Monday, August 03, 2009
Do good dogs go to heaven?
The Bible makes mention of animals in paradise = lion, lamb, asp for instance. We believe that only human beings have immortal spirits while animals such as dogs have souls that expire when they die. But perhaps because Heaven is for us and for God, He keeps our favorite animals with Him waiting for us? I cannot prove it by scripture, but I would love it to be true. Because Jack is dead.
Before Y2k, before 9/11, I was a single dad with full custody of three teen/tweens. We were hurting emotionally and we had no idea what was coming. I was our sole support, I had already been in two major accidents and was used to living with pain and two of my three kids also had needed surgeries. We learned that a young dog needed a good home from a friend and I took my kids to see him. He was maybe nine months old, a big puppy and my children were surprised at how big he was, but soon he was the fourth child...well, with all the other kids who half-lived at my house he was somewhere in the top seven or eight!
Jackson Dogson was his official name, he had been kept outside most of the time. But we immediately house broke him by showing him the door to go outside in the back yard and never did he ever go in the house. Not even when we got stuck and were gone once for over thirty hours. Boy, did he EVER want to go outside when we got home.
Jack grew up to about 120 pounds in his prime, half pointer but taller than a pointer and half rottweiler. He would talk to us in grumbles and grunts and growls and whines and whimpers. He learned silent commands and he was able to communicate things to us. He was a smart dog, but better still a gentleman. He would not steal your food even if you put it on the coffee table under his nose. He would not bark and bug you when you ate, he would just sit quietly and patiently wait to see if you would give him a taste. He was dog royalty but he loved to play and wrestle with us.
Most of all, Jack loved. He dearly loved his family and particularly my son, Rob. Rob let Jack sleep in his bed with him most nights. Jack hated it when Rob went away to the Army but every time Rob called Jack would get to hear Rob's voice on the phone and would bark for him. Jack loved me probably second. I called him my dog-boy. But then he dearly loved my son Dave and daughter Shelly and their friends Joy and Cecil and Chuck and Smooth. I guess Chuck and Smooth were his favorites amongst my godsons.
Jack never bit anyone, although a couple of times when boys were rough-housing and he wasn't sure if it was real he barked and growled and broke things up. The one time I ever saw him bite any creature (other than hunting small game at the dog park) was when a Great Dane attacked him without warning. Jack reversed the attack and had put a several gashes in that dog, protecting himself, before I could pull him away from it. It wasn't like Jack was not mighty, he was just more lover than fighter. But no one would have dared break into the house with Jack on guard.
Later Debbie and Nathan and Amanda joined us as we Brady-Bunched. Debbie had two dogs, who Jack accepted and my wife and new children loved Jack immediately. Kids went to college, to the Army, and so on. Right now Rob is back to finish college, Dave is getting his final semester done for his teaching degree, Amanda is on art college scholarship and Nathan is in high school. Daughters Sara and Shelly had moved on to begin producing grandchildren for us. But it was still a big household and Jack was part of the family glue.
As he approached ten years old, Debbie had him on thyroid pills and special diets and he slimmed down to a puppy-sized 95 pounds or so. He had regular walks and dog park trips, played and wrestled, and seemed exceedingly healthy. Friday night he jumped up on the loveseat-recliner with me, folded himself into the space and we talked and I rubbed his back because I knew he had a little arthritis. In the last week of his life he did everything he loved, including a car ride with a rear window open to hang out his head in the wind in our Subaru. He would take up pretty much the whole rear seat in the Forester although he would try to stay on one half if I brought a second dog. He had been to the dog park with our dogs Faith and Chloe. Life was good for Jack.
Saturday evening Jack was hit with a sudden heart attack. He was patiently waiting for a possible taste of Rob's bratwurst when he got up and walked out. He knew something was making him ill and the good dog that he was he was heading to go outside. But he had the heart attack and for the first and last time ever he emptied his bowels inside the family home.
Jack then fought his way to lay down under Rob's chair and seemed to fall into a seizure, breathing heavily but seemingly unseeing. We got him on a sleeping bag and pulled him gently out to the living area, calling the emergency vet. Jack came to for a minute, tried to get up, fell over, talked to us for a minute and then his heart quit on him before we could pick him up and take him to the vehicle. I gave him cpr by pumping his chest cavity and thought he might revive but after a few minutes we saw that Jack was gone for good. He was surrounded by family that loved him. We bawled our eyes out.
Eight days short of eleven years old, Jackson Dogson had lived a great life. He was a mighty dog, faithful, obedient, kind, fun, loving, smart, friendly and always ready to come to you when you needed a dog hug. We went through trials and troubles but Jack was always a constant source of joy. Even in death, he died without a time of dwindling health and he died without giving us the heart-rending decision to make about having to put a suffering animal to sleep. Jack played and ran and loved right to the sudden end. His last healthy thought was to make sure to get outside if he was going to be sick. His last dying thought was to crawl towards his best friend. His last grumbles to us were his goodbye.
Rest in peace, my dear friend. We will sorely miss you. My dog boy. I hope Jesus is holding you tight right now. I know we will always remember your love!