The Superiority of the Domesticated and the Civilized
In the summer of 2020, Londoner Russell Jones broke his right ankle and spent months hobbling around with cast and crutches. It was during this time he noticed some peculiar about his pet dog – Billy. Billy began walking with a pronounced limp. Jones inspected his dog’s “injured” leg and checked his paw for thorns, split pads, and injured nails. He couldn’t find anything. So, he brought Billy to the vet who examined and X-rayed the pooch. The vet told Russell Jones “There’s nothing wrong with Billy. This may simply be a case of pet empathy. The dog is imitating your behavior.”
As ludicrous as this sounded, Russell’s wife noticed that when he was away from home, Billy tore through the yard like a rocket. He exhibited no limp at all. Yet when Russell returned home, Billy reverted to his limp.
Russell posted videos on social media of him and his dog walking together – and of the dog walking with his wife. Billy hobbled along with a bad limp while accompanying his master. Yet he raced up and down the yard when walking with his master’s wife. Although initially irritated with Billy for costing him a $400 vet bill, the whole matter eventually warmed his heart. He had one heck of a dog for a pet – one which felt for him and showed solidarity with him.
You know, whenever wolves and domesticated dogs are compared, wolves always seem to win the popularity contest. Domesticated pets are viewed as clowns or mere children compared to their smarter and stronger counterparts. Wolves have reached such levels of popularity that they’ve been reintroduced into our National Parks, despite the havoc they wreak upon the herds of local farmers. Our love affair with wild predators has resulted our adopting that very term for the names of science-fiction thrillers and military weapon systems.
But is our infatuation with wild beasts over tamed pets really justified? A domesticated dog will protect his “pack” (i.e. his family) against bigger and more dangerous threats. But wolves, unless accompanied by many others, will run from a bigger threat. You say, “That’s because a wolf is too smart to tangle with something bigger than himself all alone.” Too smart or too cowardly? Too smart or too selfish?
Let’s face it. Predators are cowardly opportunists. They’re not looking for a fair fight, but an easy kill. Predators seek the path of least resistance. That’s why they only go after the young, the weak, the sick, and the injured – unless, of course, they can attack in large numbers. A wild animal will not stay behind with a limping man. It certainly won’t mimic his limp as a display of sympathy. A wild animal will see the limping man as an opportunity for an easy meal.
And whose behavior is more admirable? Certainly, the sympathetic dog’s behavior is superior. He feels for his owner and restricts his own behavior rather than outrunning his master. He displays the characteristics we praise in people – kindness, sympathy, and empathy.
Yes, there are humans who consider these virtues as weaknesses – until they’ve tried to display them. For anyone who’s attempted to be kind and empathetic to others – especially to jerks – knows that it requires a whole lot of strength and energy to do so. In contrast, it’s easy to be selfish and thoughtless. It’s easy to only look out for your own skin and not be burdened with caring for others. In both man and beast, predators are cowardly weaklings who shy away from a real fight. They’re bullies who only pick on those smaller and weaker than themselves.
So, hooray for the domesticated dog and the civilized human being. Hooray for Billy and other tender-hearted dogs who are like him. Earth has too many self-centered creatures. May their numbers dwindle! But may the gentle, the kind, and the Christ-like inherit the earth forever (Psalm 37:9, 11, 22, 29, 34; Matthew 5:5).
PRAYER: Dear Father in heaven, thank You for the kind and gentle creatures You raise up to be a blessing to humanity. If a mere dog like Billy can show empathy for his owner, how much more should I show love, kindness, and empathy for those who cross my path. Please, dear Father, make me an instrument of Your peace, love, and healing in the lives of others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.