Echoing Love in Eternity

This morning I dreamed my dog was being sick in my bedroom–she sleeps by my bed–turns out, my husband had said, “she’s throwing up, again” it and the words invaded my dreams before they entered my consciousness. I awoke to find him taking the first turn at what became a bad morning/afternoon of cleaning up after Alle, who seems to be a little more settled now, and is able to take some hydration.

The vet says tomorrow, we’ll know more. Meanwhile, I think my husband is bringing home a wet/dry vac, or something.

The worst thing about being a parent is watching your kid deal with the pains and pitfalls of life and not being able to do anything for them.

And the worst thing about loving a pet is actually pretty much the same, except the pet can’t even grouse to you. And with dogs, even while they’re sick, they’re trying to please.

Yes, it’s upsetting. I’ve had people ask me if dogs go to heaven, if animals are reunited with us in eternity. I don’t know. I’m sure strict theologians say no, that animals have no souls, so they don’t have an afterlife.

But theologians are only humans. There’s always more we don’t know. God does, we know, draw all creation to Himself.

Last night, my husband decided to do a thorough cleaning of the fish tank, including the boiling of rocks, houses, etc. He accidentally cooked a fish he’d had for nearly ten years. That sounds humorous, but he was really upset. It was a pretty, speckled fish, and he felt terrible for ending its perfectly livable life simply because he’d been careless. My Elder Son, who happened by, was equally sorry, and even Buster–who’d just texted about something–expressed sadness. We’d had the fish almost half his life.

Everyone regretted losing the fish; I can’t even imagine what it’s going to be like over here if Alle can’t pull through this episode. She is the best dog, ever.

I know, every dog owner thinks their pooch is “the best” but Alle has always been so joyful and sweet and stupidly, passionately loyal and almost terrifyingly smart. And sensitive – if anyone in the house is sick, Alle is right beside them. She’s the nurse/escort. If you’re ill and stumbling into the kitchen for water, she’s with you. If you run into the bathroom to be sick, she’s at the door, anxiously wondering if you’re alright.

If you’re swimming in the pool and you’re splashing a little too excitedly, she’s at the edge, making sure you’re not drowning.

If you’re sad, she’ll snuggle all 75 pounds of herself up beside you, and kiss you happy.

Dogs are such perfect beings of unconditional love it’s hard to believe that heaven is not full of them. With no poop-scooping, because it’s heaven.

I am not at all anxious to find out about heaven or eternity or infinity; our lives are blink-brief in the scope of it all. But is it so bad to think about burping fish and romping dogs and cats on the periphery of all that infinite “gathering in” that Christ is about?

Speaking of things Eternal and Infinite, the Future of Catholicism Week is still going on, and we have a late entry from Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, who has contributed some timely observations about where the shepherds will find their sheep.

And, co-incidentally fitting right in with my theme, today’s Summa This Summa That Symposium showcases two of my favorite females touching on all that is beyond our limits. Kathryn Jean Lopez and Julie Davis do the honors. You’ll want to go read what they have to say!

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • http://www.pursuingholiness.com Laura

    Here’s Randy Alcorn making the biblical case for animals, including pets, in heaven:

    link

  • Azygos

    I once quit a church after the Pastor preached that there are no animals in heaven. My response to him when I told him I was leaving the congregation was that I could not think up a worse hell than to not have my furry friends with me.

  • Sam

    I hope your Alle will be well. Regarding animals and heaven, I see that animals have a spririt that leaves their body when they die, just like ours do. Does God make something only to destroy it later, especially if He said that it was good after He created it (Genesis 1)? No! God loves them and they are innocent creatures. Of course they go to heaven. I am a Baptist and I believe that this can be proven from the Bible, although it’s too long to submit here.

  • http://www.zazzle.com/shanasfo shana

    When my mother was dying in the hospital, she insisted that our family dog (her ‘favorite child’) who had died many years earlier, was sitting on the bed. The significant part of this visitation is that my mother professed to be an atheist.

