I recently read an article about an individual who adopted a puppy from an animal shelter. This particular shelter was known for having a high kill rate. This shelter would keep the animals for a period of time, but due to the constraints and limitations of inadequate space and funding, it would euthanize the animals that were not claimed or adopted after a reasonable period of time. The puppy that this individual adopted was at the end of its allotted time.
After the adoption, this individual developed a moderate neurological disorder that would cause seizures. This individual said that, ironically, the dog is able to detect the onset of those seizures before that individual is even aware of it. The dog will start barking hysterically, thus alerting the individual of the onset of an episode before it starts. So today, the dog that was once a puppy rescued from an animal shelter, is now that individual’s service dog. And the canine life that was once saved is now saving the life of its human every day.
I read another story about a lady who has two dogs. One of her dogs is missing one leg due to an unfortunate incident that occurred earlier in the life of that dog. Her other dog is perfectly normal and healthy. When she walks her two dogs, the three legged dog will walk with a limp. Ironically, her perfectly normal and healthy dog will also walk with a limp, apparently mimicking the actions of the injured dog so that it won’t feel alone and different.
Many of us take our four legged earthly companions for granted, frequently mistreating or abusing them. But in many ways, these creatures that travel with us on our earthly journey are more devoted to us than we are to them and are more aware of our needs than we are of theirs.
When our Lord and Savior came to earth to become one of us, He was born in a stable. He wasn’t in a hospital room or in a nursery surrounded by other infants. His companions, as he laid there in that manger, were four legged creatures. Other than His earthly mother and father, the first eyes to look upon the Newborn King were those of the animals.
As I reflect on the sensitive and caring nature of the dogs in the two above mentioned stories, I can’t help but think about the animals in the stable on that very first glorious Christmas morning. And I wonder how did those animals react? What did they do? How blessed and fortunate they were to be in that place at that time. Our Father God chose the four legged creatures of this earth to be the first witnesses of the birth of His only Son.
In our second reading for Christmas day, Saint Paul tells us to, “Live temperately, justly and devoutly.” How do we live that kind of life? We all need to learn a lesson from the animals; to learn from their devotion, their caring, and their sensitivity.
As we celebrate during this season of Christmas, may each and every one of us learn to imitate the loving, devoted, caring and sensitive nature of our four legged companions, and always remember that those who were the first witnesses of the birth of our Savior were the animals.