Monday, July 25, 2005

Dogs in Heaven?

Growing up, I always wanted a dog. I didn’t care what kind it was…I just wanted one. My dad always flatly refused. He knew better than to expect his young children to be responsible enough to care for a dog, and since neither he nor my mother was willing to, that was that. But finally, the summer before my senior year in high school he relented.

My uncle showed up at our house one day with a 9 week old golden retriever puppy. She had been a gift from a man my uncle met on the job. Unfortunately, the woman my uncle was married to had 2 toy poodles who were terrified by this playful giant of a dog…so he brought her to us. My dad couldn’t refuse, especially after we pointed out that she had the same color hair as our youngest brother, Timmy, who was at that time rolling on the ground with his new friend. And so Samantha became a part of our family that day.

I was never crazy about the name…but it didn’t matter because I called her any and everything else. Sam, Mantha, Mant, Big Girl, Big Big, Honey, Honey Girl, Honeybabygirl, Honeybunchesofoats, …and sometimes HoneyHoneyHoney (real fast and in the highest pitched voice I could muster). Whenever she’d hear me say that, she’d stop and her legs would start going, trying to run as fast as she could to get to me. It was especially funny when she was inside on the linoleum…just picture Scooby and Shaggy trying to run from a ghost.

Needless to say…I LOVED this dog. I loved her more than I loved any person up to that point in my life (she came long before I had nieces). She was the best dog. She trained herself to potty outside, never got on the furniture (in fact if I tried to sneak her up she did so very unwillingly), she loved her bath and was about as loving as you can get. She also never lost her puppyness, even when she had achy joints, she’d fight through it to play.

After 13 years of pure joy with her, things suddenly changed. She stopped eating…had no energy…and didn’t even get up to greet me at the door. Being the amateur vet that I am, I did a quick inspection and noticed her eyes and insides of her ears were yellow. That meant one thing to me…liver failure. I took her to the vet to be sure. They wouldn’t say the words…they ran tests and kept her for days and put her on an iv…and ran up the tab. Finally, I had to say the words to the vet and she said “well, yes.” Of course there was no cure…no reversing the damage…no possibility for even partial recovery outside of a transplant. So I had to make that decision…and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. But I did it. On a very hot Saturday in June, I carried her into the vets office and said goodbye. We brought her back home and buried her outside my old bedroom window. I couldn’t watch. I was a mess…for weeks after I could barely talk about it.

I grieved for her like I’d never grieved before or since.

Up until this weekend I was sure I would never see her again. I knew people like to think “all dogs go to heaven” but I couldn’t find a passage in scripture that explicitly told me that. A friend reminded me this weekend that there isn’t one that says otherwise either. But, being who I am, I had to look it up.

In my research I found a really good article on the subject which has the added bonus of a John Piper poem in the text, which reads:

And as I knelt beside the brook

To drink eternal life, I took
A glance across the golden grass,
And saw my dog, old Blackie, fast
As she could come. She leaped the stream—
Almost—and what a happy gleam
Was in her eye. I knelt to drink
And knew that I was on the brink
Of endless joy. And everywhere
I turned I saw a wonder there.

The gist of the article is this: there will be animals on the new earth, God is the giver of good gifts, and He is extravagantly kind…so why wouldn’t some of these animals be our pets?

Very true. I guess the point for me is…if you can’t know for certain…and there is no biblical prohibition or contradiction…why not believe the best?

As I watched a dog competition on TV with one of my brother’s Saturday, a commercial came on and in it…a dog very similar to my Honeygirl. My eyes filled with tears as I sighed out “Honey.” If just seeing a similar dog on TV has that effect on me, what might it be like if one day, I am standing on the New Earth and I hear that familiar whine and look down at my legs to see her leaning against me (her version of a hug, I suppose)?

Like Piper, I would be “was on the brink Of endless joy.”

You can read the article “Do dogs go to heaven?” by Randy Alcorn, here:

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