Rorate Caeli

Op-Ed: Happy Birthday to Dog?

Paulus Potter, A farmer with his herd (1648) - Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel

The days are getting warmer and, in a green square of a midsize town, tables are laid. A large cake, numerous snacks, "Happy Birthday to You" is sung enthusiastically -- and no child in sight.

There are sixteen adults and seven dogs.

It seems birthday parties for pets are quite common these days. It truly takes a suspension of reason to have it in such a grand form and in such a public setting. There is something inherently childish in almost every birthday party: children enjoy the small fantasy and playfulness of each of these events, it makes "sense" to them. It makes absolutely no sense to animals.

Yet, with no children around to partake of these festivities, the very absurdity of the situation is made manifest, though ignored by those present: this really is the new normal... Every month, there are growing signs that everywhere in the West children are disappearing, as pets are even more anthropomorphized by their owners than they already were.

It was not supposed to be like this.

"Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it, and rule over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and all living creatures that move upon the earth." The wisdom of Holy Scripture once again makes clear the great order of Creation: in the same command, childbearing ("increase and multiply") is linked with the lordship of mankind over all of the natural world ("subjicite eam", "subdue it"). It makes absolute sense that, as childbearing is excluded, it is nature that subdues mankind, either by an excessive deference to a heathenized "Mother Earth" or by the replacement of children with animals.

The traditional view of things was and is quite different. Outside the urban environment, in the rural life that used to be common to all and known to all, animals are loved, and respected for what they are. 

They are cared for, and cherished, even though (or perhaps because) many of them are raised to be consumed. Contact with nature and both domesticated and wild animals is close and permanent. Children are wanted, and they are reared in close proximity with the animals that serve the land. This is true stewardship of nature.

And in the darkness of the night the traditional man and woman look to the sky and see the grand order of creation, of which each human being is an instrument of God, in a firmament filled with the glorious fireworks of the stars: "Domine, Dominus noster, quam admirabile est nomen tuum in universa terra! Quoniam elevata est magnificentia tua super cælos." (Ps. 8)