    Now, it may be that her guardian angel appeared to her in a form she was happy about. Perhaps the dog himself (who was most devoted to Mom) was really sent by the Lord to prepare my Mom and gently instruct her that closing her eyes wasn’t going to mean she would cease to exist as she had so boldy insisted when she was healthy (and the prospect of ‘ceasing to be’ actually terrified her in her last hours)

    Although I wasn’t with her at her final breath, my brother was, and it was peaceful. I’m grateful for the gift of Buckshot’s spirit for my mother.

  • JAL

    Interestingly, Elisabeth Elliott, wife of the martyred in Equador missionary Jim Elliott wrote that she felt animals were in heaven, and gave her reasoning. We read it in tears as we buried our last (best :-) ) dog.

    I’ll find it around here somewhere.

    Hope your faithful freind recuperates well.

  • Stephanie

    Oh I hope your doggie is alright, Anchoress- it’s a terrible thing for a pet to be sick.

    As for your carpets, a must have is the Bissell Little Green, on amazon Click here

  • Stephanie

    PS- hope my link worked! I still have the instructions you gave me :-)

  • expat

    Abba Xanthias said: A dog is better than I am because it also has love, but it does not pass judgment. — sayings of the Desert Fathers

  • A_Nonny_Mouse

    Call it heresy, or laugh at me, or whatever-

    It’s reasonable to assume that anything created by God has an element of God within it. So, perhaps animals have, ummm, what might be called a proto-soul?

    Anyway, I’m going to believe that animals who associate with people, who are loved and valued, who are taught (a very abbreviated version of) right and wrong, receive a great gift from us: their little animal souls are expanded and elevated, and when they die they come back to this earth again as people.

    So, when we love our little creatures, we’re growing their souls and leading them toward Humanity. (Sort of like the story The Velveteen Rabbit which told of a child’s toy that eventually was loved into becoming “real” — a live rabbit. Except we’re talking about a different dimension of “Real” and “Life”.)

  • Jean-Francois Virey

    The topic of animal afterlife has been discussed by a few theologians, including Stephen H. Webb (a Protestant) in “On God and Dogs” and Jack Wintz, OFM in “Will I See My Dog in Heaven?”.

    I personally do not see the future life as some sort of exclusive club for disembodied rational souls. We will be resurrected, with glorified bodies, and the whole of Creation will be renewed. The lion shall lion down with the lamb. Heaven will be some sort of new Eden.

    Anybody interested in these issues should check the vegan Catholic group I created on Facebook.

  • Bender

    Not going to laugh, but what you seem to be suggesting with your theory of reincarnation is that God made at least some of us animals before He made us human. Why would He do that? Why not simply make us human to begin with, rather than, say, a pet mouse?

    And who says that an animal would want to be human? While, in one sense, humans are above animals, in another sense, given that animals are not stained by Original Sin, humans are below the animals, who are moral innocents. To go from animal to human would raise them up in dignity in one respect, but it would take them from a state of innocence to a fallen state of sin. Maybe they would not want that.

    In any event, if God in His infinte mercy allows me the grace of eventually getting to heaven, I would prefer to see my old dog in all her dog glory (but with the capacity to speak, if not orally, then telepathically), and not some kind of dog-human hybrid.

    As a dog, she always exhibited pure and unconditional love. If she were to later go on to become human, she would, sadly, invariably end up like every other human — a self-centered, mean jerk. No thank you, she deserves better than that.

  • http://jscafenette.com/ Manny

    “I’m sure strict theologians say no, that animals have no souls, so they don’t have an afterlife” – Anchoress

    If in heaven we ask God for our pets, I doubt He will say no. Very few things gives us love the way our pets do, especially dogs. The loss of my first dog (I’m still only on my second) was as devastating as the loss of any family member.

    I wish the best to Alle.

