What you see to the right has become one of the more famous pictures taken in the aftermath of the recent landslides in Brazil. The dog’s name is Leao. She’s sitting by the grave of her owner, Cristina Maria Cesario Santana, who was among the 655 people killed.
Leao sat by the grave for two days and refused to move. From what I understand, she’s been adopted by another family since. It’s a heart-wrenching picture, no doubt. Especially to people like me who love dogs.
When I saw the picture and read the story a few days ago, I thought it would be nice to write a piece about the extraordinary bond between people and their pets. I had it all written in my head, complete with title and ending. It was going to be a good one, that piece.
But as I am given to do after reading a story online, I read through the comments. Strange as it might sound, I was even more sad after I read those than after I’d read the story of the dog and her departed owner.
Now only if people would be as Loyal as that dog! Makes me believe that the Animal is more human than most Humans.
If things would have stayed there, I could have perhaps kept to my original idea. But they didn’t stay there. It got worse:
They are more human than us.
Animals are BETTER than humans!
Human beings…worst. species. ever.
Should you expect anything more? After all, we’re all animals, too. Humanimals.
By the time I was done reading through all of that, I’d decided that maybe I should write about something else.
I’m not so world-weary as to suggest the sort of thinking evident in those comments is representative of the majority of people. I am, however, world-weary enough to say it’s representative of a lot of us. To many, human beings are the worst thing to ever happen to our fair planet. We’re monsters. Earth’s nightmare. We destroy through violence and apathy and greed. Everything here would be better if we were not.
All you have to do for proof is turn on the news. Spread out in all its high-definition glory are people dying and polar ice caps melting and oil spewing into once pristine seas. Birds are falling out of the sky. Fish are washing ashore. A river in Canada even recently turned a strange electric lime color.
We’re killing everything. According to some, that’s what we do best.
I wonder about this. I wonder what’s happened. There was a time in the not-too-distant past when the worst thing a person could be called was a dog. Nowadays, dogs are considered much more humane.
I’m not going to get into a evolution vs. creationism thing here, because that’s not me. But I will say a lot of things changed after Mr. Darwin came up with his theory. Somewhere along the line, humanity began to lose its nobility. Suddenly we weren’t so special anymore. And worse, all the horrible things we did could now be more easily explained.
Because we weren’t just human, we were animals, too.
There are a lot of examples in these times of just how bad we can be, and there’s no doubt that our ambitions and self-interests often race ahead of our hearts and consciences. But I will never believe we are mere animals.
I will never put stock in the notion that we are not set apart and above. That we all do not carry within us a spark of the Divine and a purpose to become more than we are.
“What is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him?” the Psalmist asked. “Yet you have made him a little lower than God, and You crown him with glory and majesty.”
Glory and majesty. Yes.
That is why we create. Why we love. Why we aspire to do the right thing. That is why for every one person who pulls out a gun and shoots into a crowd, there will be four who rise up to stop him.
Why we struggle for things like peace and justice.
Why we love when there seems to be no point in the loving.
Because we are blessed. Fearfully and wonderfully made.
And because the depths to which we can sink pale to the heights to which we can ascend.