Monday, July 30, 2007

Lessons from our Pets

Many people who are far smarter than me have pondered weighty questions about pets and what they mean to us.

Do pets have souls? Are they with us in an afterlife?

I imagine whole Web sites are devoted to such questions. A wonderful book on the subject, and many other subjects, is Are There Horses in Heaven?, by F. Morgan Roberts. Dr. Roberts was interim pastor for about three years at Independent Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, and the book is a collection of his sermons. I highly recommend it.

I don't pretend to know the answer to weighty questions about our pets. But I know what my wife and I hope--and believe. A heaven without Murphy and our other animal friends would not seem, well, all that heavenly.

Have you ever wondered about the special senses animals have? For 11 years, I knew that Murphy could see and hear and smell things in a way that I could not. But I also suspect she could sense our Creator in a way that I could not.

Many times I wonder exactly what my mission is in this time and place. I hope I'm a fairly decent husband, son, and brother, and I like to think I'm considered a reliable employee and coworker. I hope a few people consider me a friend worth having.

But I think Murphy knew exactly what her mission in this life was. And I think she sensed that from a higher power every day. Without that kind of connection from above, I don't know how she could live with the faith and trust that she displayed on a daily basis.

We humans struggle to discern our missons. And even when we think we've found them, we are easily distracted, easily turned in other directions. My sense is that Murphy never veered from the path she was meant to be on.

Here's another heavy question: Are there guardian angels, and could they take the form of our beloved pets? Again, I don't pretend to know the answer. But the thought that Murphy might be watching over us brings great comfort to my wife and me. I can't think of anyone who would take that role to heart more than Murphy would.

A shocking thought occurred to me the other day. Is it possible that even Baxter and Chloe, our lovable but (seemingly) not terribly aware kitty kats, have a special connection to the next world? This thought came to me as I read about Oscar, the cat who lives in a Rhode Island nursing home and seems to have an uncanny ability to predict which patients are about to die. He will curl up to a seriously ill patient, seemingly offering comfort in the patient's final moments of life. Even The New England Journal of Medicine wrote about Oscar. Is it possible that these patients develop a closer connection with their Creator in the moments leading up to death? Is it possible that Oscar always has a close connection with his Creator, and when he senses such a connection developing in a human, he sees it as his duty to be nearby--to help sent the person on his or her way?

I now look at Baxter and Chloe with renewed respect--and apprehension. What exactly do they know behind those baby blue eyes?

So we ask the question again: Why Legal Schnauzer? Well, Murphy represents goodness to me, and I hope something good can come out of this blog--not only for me, but for all of the Americans who are cheated and treated disrespectfully by certain judges and lawyers. I think the number of Americans who suffer because of our broken justice system is far greater than any of us knows. But it goes beyond the way these criminals treat people. They also abuse the law, the very entity they are sworn to uphold.

Young Americans are dying and being maimed in Iraq and Afghanistan, supposedly so we can promote the idea of democracy around the world. But what about our own democracy? Without honorable courts, our system of government stands on shaky footing. Shouldn't we get our own house in order before we try to sell our system of governance to others? In certain jurisdictions around the country, and certainly in Shelby County, Alabama, some parties would be just as likely to receive justice before the Taliban as they would in our "advanced" courts.

When I looked into Murphy's face, I saw (as best I could tell) a touch of God. I've looked into the faces of several judges and lawyers, and I've seen what I would call true evil. And I don't think that's too strong a term. These people lied right to my face. They knew they were lying, and they knew that I knew they were lying. And still they cheated me time and time again. And I'm convinced they do it to other people. That's pretty much a textbook definition of sociopathy. It's certainly a sign of a very sick legal culture.

This kind of systemic pathology is not eradicated unless it is confronted. And I don't believe people inside the system--lawyers, judges, paralegals, clerks--can do it. They are too close to the system. They either don't see the pathology or they lack the courage to act on it. It will take outsiders to change the system.

Judges know that, and I think that's why they almost always tell pro se parties to get an attorney. Outsiders, who might see the system for the cesspool that it really is, make judges nervous.

So is it my mission to confront our broken justice system? If it is, I can't do it alone. I was put in this position for some reason; I certainly didn't ask to be here. Perhaps I can help educate the public about the way their tax dollars are being wasted, and their constitution is being abused, by corrupt judges.

Can I discern my mission and follow it the way Murphy followed hers? We'll see.

But every time I sit down to post here, I look at the picture of Gumpie-Poo. I look at that fascinating mix of determination and joy on her face. I look at her sense of purpose. I look at her vitality.

And I think of Murphy. More than anything, I think of Murphy--and I pray that her spirit might shine through on these pages.

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