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  • Rebecca

    I think C.S. Lewis (who really wasn’t a theologian, but was an apologist in his own right) said when asked about animals in Heaven, that they may be there in the capacity in which they have been loved by a human. It makes sense that as God’s love ennobles us as humans, indeed breathes our life into us, that those animals over which He has given us dominion may be ennobled by our love which has Him as its source. We may breathe His love into them as He remakes us into His own image.
    I don’t think it’s so much a matter of “if you need them, they will be there”, for what ELSE could we need in Heaven but the Lord Himself (though we have no idea what this would be like since we depend on so much else in this life). Still, He knows us and He loves us without measure. Everything is remade to His purposes for us who believe. Blessed be He!

  • http://www.christophers.org/closeupblog Tony

    Though I’ve only skimmed the book, Dean Koontz wrote a memoir last year about his dog Trixie titled “A Big Little Life: A Memoir of a Joyful Dog.” I believe he’s in the camp of dogs going to heaven.

  • Judith L

    Prayers for Alle’s complete recovery.

  • Joe

    I am sorry for your dog being sick and your husband’s fish and the accident.

  • JuliB

    Anchoress, I donate both money and time to animal rescue. My parish associate said she considered it an act of social justice. (I was concerned that I was placing energy where I shouldn’t.)

    I’ve come to believe that sometimes an animal is the only presence of God that some people will experience. God created our pets and bestowed on them the gift of unselfish love. So the lonely and the broken who are not a part of loving human relations have something for them – someone who will always give attention and love. Optimally, they would have Christians, but we’re not everywhere, and not even that good when we *are* there.

  • Anglican Peggy

    Anchoress,

    Here is a thought that gives me comfort and has the added benefit of quite possible being theologically correct.

    Let’s just say that Christian theology is technically correct and that animals have no eternal souls (although our hearts definitely tell us otherwise) Even if that were true, I think our beloved pets would still be with us in heaven. This is because Our Father is in heaven and our beloved pets, his wonderful and loving “thoughts” to begin with are surely thoughts that he would never forget either.

    When we are enjoying our God in Heaven in the afterlife, we will also his enjoy his memories, if you will, of our pets. But here is the kicker. I don’t think his memories are like ours. They are necessarily much more. In otherwords, if God thinks it, if he once thought it “good”, then that thing will truly be with us in heaven just as they were on earth. They will be there because God is there. Maybe not on their own. Maybe not in the same form of eternal existence as our own, but definitely there and present with us.

    I think all of God’s beautiful thoughts will be there in heaven for us to enjoy. Just think about it. If he thought them good in the first place, why would he go and change his mind? :-) :-)

  • Last Sphere

    (Bender wrote – “To go from animal to human would raise them up in dignity in one respect, but it would take them from a state of innocence to a fallen state of sin.”)

    That reminds me of one of my favorite cat quotes:

    “Of all God’s creatures, there is only one that cannot be made slave of the leash. That one is the cat. If man could be crossed with the cat it would improve the man, but it would deteriorate the cat.” – Mark Twain

  • Tommy Green

    It’s just not fair that our dogs and cats don’t live as long as us. We are left with holes in our hearts that are never healed….until we see them again.

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  • Marcia

    Elizabeth-
    My favorite explanation for your question comes from Father Corapi. He states that in Heaven we will have everything we need to be perfectly happy, so if he needs his three dogs that sleep with him every night to be perfectly happy, they will be with him in Heaven.
    To be fair, he also states that this is strickly his opinion only- but it helped me to get through the death of a beloved pet.

  • http://www.catholicpillowfight.com Tony

    Elizabeth,

    I will be praying to St. Francis, who loves all animals, for your Alle. She looks a lot like my Missy (who was actually the best dog ever) who passed recently (within the last year after 17.5 years).

    Last week we adopted a new pooch from the local shelter. A male Miniature Schnauzer who is worming his way into our hearts. He is not a replacement for our Missy, but we understand we’ll probably end up loving him just as much. And the time will come when we have to say goodbye (or make the decision to have him “helped along”). This is the covenant you make when you accept a pet.

