I occasionally receive questions from readers about angels and pets. In this month's column, I will address the following questions:
  1. Is there anything in the Bible that says angels appear as animals?
  2. Is it possible that my special dog or cat is really an angel God has assigned to me?
  3. Has an angel ever chased off attackers by suddenly appearing as vicious animals?
1. Are there any clues in the Bible that say angels appear as animals?
Here is what we do learn about angels from the Bible: God created angels as spirits. They cannot be seen by humans when they are in their natural spirit form, but sometimes good angels take on a visible shape to carry out God's commands. In the Old and New Testament, angels usually appeared as ordinary people. But sometimes angels were seen as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. At the resurrection of Jesus, an angel was even described as being like lightning, his clothes white as snow.

But does the Bible record any instance of angels becoming animals? Well, yes and no. St. John in the Apocalypse saw four angels in heaven around the throne of the Most High (Revelation 4:6-8). The first resembled a lion, the second looked like an ox, the third had the form of a man, and the fourth was like an eagle. Each of the angels had six wings, and the angels never ceased to cry day and night, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.” Do these verses reveal that some angels look like animals in heaven? Most Biblical scholars would answer no. These verses remind us that angels are spirit beings without bodies. When they do take on a body that humans can see, it is only for a brief time to accomplish a task God has assigned. The Book of Revelation is highly symbolic and we are not meant to take this scene literally. We can best understand these strange but majestic beings as an indication of the indescribable greatness of God and the mysteries of heaven. This would also be true of the cherubim described in Ezekiel 10:14.

There is only one time in the Bible when an angel appeared as an animal. That was when Satan took the form of a serpent to tempt Eve (Genesis 3:1-5). While the Bible never gives us another example of an angel taking the shape of an animal on earth, we do learn from this account that it is possible.

It is also worth noting that in the story of Balaam (Numbers 22:21-35), the donkey saw and reacted to the angel before Balaam did. This indicates that animals may see and respond to an angelic presence when humans can't.

2. Is it possible that my special dog or cat is really an angel God has assigned to me?
On their website www.angelanimals.net Alan and Linda Anderson write, “We've discovered fascinating reasons why millions view animals as angels. Animals provide spiritual qualities such as unconditional love, joy, healing, forgiveness, patience, courage, and gratitude--virtues that are often lacking in our modern high-tech yet low-touch lives.” But are these beliefs Biblical?

A woman named Anna told me she believes that God sends angels in the guise of pets. Anna is a senior citizen who lives independently, but she insists she is not alone. For 13 years Rhoda, her pet dog, has been her constant companion. “She’s not just a dog,” Anna explained to me. “She is an angel in a dog’s body. I could not have made it without her. She’s my constant companion. She’s like a sister to me. She seems to know what I am thinking. When I am sad or not feeling well, she cuddles up to me in a comforting way. I fell once, and Rhoda barked until someone came to help. She loves me.” Anna affectionately held Rhoda close to her face. “Look! See how she looks at me. She is saying, ‘I love you.’ A dog can’t look at a person that way.”

Or can they? In the Bible there is not one example of angels acting as personal pets. I do not believe there is any scriptural evidence of angels entering the body of a dog or cat and becoming someone’s pet. I do understand that some pets are so loyal and give such unconditional love that it could be easy to believe that pets are more than just animals. But in the Bible angels are so much more than home companions. I don't believe that Anna’s dog is an angel, but rather a gift from God.

3. Have angels ever chased off attackers by suddenly appearing as vicious animals?
One night as Emily was walking home from an evening college class, she became aware that no one was in sight. No one, that is, except a tough-looking group hanging out in the shadows about 50 feet in front of her. With each step Emily took, she felt the group become more menacing, undressing her with their looks. Afraid to walk too close to them, Emily turned and began to walk quickly away. Her fears grew as she heard rapid footsteps behind her. The gang was chasing her. Fearing for her life, Emily prayed, “Oh, God, Help. Do something to save me!”

The instant she prayed Emily became even more frightened when she saw two ferocious dogs suddenly appear from nowhere, growling and running straight for her. Emily braced herself for their attack, but the dogs ran past her and headed for the gang. Emily heard startled cries. When she turned to look, she saw the gang running for their lives. Then the dogs turned, trotted back to Emily, and walked quietly by her side for two blocks until she was safe at home.

Emily believes that her prayers were answered, and that the attack dogs were really her guardian angels. But was it just a coincidence the dogs appeared right when Emily needed help? It could have been, but it seems highly unlikely. The fact that they appeared mysteriously from nowhere and disappeared just as quickly is typical of the way angels work. I believe it is possible that angels may temporarily take the form of an animal to carry out God's missions. And, there is no reason why guardian angels should not have chosen to appear in the form of attack dogs.
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