“The job of a good dog was ultimately to be with them, remaining by their sides no matter what course their lives might take. All I could do now was offer him comfort, the assurance that as he left this life he was not alone but rather was tended by the dog who loved him more than anything in the whole world.”
― W. Bruce Cameron,
I don’t believe that good dogs go to heaven when they die. It’s not that Heaven is not big enough to accommodate Man’s Best Friend, but that animals – however much we love them – are not spiritual beings. (I have probably raised the hackles of every dog-lover or cat-lover whom I have recently gotten to know through these musings.) While I don’t know for certain – in the Bible, God uses Balaam’s donkey (Numbers 22: 21 – 39), to speak to Balaam – but for all the animals that humans have cherished, spoiled and relied upon, from the first domesticated animal to our military Working Dogs, it would be difficult to understand why God would seek a mutual eternal relationship with us, his most distracted, emotional and stubborn creation when dogs love unconditionally.
But I think one part of working out an understanding of the eternal, is through our caretaker roles when it comes to our dogs. ( Really, there is so much more, but let’s just focus on dogs.) When my wife and I decide to give a home to a dog, we choose from the shelters. There’s a spark that comes back into a rescued animal’s eyes, step and body language when it knows it has a stable home and a caring pack leader. Dogs may be motivated with walks, chew toys, feeding time, but they thrive when we interact with them. And I think our furry friends are barometers of how we see ourselves, each other, the world and the Spiritual. For me, my inner tranquility is not anything I have innately, nor learned from monks, nor acquired at seminars, but as a result of my faith. My spiritual connection with God is what sustains me, my wife and friends. I cherish my animals, but when they die, I have photos, good memories, a little polished wood box, and a clay paw print for the mantle – if I had one. I hope that they would have the same of me, should I go first.