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Pets Are No Substitute for People

a woman and her pet
When there’s a void in my life I need to fill, whether it’s loneliness, depression or anxiety, a roomful of puppies will never be sufficient.

I’m a huge dog lover. Big or small dog, it doesn’t matter. As soon as I see a puppy, I’m instantly enamored. I abandon all sense of dignity, go nose-to-nose with the animal and say in a high-pitched voice things like, “Who-sha a good boyyy?”

Ever since we were dating, my wife has refused to compete with a dog for my love and affection. At first I thought she was jealous, but I now think she was on to something when she decided: “No more pets.”

We Love Our Pets

According to one article, millennials are half as likely to get married compared to couples fifty years ago. We’re also less likely to buy homes, purchase new cars and have children. But we are breaking new ground in the realm of pet ownership.

One study found that 70 percent of millennials own a pet. Of that number, 56 percent own a dog, and men are more likely to be pet owners than women.

Millennials splurge on our pets, buying them premium food, expensive toys and novelty outfits. We treat our pets like our first-born children. In fact, some companies are providing “peternity” or “pawternity” leave so millennial employees can take paid time off of work and bond with their new fur-babies.

Lonely? Get a Dog!

Look, I get it. Pets are loyal. Their friendship is easy to attain and nearly impossible to lose. As long as you have a pet, you’ll never feel alone. But are pets meant to meet our relational needs?

God certainly wants no one to feel alone. After creating Adam He said, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18). The words “not good” grab my attention every time I read them. Everything else God created up to that point was good. In fact, being alone is the first thing in creation that’s described as “not good.”

So God said He’d make a helper suitable for Adam (Gen 2:20). At the same time, he had Adam name all the animals He’d created. Well, we know how the story goes. Adam came across a catastrophic mess of insanity and named it “cat.” Afterwards, he met a near-perfect companion and named it “dog.”

No, that’s not true. Well, at least that’s not what Scripture records. No suitable helper was found until God created Eve.

Together Adam and Eve were fruitful, they multiplied, they were best friends, and they helped each other grow closer to God for nearly 1,000 years until they died. Adam needed another person in his life, not a world full of animals.

We Made a Cute Couple

I miss my dog because she was always happy to see me. She’d sit with me, resting her little furry head in my lap.

We’d walk together, play fetch in the yard and run around the park until we were both exhausted. She always had my back and took my side. If I got mad and yelled at her, I’d make her a nice meal and she acted like nothing ever happened. We loved spending time together.

My dog and I made a cute couple. No wonder my wife doesn’t want me to have one.

Putting People First

In my experience, it’s easy to treat pets better than people.

What if I greeted people with as much joy and excitement as I greet a puppy? Maybe that’s what my unfiltered love for others should look like. I’d do anything for a lost dog, but can’t say the same for the lost people that cross my path.

The things that are easy to love about pets are hard to love about people. People aren’t always happy to see me. They don’t always want to be my friend. Spending time with them isn’t always relaxing. Sometimes they take advantage of me and use me. If I disagree with them, it takes more than a bowl full of kibble to smooth things over.

However, just like Adam, I’ve found that friendships with animals are no substitute for relationships with people.

We all need a friend just like us. Someone who can sympathize with our weaknesses, is tempted just like we are, and helps point us to Christ when we fall to temptation.

And just as much as I need a faithful friend, my friends and the strangers around me need a friend like that too. I could do a much better job of being that helper others need.

I’ve realized that’s why my wife doesn’t want me to have another dog. She wants me to be the loyal companion and helper she deserves, and she’ll be the same for me.

I’ll always love dogs. That will never change. Having a pet is a great source of comfort and companionship. But when there’s a void in my life I need to fill, whether it’s loneliness, depression or anxiety, a roomful of puppies will never be sufficient.

I need loving and wise people around me. Just like Adam did.

Copyright 2019 Marc Aker. All rights reserved.

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