Being the awesome and involved mother that I am, I went with Elphine on a little field trip on Wednesday to the SPCA in Ithaca. Wow. Talk about the hilton of SPCA's....I don't even know how to complete that sentence. Each dog has a private room and the cats have little sort of condos with gorgeous big windows and climbing structures. The animals receive up to date and thorough dental care--we watched a cat sleeping peacefully while having its teeth cleaned and a cavity drilled--not to mention medical care. The dogs are walked and played with individually every day and the cats are petted and played with. Each room had the name of whoever payed for the room and a quote by that person about some particular animal they loved in some kind of hip font. The front desk was modern and pristine with ultra modern fancy chairs so the person coming to consider an animal would be comfortable and feel happy.
"We work really hard," said our guide, "to place our animals in a forever home."
As we went round and looked at everything she often spoke of an animal's "forever home."
And me, in my sarcastic nasty way, kept thinking all the time
1. so many babies deserve a 'forever home' but never manage to see the light of day. No slick beautiful individualized birthing center for them. No birth at all in fact.
2. so many people around the world would love to have these nice rooms to live in--clean, bright, food, water, medical, dental care.
Now, of course, as a political conservative, and a christian (oh shoot, those should have been put the other way round, oops) I don't for a second begrudge all the lovely cats and dogs at that nice shelter the lovely and wonderful care they're receiving. And I'm delighted that they are all adopted and they avoid so much suffering. Except that the whole place, what with it being Ithaca and all, just breathed an air of moral superiority. As far as I can see, animals, in the west, are a thousand times more valued than people. I speak hyperbolicly of course. It's probably more like two thousand times more. We pour money out like water for our animals. Me included. I spent 400$ once for a cat ultrasound of all things for a cat that then died.
"Animals are so special" our guide said, "they love us and accept us and are always happy to see us when we come home."
Well, that's true. And people can be rotten mean. And turn out badly. And cost a ton more money. And not be happy to see us when we come home. Maybe I've been reading too much Mark Steyn lately but it just seems like as a society we've given up. We're not interested in the work. We want a warm cuddly to see us through our days but can't be bothered to relate to other people in a meaningful way, to care for one another through the difficulty and mess of human life.
"What should you do" the guide asked toward the end, "if you see someone being unkind to an animal?" The girls in the group thought about it and decided it would be good to tell a grown up.
"That's right," said the guide, "or you can call the police, because its against the law to be unkind to an animal." She gazed at us meaningfully and paused to let the full weight of this important message sink in. My own child is very interested in the law. This impressed her very much. I don't think she was planning to be unkind to an animal, but the threat of the law will certainly bring her in line. Of course, other times, we've talked about how the law allows us to kill babies before they're born, just because we want to.
I didn't bring it up on this occasion. We went home thinking about that future day when we will convince Matt to let us have a puppy, because dogs and cats are wonderful and we love caring for them. But more than that, let me just buck the cultural trend, I love the church because in the church people struggle to relate to one another and care for one another and do the hard work of building relationships even when its very painful and hard. And we don't need money or fancy stuff or nice fonts, we really only need Jesus who comes into the middle of it all and gives us himself.