20th March

Joy Barrett

This beautiful picture of Joy’s dog out on a walk reminded me of a cartoon which I saw a few months ago. There was a man and a dog looking over the back of a sofa out of the window. The man was saying to his friend in the room, “Now I know why Shep gets so excited when anyone passes by.”

During this past year we have not been able to spend much, if any, in person time with our friends and families. Many of us have been lucky that we have been locked down with some members of our close family, but for people living alone, lock down has been a very lonely time. Dogs have given people the opportunity and the reason to go out for exercise, as Joy has experienced. But pets generally have a wonderful way of changing our lives for the better. Animals cheer us up when we are down, they give us company when we are lonely and they can provide a soothing and comforting presence. Their love is unconditional and they probably know us better than any human – think how a pet senses and responds to its owner’s moods. So, it is not surprising how these faithful companions are so important to us at a time when we may be feeling lost, frightened, worried, lonely.  

In fact, our pets offer us a ministry of presence. The phrase a “Ministry of Presence” has often been used by chaplains to describe how they work to be vehicles of God’s love in difficult circumstances: for example, when they are with a very sick or dying person, when they sit with the distraught prisoner or frightened soldier or the distressed employee. This ministry can include words or can be in silence but it primarily involves just being with people in times of worry and anxiety. In this same way our pets minister to us by just being with us in our distress or loneliness. As we look towards the end of lockdown let us remember the support that animals have given to us during the past, difficult year.

Prayer of thanks for animals

In Your infinite wisdom, Lord God, when You created the universe you blessed us with all living creatures. We thank you for the birds of the air whose songs bring us joy. We thank you for animals of the fields who provide us with so much. We thank you for the wild animals which when glimpsed cause our hearts to swell. We especially thank you for giving us our pets who are our friends and who bring us so much joy in life. Their presence very often helps us get through trying times. May we realize that as our pets trust us to take care of them, so we should trust You to take care of us, and in taking care of them we share in Your love for all creatures. Amen.

Reflection written by Lesley Heffer