SO I WONDER
My old dog died yesterday. Broke me up.
Blubbered to my kids on the phone.
You know, Lord, that dog loved me.
Never thought I was a failure, like some folks.
So I wonder, do dogs go to heaven?
–Arthur O. Roberts in Prayers at Twilight.
Heaven goes by favor (grace). If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.
The Bible says nothing about any sort of animal going to heaven, so the Christian can have no false hopes about a guaranteed reunion with their beloved pets. There is, however, that interesting little detail in the Old Testament book of Jonah in which even the beasts, herds, and flocks are a part of the repentant fasting of the Ninevites as they seek to avoid God’s judgment (3:7-8); and then, along with the people, the cattle also receive the grace of God and are spared by His mercy, which God himself points out to Jonah (4:11). Granted, this is not much to go on, since it is only the earthly lives of the people and cattle which are extended. But we can say, as the king says in Jonah 3:9, “Who knows?” And we certainly can, with W. M. Letts in the poem below, commend our beloved pets’ spirit to the care of the God who gave them life in the first place.
TO SCOTT ( a collie, for nine years our friend)
by W. M. Letts
Old friend, your place is empty now. No more
Shall we obey the imperious deep-mouthed call
That begged the instant freedom of our hall.
We shall not trace your foot-fall on the floor
Nor hear your urgent paws upon the door.
The loud-thumped tail that welcomed one and all,
The volleyed bark that nightly would appall
Our tim’rous errand boys– these things are oe’r.
But always yours shall be a household name,
And other dogs must list’ your storied fame;
So gallant and so courteous, Scott, you were,
Mighty abroad, at home most debonair.
Now God Who made you will not count it blame
That we commend your spirit to His care.
TIM, AN IRISH TERRIER
by W. M. Letts
It’s wonderful dogs they’re breeding now:
Small as a flea or large as a cow;
But my old lad Tim he’ll never be bet
By any dog that ever he met.
“Come on,” says he, “for I’m not kilt yet…”
But he’d stick to me till his last breath;
An’ he’d go with me to the gates of death.
He’d wait for a thousand years, maybe,
Scratching the door an’ whining for me
If myself were inside in Purgatory.
So I laugh when I hear them make it plain
That dogs and men never meet again.
For all their talk who’d listen to them,
With the soul in the shining eyes of him?
Would God be wasting a dog like Tim?
From the internet (source lost): “Today, after I watched my dog get run over by a car, I sat on the side of the road holding him and crying. And, just before he died, he licked the tears off my face.”
by Anna Hadley Middlemas in The Boston Evening Transcript
He’s just plain yellow: no “blue-ribbon” breed.
In disposition– well, a trifle gruff
Outside his “tried and true.” His coat is rough.
To bark at night and sleep by day, his creed.
Yet, when his soft brown eyes so dumbly plead
For one caress from my too-busy hand,
I wonder from what far and unknown land
Came the true soul, which in his gaze I read.
Whence all his loyalty and faithful zeal?
Why does he share my joyous mood, and gay?
Why mourn with me, when I perchance to mourn?
When hunger-pressed, why scorn a bounteous meal
That by my side he may pursue his way?
Whence came his noble soul, and where its bourn?
AN OLD DOG
by Celia Duffin in The London Spectator
Now that no shrill hunting horn
Can arouse me at the morn,
Deaf I lie the long day through,
Dreaming firelight dreams of you;
Waiting, patient through it all,
Till the greater Huntsman call.
If we are, as people say,
But the creatures of a day,
Let me live, when we must part,
A little longer in your heart.
You were the God I knew,
I was faithful unto you.
Coco was a Chocolate Labrador Retriever. She was the runt of her litter, the last one to find a home, which she shared with us for seven and a half years. Her death, which resulted from an apparent heart attack in our living room, was a shock to all of us. “Go out and get another puppy right now,” a friend advised. He may be right, but somehow that doesn’t seem fair to Coco. Even in death, she is entitled to dominate our memories for a decent period of mourning. So far as I know that is the only immortality she will ever have. Someday, I would be happy to discover otherwise. –Rev. Dave Johnson, Prairie Parables, p. 47
Luke 12:6 — (Jesus said), “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.”
Genesis 9:16 — Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.
Mark 16:15 — And Jesus said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
Revelation 5:13 — Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”
1 Corinthians 2:9 — …As it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.”
Almighty God, enlarge within us the sense of fellowship with all living things, our little brothers, to whom you have given this earth as their home in common with us. May we realize that they live, not for us alone, but for themselves and for thee, and that they love the sweetness of life even as we, and serve thee in their place. AMEN. –Walter Rauschenbusch
O God, my Master, should I gain the grace
To see you face to face, when life is ended,
Grant that a little dog, who once pretended
That I was God, may see me face to face.
–Francis Jammes (1868-1938), French poet and novelist, prayer translated by B. C. Boulter
October 2000 – November 2009