Moka

4021506641_7e282960b7_mKathleen and I didn’t know Moka well; we only saw her three or four times a year for many years. But even though we were no more than “good acquaintances,” when we visited her home, or she visited ours, her pleasure at seeing us was pronounced. It was as though we had been friends forever.

Moka was the Welsh Terrier of our son’s family. She was diminutive by this breed’s standards, but she had the typical whiskered squarish face, the slightly elevated front shoulders, the brown lively eyes, and the coarse tan and black coat of her breed. To Robert and Jan, Zachary and Charis, she was one of a kind.

Moka loved fun and begged for it. Her zest for life was contagious. The request for fun wasn’t always disciplined because as pleasant as she was to be around she preferred to set the agenda for herself — as terriers tend to do. But she was never intentionally boisterous or destructive, just eager and tireless.

After being a much-loved family pet for nearly 17 years she became gravely ill for only a week recently and had to be put down.

The news has brought great sadness to the whole family but it has also caused me to reflect on the place of family pets in our fast-paced and often impersonal world.

The biblical story of creation makes it clear that the sixth day of creation was, like the five prior days, typically full of God’s creative energy. That day’s work included the speaking into being of the animal kingdom and, last of all, Adam and Eve.

It was on that day, “God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:25).

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion (meaning stewardship or governance, not mere dominance) over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth” (Genesis 1:26).

And in the intervening ages (Who knows how long that period was?) humankind in their discretion have singled out certain animals for a closer association, to work together with them, and to live with them as their pets. We can think of such pets, as we certainly do of Moka, as one of numberless gifts from God.

When I see on television the healing effect of a trained dog on a wounded or handicapped veteran, or the way children in hospital brighten when someone’s puppy is brought to see them, I realize in God’s economy there is a possible therapeutic value in that sort of human/pet interaction.

It seems to me also that the the service of trustworthy pets is made all the more valuable in light of the growing coarseness of our society: Children bullying children mercilessly on the Internet; televisions spewing into family rooms intimate details of life that belong in the doctor’s office; families breaking up too easily leaving children sometimes on their own to sort out their conflicted feelings or grieve their losses alone.

In this tattered society, a pet can give a measure of security and comfort needed by growing children facing these kinds of traumas, but it can also add a special quality to those with more normal childhoods.

Zach and Charis grew from childhood to adulthood with responsibilities to care for Moka. They made sure she was fed, walked, played with, and even at times given her medicines. They did this with commendable care and this was a great training experience for the other routine duties of life. All the while they experienced the joys of special animal companionship.

Moka will not be forgotten. She has left behind an acute sadness, but also a great store of memories. Her quickness of movement, her unquenchable appetite for play, the welcome she always extended to anyone who wanted to be a friend, and her special attachment to those who gave her care – these features cannot be forgotten.

And when we visualize her, it will be her whiskered face inviting interaction, her bright eyes asking for fun, and her beautiful black and tan coat that will frame our memories.

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Photo credit: sWrightOsment (via flickr.com)

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2 thoughts on “Moka

  1. Since I was raised on a farm, animals were the main financial undergirding of our family. Animals were born, animals died and even as a young teen I helped a little bit in the fall with the annual killing of a pig and a cow for food for the winter for the extended family. I recall when neighbours came to help kill, pick and kill turkeys and hens. So much of what I mention was not nice but it was part of farm life. But all that is water under an ancient bridge and we have had our pets during the time when our children enjoyed them. In the interior of Sao Paulo state where we lived, we had a parrot that at dawn called for our daughter Monica. That raucous call was stronger than any alarm clock. Yes Don, our appreciation for animals and pets has changed over the years.
    Blessings Roy

  2. What a coincidence,if there are such things as coincidences. Last Saturday lunchtime at my church, St Michael’s Cathedral Coventry , half a dozen of us shared Lord’s Supper.Afterwards ,my church friend Christine and I got talking with a young man,Peter .Peter has been an assistant verger with us this summer.Now he resumes his studies ,at Chester.

    I asked Peter about these studies .The son of an Anglican vicar he’s always been deeply interested in theology and having obtained 2 degrees in it he’s now embarking on his Phd in Old Testament Studies.I asked him about his theses thus far .One was on Animals in the Old Testament ,the other on whether and how animals know God.We had an interesting, long conversation about this.We talked about the nature of animals’ souls ,about animals as important members of human families , pets. . We discussed St Francis preaching to the birds and animals.We talked about acts of kindness to humans by animals.

    On the news in UK there’s been a recent story about a cat , previously considered a delinquent cat who struck up a friendship with an autistic child with learning difficulties & behavioral problems.This cat managed to calm the boy down when disturbed and behaviour of both cat and boy became much gentler and less anti social.

    Animals help children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) interact better; they show increased positive social behaviors when an animal is present. This finding came from a new study by researchers, led by Marguerite E O’Haire, from the University of Queesland, Australia and was published in the journal PLOS ONE.

    On the Smithsonian website,Ruth Eveleth writes

    ”Anyone who’s ever owned a pet can attest to the therapeutic qualities fuzzy, scaly or feathered friends can have. Therapy animals have been around in a rigorous way for fifty years, and each new study finds applications that expand the possible uses of pets. Recently, researchers explored the potential for therapy animals to help kids with autism and found that they were more effective than toys.”

    Google ‘Animals Help Children With Autism Interact Better’ to find many more examples.

    Pets have a positive influence on all children,not just those with autism.I agree with you ,Pastor, pets can be great good influences on children ,Through pets children grow up learning to care for others and be reliable stewards to those dependant on their lovingkindness.

    From the birds that make our lives more beautiful by their life enhancing song and the inspirational sight of their soaring flight patterns, to the life enriching animals we share our homes and work life with – animals are a blessing.

    I know what you mean about terriers setting the agenda for themselves,Pastor..I always had Parson Jack Russell terriers – first wire haired Jacko then smooth haired Herbert.

    17 years seems a good long life for a dog .I understand the smaller the breed the greater the longevity but even so Moka seems to have had a good long life.

    I thoroughly agree that dominion should be interpreted as stewardship.God cares even for sparrows so we should too , having been appointed stewards of the animal kingdom ( Gen 1:26 )

    What a gift from God to be able to work together in cooperation with other species ,especially canine and equine.I love to watch showjumping and dressage where human and horse work together as a team and have good communication with each other.

    It occurs to me how John Wesley was aided in his mission by his various horses.They carried him swiftly from from place to place to preach.I even read that he wrote sermons on horseback ,travelling England to preach. Thus animals contributed to the development of Methodism.

    Our fellow creatures ,whom Lord God created on the 6th Day, to share our world with are a blessing,a most wonderful gift from God.God appointed us their stwewards.

    This weeks ‘Just Call Me Pastor’ ,though it’s starting point is the culmination of treasued family pet Moka’s earthly life,is a heatwarming reminder of one of God’s gracious gifts to us – the animal kingdom in all it’s wonderful variety.

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