Sunshine. Tiger. Crystal. Jigger. Sasquatch. Bear. Jasper. Osa. Snappy. Jo. Tom. These are just some of the names of a variety of creatures that have been part of my life and what a blessing each has been. Dogs, cats, parakeets, snapping turtles, and even gerbils represent some of the species that have brought me so much joy.

Speaking of gerbils, as a young boy my brother and I each had one. He named his gerbil Mabel while I chose How Do You Do for mine. I was seven at the time. It was that summer when my parents took me and my brother on a trip. My grandmother, Bobby, who lived right next door, was left with the task of caring for Mabel, How Do You Do and our dog Tiger, who was a poodle. While away, we received a call from my grandmother. She was quite distressed.

Apparently Mabel was male and How Do You Do was a female and How Do You Do had a litter of babies. That part of the news was fine. What was not was that Mabel ate them all. I remember being more upset about what my grandmother went through than Mabel’s dietary choices.

I love God’s creation and the astonishing variety of living beings. For me as for many, pets of all kinds bring delight, joy, perspective, humor, and gratitude into one’s life. This Sunday we will have our annual blessing of the animals. We look forward to having those with a bounce in their step as well as photos or urns with the remains of those who have died.

As I mentioned, growing up we had a poodle named Tiger. He brought our family much happiness and hours of companionship and fun. Tiger was next to my side when I was sad. Played ball with me when I was in need of fun. Looked at me in a certain way when I was seeking to be understood. Tiger was such a source of joy. While he has been gone roughly 50 years, I still think of him now and then. As he neared the end of his life, my mom penned the following words.

Evening with an Old Dog

I watch him settle at my feet. He licks his paw and shakes his head to clear his ear, for he is deaf. He sighs, as dogs do sigh, and sinks his belly down, eyeing me as though beside some ancient fire we two had met and vowed to form a partnership that binds us still. Across the years he’ll hear me call, and come.

As we prepare to celebrate and bless those animals that are or have been part of our lives, please join me in giving God thanks for God’s creation and those creatures that have blessed us over the years and reminded us of all that is right in this world.