  • http://searchingandpondering.blogspot.com gemma

    Hope Alle is ok. We just had a round of that with our lady and after testing and xraying and blood working and ultra sounding,,,,nada. Which we were very glad to hear. Hope you hear the same and a diet of chicken and rice will settle Alle down as it did our girl.

  • Louise M

    Heaven is a great big bed where you can sleep with all of your dogs.” Julie Strnad, 2001

    Thank you Tony, for the connection to the Dean Koontz book. Reading the review led me to the essay, “The Toby Years”, by Jan Strnad, where he refers to the dance we engage in with our pets as ” one of the most sublime dances of our species”.

    We were created for relationship, to celebrate, experience and engage in the glory of Goodness. When we do so, the Kingdom of Heaven is revealed.

    This happens on all levels, even electronic blogs where the sharing of one invites others to experience growth, awareness, comfort and blessing.

  • http://www.justgrits.wordpress.com Obi’s Sister

    A coworker has this prayer posted in her cube, where she has to look at it all day:

    “Dear Lord, let me be the person my dog thinks I am.”

    Wise words!

  • Anon

    Hope Alle is ok. I lost a beloved companion cat after fourteen years. He was killed by a neighbor’s feral dog (“rescued” from the highway but left loose to roam). The dog took my little cat into the woods and left him there. I was completely unable to find him because the area was composed of hundreds of undeveloped acres. When he disappeared suddenly and didn’t show up within a few hours I knew he was gone—he never left my side. I searched the next day without any hope but suddenly heard his characteristic cry several times—leading me directly through very thick brush to him. He was long dead. That night I dreamt that he waited for me in a green field by a gate; pure soul that he is, God has allowed him to understand that my arrival there will be but the blink of an eye for him. Just as God’s Grace allowed him to lead unworthy me to his earthly remains.

  • Tollers

    When confronted with this issue, I always ask myself, “Can God love less than I do? Can God be less merciful than I can be?”

    The answer, to me, would suggest that our beloved pets will waken again. Which is probably why “Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, 21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay”

  • Terri K

    We had to deal with our children’s experience of a pet death when my Medium-sized child was in 2nd grade ~~~ in a Catholic school, in the class of a Irish nun.

    I told the children (Large and Medium … Small was just a baby) that ~~ No, pets cannot go to heaven, *but* that St. Francis, out of his love of animals, had set up a beautiful garden to tend to all animals until those that loved them asked their animals to join them on the heavenly journey. Our beloved pets would wait there, making friends and loving pets that didn’t have human love in their lifetimes, until we were ready to have them join us on on our heaven journey. At that time, our pets would bring their friends to join us in our journey and get the love of humans that they didn’t receive during their time on Earth.

    No one (teachers, nuns and priests) complained about the theology or the sentiment ….

    To this day, the children (L, M & S) talk actively about what sorts of “extra” pets they will ask to walk with them in Heaven.

    Not sure if it’s Vatican approved, but it’s consistent … and it makes our children (and, honestly, Mom and Dad) think of one more wonderful benefit of Heaven <3

  • JuliB

    Terri K – you made a convert outta’ me. I will use that story when talking to others.

    You can tie it in to seculars by putting that garden on this side of ‘Rainbow Bridge’. And I’ve never met a person who didn’t love St. Francis, believer or not.

  • http://www.freemarksteyn.com Binks, WebElf

    Anchoress:

    I think C.S. Lewis speculated something to the effect that if God did somehow save pets, it might partly be through our being his new creations– and though a special mercy of his own.

    On the other hand, sentimentalizing man’s best friend may also show our society’s confusions about love, eternity, God’s saving purposes.. in a time when we abort kids but some people speak of fur-children.

    Just sayin’ is all,

    Binks

  • R.C.

    Okay, this is the deal:

    There are no dogs in heaven prior to the resurrection, because heaven is for eternal souls. There are, however, dogs, in the perfected creation after the resurrection, and they include the resurrected dogs who were loved as human family members. There are dogs in the resurrection because God’s glory would be diminished if there were not.

