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Animals Teach a Different Form of Lesson

First published in the Jan. 20 print issue of the San Marino Tribune.

By Rev. Jeff Thornberg
Special to the Tribune

This past week, our family found ourselves bitterly divided over a decision. 
We lost a kitten unexpectedly a few months ago. After some time, the girls would like a new pet, but they cannot seem to decide what kind. A guinea pig was suggested, then a cat, then a dog. None of us could agree.
Eventually, we narrowed the scope to either a dog or a cat. One child declared that she is a “cat person,” and the other declared that she is a “dog person.” Almost immediately, the reverse was then suggested: the cat person claimed that she was therefore a “dog hater,” while the dog person declared that she was therefore a “cat hater.”
As silly as this story sounds, it seems true to life. If we were to take any significant issue at present, there are at least two strong and diametrically opposed narratives. There is no room for compromise or collaboration. In fact, either is considered a failure. Too often the “dog people” feel that their only job is to oppose the “cat people,” and the “cat people” understand their primary role to be opposing the “dog people.” During this discussion, we reminded our daughters that there are all kinds of households with all kinds of animals living alongside one another. Loving one animal truly does not affect how we love another animal. 
I think it would behoove every one of us to work on our ability to truly listen to one another as we ask hard questions and do our internal work. As their parent, I know that our daughters love all animals, it is their sibling rivalry and the power struggle inherent to their relationship that leads them to take such hyperbolic stances. 
Are they any areas in your life you might seek to be an “animal lover” instead of a dog person or cat person?

Thornberg is rector at Church of Our Saviour.

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