once invited in, Sarge shakes off the guard dog persona and gives them a big canine grin. “Hey, I’m not going to eat you, fella! Whatever you’ve got in that box smells good.” He knows he will get the crust.

Sarge also likes bananas. Rick has one a day for the potassium, and Sarge will sit right in front of him and wait for his share.

Look around at the animals you encounter. What can they teach you about our Creator God?