    Since there is no time in heaven, this is not perceived by the glorified saints as any kind of delay of God’s glory; from the perspective of heaven, all times are now. There is no pre-resurrection heaven and post-resurrection heaven; there is merely heaven, and at a certain point in the future of the earth, the new earth will be included into, and infused with, heaven. But heaven will be no less glorious when that happens from the point-of-view of the saints in the cloud of glory. For them, it is now, and forever shall be, as it was in the beginning.

    Thus the saints in heaven are already enjoying the perfection of the resurrection, and thus the company of their pets. It is only we poor temporal schlubs, stuck in the flow of time, who must experience the ache of waiting.

    Moreover, the beloved of the animal kingdom are resurrected not directly by the love God, as human beings are, but by the love of God acting through the love of their former human masters. They are in relation to humans as humans are in relation to God; as humans are raised and perfected by participation in the life of God, so the animal kingdom is raised and perfected by participation in the life of humans.

    Humans find their true one-dimensional personhood by exposure to the three-dimensional personal love of God and participation in the life of the Trinity. When humans fully experience the love of God and fully participate in the life of the Trinity, their personalities begin fitfully to grow thick with love, eventually being fattened up so as to have some of the same three-dimensionality as the Godhead. This is a part of what Eastern Christians call theosis, or divinization.

    Likewise, animals, with their barely-detectable, zero-dimensional personhood, find their true personhood by exposure to the one-dimensional personhood of humans and the love of human families. When animals experience this love and participate in the life of humanity, their personalities begin fitfully to elongate into something measurable, reflecting some of the personhood that we see in humans. They become humanized, and we call them family members.

    Thus does yet another aspect of creation serve ultimately as a sort of lesser sacrament, pointing us mysteriously but helpfully to the love and will of God and our role in it.

    All of the above is spoken with a somewhat authoritative tone.

    However, I grant that I have no authority to say it, and that the Church has not so ruled. So is there any real authority in what I say?

    Well, no.

    Still…I betcha.

  • Mary

    Dear Anchoress, I’ve lost many beloved fur-babies over the decades. I like to remember that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Those little sparks of life that we held dear are, I believe, in God’s care. He made them. He sees the sparrow fall. He clothes the lillies. He knows them.

  • http://www.adventuresinsuburbia.com Gen

    First time reader, first time poster (surfing and came here via the ridiculous timeline addressed in your most recent post) and just wanted to say that I have always believed that Heaven would not be Heaven without my dogs. I know they will be there.

  • http://jscafenette.com Jeanette

    I haven’t read any of the comments on this thread yet, so please forgive me if someone has already said this.

    The Bible tells us the lion will lie down with the sheep. That tells me animals will be with us in Heaven.

    No, they don’t have souls, but I personally believe if having my beloved departed and still living pets with me in Heaven would make me happier, God would allow me to have them.

    After all, they are the most innocent of all. Prayers going up for Alle. Every time I lose a pet I swear I’ll never get another one because it hurts so much. But then a year or so later I end up with a sweet pup like my little mini-schnauzer that makes me smile and enjoy watching her be so pleasing and teasing and smart. Not the same as my favorite cocker, but just as special as her and all of them.

  • Micha Elyi

    Dogs exist to show us the love that we ourselves should show to God.

    Cats exist to show us the love that we ourselves actually show to God.

  • http://thechildrenoflight777.blogspot.com/ Will

    He is the Lord of All!!! All is his creation, including your little buddy… St. Francis knew this as well as many of the Saints… God knows what is in our hearts, including our love for these little friends…

    In Christ,
    Will

    Oh, I think an author Susi Pittman just came out with a new book that address this, “Animals in Heaven?: Catholics Want to Know!” I don’t know if anyone has mentioned this already

  • igout

    Well, what’s the harm in asking God if they could come too?


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