Good people are good to their animals;
the “good-hearted” bad people kick and abuse them.
--Proverbs 12:10 The Message
Before my wife Jennifer and I adopted our children, we had dogs. We are both dog people who grew up with dogs under foot carrying slobbery tennis balls, so in creating our first home a dog was necessary. Our first dog we named Buddy, because he was the friendliest short-haired Jack Russell Terrier. His cropped tail never stopped wagging. He was completely white except for a black spot around his left eye. He ripped up the linoleum in the kitchen of the house we rented--TWICE, but he was gentle and loving. He played with us, napped with us and laid on us when we laid on the sofa watching TV. He was an energetic but loyal family member.
When Buddy had to be put down because his aged body began to painfully give out on him, I declared that I never wanted another dog. Losing Buddy was just too painful. But as I said, we are dog people and we raised our sons to be, so other dogs eventually joined our family. I decided that even though dogs’ lives are so much shorter than ours, it is a gift that their journeys entwine with our own as long as possible. The pain of loss is the price we pay for the joy they bring us. I wept as the vet gave Buddy the shot that caused his breathing to stop, but as bad as that pain was, the joy we shared together far outweighed it.
There is a good reason why the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a run on dog adoptions. Not only are people hungry for companionship, but the stress of these times results in us needing trustworthy and non-judgmental relationships. Eckhart Tolle said this about the gift dogs offer to us in an interview with a magazine for dog owners:
It's the alienation of modern society and the human need to relate deeply to another being, which they are unable to do with humans. I hope this is changing, but in the meantime, dogs offer the opportunity to relate to and to have an open heart towards another being. To be able to show love to another being which is always [reciprocated]. That's why I think dogs have a function that is absolutely vital, to keep humanity sane in this transitional period between two states of consciousness. For some people, it's the only relationship where there's no fear and where they realize they are being accepted and not judged.
Think about that for a moment. Dogs always reciprocate the love of humans. Dogs offer some people their only relationship where there is no fear, no judgment, only acceptance. What an astounding thought. Dogs reveal to us how to be better humans.
I’ve argued with Christians who have precise theologies of the human soul and who declare only humans go to heaven. They say pets are excluded from heaven, because they don’t have souls. I’ve always felt like such declarations were deeply arrogant. We know so little about what existence after this life looks like, how can anyone know the limits of who gets to experience it and who and what does not.? When I look into my dogs’ eyes I see beings who live only in the present, who know only faithfulness, and who are more loyal than most human beings. If anything, they seem to embody more of whatever the “soul” is supposed to be than most of what I do every day.
So, I believe dogs do indeed go to heaven, whatever heaven is. If pressed, I guess I believe cats do too, and whatever other animals become parts of our families along with them. If we can experience love with them, then how much more does God, who is love, also value them? What would heaven be without them?
I’ll leave the theological debates to those who have energy for them. I’d rather go play with my dogs who teach me to treasure the wonder and beauty present in every fleeting moment.
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Chase Peeples
6601 Northwest 72nd Street, Kansas City, MO 64151 | 816-741-1851