Posts Tagged ‘Nature’

Abby and Gorilla

Abby watching a gorilla at a distance

Apart from the observation that some children appear to be animals, this post is a commentary on how well children and animals go together.

I had the chance over the past few days to witness this fact again for the millionth time, first when my wife and I took our granddaughter to the zoo on Tuesday, and then in watching children around animals at the state fair on Wednesday.  Of course, every day’s walk with my dog to a nearby park also reinforces the attraction of kids to animals and vice versa.

On Tuesday’s trip to the Louisville Zoo, my granddaughter was most anxious to see the giraffes.  We headed in that general direction and soon saw the giraffes as part of our 2.5 hours of strolling around all kinds of animals.  Fortunately, we caught her before she crawled under a barrier that would’ve allowed her right next to an indoor stall where a baby giraffe was feeding.  (Shhhhh… don’t tell her parents.)  There is a natural curiosity of children toward animals as well as a lack of fear, even when a healthy dose of fear (or at least respect from a distance) is in order.

This was my first trip to the zoo with Abby, and as animal lovers, we felt right at home.  It won’t be our last.

Kids watching ducks at the state fair

Kids watching ducks at the state fair

Then Wednesday at the state fair we witnessed many, many animals.  I couldn’t help but notice some of the small children who were members of the families who owned the farm animals and cared for them.  They were right at home pulling up a chair and sitting next to their animals, walking them, grooming them, showing them, leading them, talking to them, etc.  It was just as natural to those children as could be.

We also sat and watched a little bit of a horse show while at the fair, the first competition being with riders who were eight years old on their huge show horses.  On a return trip later in the day, I noticed a small petting zoo area I had missed earlier.  Petting zoos are child magnets as little hands reach out to touch whichever animals they are allowed to pet.

Last night while walking my dog at the park near our home, two young boys chased me down to ask if they could pet Callie.  The answer to that question will always be, “Sure!”  Callie knows no strangers and will befriend anyone interested in her.

Younger Abby riding Callie

Younger Abby riding Callie

It didn’t take experiences from this week, though, to teach me about kids and animals.  I grew up with pets nearly all my life.  My parents and grandparents owned farms with horses and cattle.  I’ve almost always had a dog or two as well as a variety of other pets.  Life just doesn’t feel right for me unless I have a canine companion nearby.

I think it’s important for children to have pets.  So many life lessons can be taught through such a relationship.  It is through having a pet that many children first learn to take care of another creature who depends on them for food and drink.  The companionship of a loving pet provides joy, satisfaction and unconditional love that is not always felt in human relationships.  Some of life’s toughest lessons such as dealing with grief are taught through the tears of losing a beloved pet.  Respect for all of God’s creation is best taught through actual interaction with that creation rather than as a philosophical concept we hope carries over should the opportunity arise.

My son, Jason, at age 3 covered with cicadas

My son, Jason, at age 3 in 1987 covered with cicadas

So parents, I encourage you to endure the inconvenience of having pets when the children don’t keep their promise of taking care of them as they said they would when you got the pet.  Allow them the chance to have some strange creatures in your home that you’d be quite content to never have inside your walls (like the tarantula I had in high school).  Accept the added expense of pet food, cages, supplies and vet bills as a childhood rite of passage even though you have other things you’d rather spend your money on.  Don’t freak out when kids come in the door with a shoe box or a jar saying, “Look what we caught!”

By allowing and encouraging your children to live life harmoniously with animals, you are teaching your children about some of the most fascinating and mysterious aspects of our world.  You are teaching them to respect life in all of its forms.  You are teaching them compassion that leads them to care for others who can’t always care for themselves.  You are teaching them that the world doesn’t revolve around them, but that we are part of an amazing planet made richer through frequent interaction with other species.

We need our children to grow up with a healthy respect and love for nature and all forms of life.  That is most likely to happen through actual participation with nature in all its fantastic variety of plant and animal life.

Parents, grandparents, and guardians, please make sure that the children in your life have the chance to grow up with and interact with animals along the way.  It has the possibility of making them better people and contributing to a better world.

I went to the Kentucky Humane Society today to meet a dog named Angel.  She came from Laurel County, KY where her owner and the owner’s daughter were killed in a March tornado.  Angel and her three canine companions were chained to trees during the tornado and survived.  The other dogs have found homes, but Angel has not.  She’s timid and mostly afraid of men and other dogs her size or larger.  They aren’t sure how she would be with small children.  Cumulatively, as a three-year-old, she has a lot of strikes against her when it comes to being adopted.

There wasn’t much of a chance I’d end up taking her home today for several reasons, but I wanted to meet her and show her some kindness anyway.  She’s had a rough year.  While there, I also spent time visiting and talking to the other 60 or so puppies and adult dogs up for adoption.  I can’t tell you how many I would bring home today if I had the time, space and money to do so.

Only someone with unlimited resources would be able to extend help to all who need it, and I’m not just referring to animals.  There are so many human needs in the world from our own neighborhoods to the other side of the globe and everywhere in between.  None of us can help all we would like to assist, so we have to make tough choices, saying “yes” to some and a difficult “no” to others.

That’s one reason why it’s so important to give highest priority to the life of other human beings.  Yes, it’s great to save a whale or a seal or a rain forest or a homeless dog or cat.  How much more important, though, is it to make a substantive difference in and possibly save the life of another human being?  People are the most important living creatures on this earth.  I hope others agree and that our actions, giving and voting reflect that respect for human life – born and unborn.

Leap year lesson #253 is You can’t save the world, so be wise in who or what you help.

It has been easy in recent days in Louisville, Kentucky to marvel at the beauty and magnificence of nature, of all we can see and all that is beyond what the eye can see or the mind imagine.  The weather has been gorgeous.  Taking my dog for walks has been a tremendous pleasure for both of us after a summer filled with many hot, muggy days.

It is common for me when I am amazed at the beauty of nature to express my thanks and gratitude to the One whom I believe created this place and all life within it.  I realize that not everyone shares this belief or inclination to attribute our world to a Creator, but it is a core part of my Christian faith.  I do not have to check my brains or my respect for science at the door to believe it.

In the midst of this stretch of beautiful days, the weekly Bible study lesson at church yesterday was around the topic “God does not hide.”  The main thought was that the magnificent creation we all enjoy points to a Creator, just as the existence of a painting points to a painter or the presence of a building points to a builder.  No car ever came into existence as the result of a metal shop explosion, and our world is far more complex than anything mechanical could ever be.

Two verses referenced in the lesson Sunday were:

  • “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1);
  • “For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).

Each of us has the freedom to attribute or not attribute this magnificent world to a Creator.  Only one of us, however, can be correct in that disagreement.  I choose to believe the words of scripture as authoritative in all matters about which they speak, and this is one of them.

Therefore, I celebrate life and nature on this remarkable earth with leap year lesson #249: The heavens declare the glory of God.