If Heaven Is Joyous, Pets Will Be There
If Heaven is a happy place, then my dogs will be there with me.
Last week, it became time to put down our quiet, dependable collie/beagle mix, Buddy. A year earlier, years, we had to bid farewell to Ralph, our loopy, goofy, Lab/Aussie mix, also age 12.
Eventually, I will make that journey. If, as I hope, I get to Heaven, it won’t be heavenly without Buddy and Ralph.
I have no idea how that will work. Heck, I have no idea how souls, angels, hell, devils, purgatory, Valhalla — any of that stuff works.
I used to “know.”
The kindly black-clad Benedictines of my childhood were certain about that stuff. They made us kids certain, too.
When loved ones died, I “knew the drill:” Meeting Jesus, reuniting with predeceased family — “eternal happiness.”
I put “eternal happiness” within quotation marks because I do not quite understand what is ecstasy-producing about strumming a harp and singing hymns of praise to God — especially considering that, here on Earth, what passes for my singing is usually painful to anyone nearby.
But I was taught to just trust in God’s Providence to work out the details.
Today, at age 79, I do not “know” any of that stuff in the same way that I “know” 2+2=4. A lifetime has made me skeptical about many things I once viewed as certitudes: Superman can fly; true lovers never quarrel; vote a straight-party ticket; the New York Yankees will always win the World Series.
But I also do not “not know” religious principles. I am no atheist. I call myself a realist, with overtones of cynicism.
What I do is twofold. I believe. I hope.
If you want to make me cuss-at-you angry, just go ahead and tell me, “Dogs do not go to heaven. They have no souls.”
Popes did say that. One of the Piuses and a Benedict were among them. But the papal pronouncements are mixed. Pope John Paul II said in 1990 that animals “are as near to God as we are.” Pope Francis said in 2014 that canines, along with “all of God’s creatures” can make it to heaven. He spoke in response to the grief of a young boy mourning his recently deceased dog. Some theologians disagree. How sad for them.
I’m with John Paul and Francis.
How does it work, getting animals into Heaven?
I do not know the “how.” I do not need to know. Heck, I have no idea about how cells become human beings, even though I did that before I was born and, as a father, I contributed to that process several times. We often do stuff we can’t explain. Flick a light switch. Now, tell me precisely how the fire from coal or natural gas flows through that switch to make a ceiling light glow but not burn up.
Maybe one reader can do that. At most, a dozen. The rest of us? We believe. We hope. We flick. Lo, there is light in the room.
That is why I expect Buddy and Ralph to be with me if Heaven is in my future.
Poor Ralph will be confused. He is actually Ralph II. About 50 years ago, we had Ralph I, another loopy, goofy longhaired tongue-loller, mostly collie and quite amorous.
He was so amorous that one night he slipped past me and out the door. The next day, Bonnie, a school classmate who lived on the other side of the Allegheny River in Warren, called to tell me that Ralph, soaked from swimming the river, was lavishing unwanted (by Bonnie) attention on her female dog.
I stuffed him into the car. We drove back across the bridge.
Two nights later, that Ralph again bolted.
He did not come home. I called Bonnie. She said he had been there, and she shooed him away.
Alas, at the same time, the Army Corps of Engineers increased the flood control outflow from the Kinzua Dam and pushed the river several feet higher with icy cold water.
I choose to believe that Ralph I’s final ride was downstream on that current, a satisfied smile on his face.
I also choose to believe that the essence of me will need to introduce the essence of Ralph I to Ralph II, to Buddy, to another dog Sissy and to assorted cats.
I have no idea how the essence of me might accomplish that.
But that is not my problem. Heaven works as its Maker intended. I do not need to know the “how.”
I do, however, know the “who.” They include the pets we have come to love.
I know something else. Without eyes, there will be no tears. So there will be no need for the sadness we now feel when our dogs, cats, horses or other beloved animals go before us.
Do you believe this? That is also not my concern.
You do you.
I do me. So I look forward to being reunited with Buddy and the others, minus these inconvenient tears.
Denny Bonavita is a former editor/publisher at newspapers in DuBois, Brookville, New Bethlehem and Warren. He lives near Brookville. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org