A Catholic University professor of ethics writes in Bible & Life in response to a person who wants a Mass said for a dog. He has for many years been afraid of even the smallest dogs which bark and come towards him. This was not always the case but bitten once on the thigh all changed.
The incident left him with a trauma on seeing dogs. A few months ago, a celebrity whose family dog bit a neighbor, who died shortly after, was the reason for much talk in society about dogs and owners.
When the change took place he doesn't know but we called them pet dogs, now they are companions. Up until 10 years ago, you would never hear talk about a dog cafe, hotel or funeral home but they have quickly appeared. The new understanding of pets in society can depend on many factors but the nuclear and one person families have multiplied in society. Loneliness is experienced and many look for the companionship of pets, they are faithful and fill a need of warmth in the life of many. Guide dogs and rescue dogs give a service the humans cannot do.
This is all true but there is another thought that should enter when we consider this subject. Is there a problem when we treat animals like human beings? During this time of the year we have not a few people who are cold and hungry; do we see any problems dog cafes where dogs are treated almost like humans? There is an entrance fee and you are able to feed the dogs. In ethics, we have the words for the moral subject and moral object. An example would be giving a poor neighbor some coal briquettes: the one giving would be the moral subject and the one receiving the moral object.
If, he says, he took an abandoned dog and raised it the dog is the moral object of his action. He is the moral subject and the one responsible for the dog. All human actions towards nonliving objects are not moral acts. An example would be the kicking of a soccer ball is not the same as the kicking of a dog. The soccer ball does not have life.
Respect for life is an obligation of a moral subject but here we can see a problem when we have a homeless person and our companion dog drowning at the same time. Where does our attention go? The dog that has been our companion, eaten, slept and lived together has a greater loving attraction than a nameless homeless person. That is why people leave their wealth to pets and some want Masses said for their pets.
From prehistoric times humans and animals have lived closely together. They have been our food, they have given us our clothing have helped us do our labor. In recent history have helped us cure diseases, extend life and that is not all. According to the Scriptures animals were created just before humans and were named by the first humans. They are to be respected but remembered they are of a different level of life.
The article finishes with the story of a classmate who has a white Maltese dog which he raises in the rectory. It's a friendly loveable little dog. He doesn't know how long it will take but his fear of dogs, he says, will disappear.