Sunday, December 14, 2014

heaven and fireworks: so glad you’re here

A friend led me to a New York Times article about the Pope saying something about all dogs going to heaven. At first I thought this was some sort of made-up smash-up between high-falutin’ journalism, holier-than-thou religion, and Hollywood, but then I clicked through and found it was for real. You may have heard about it. There’s nothing quite so good as a good dog-and-Pope story.

I don't know this dog. I filched the photo from the NBC news story
linked to above. There the photo shows up with this attribution:


As you know, I don’t usually write about current events or get much into what everyone else is talking about, and I might not even be writing about this except for the Pope “ … Citing biblical passages that assert that animals not only go to heaven, but get along with one another when they get there … ”

Now, if you look at the current version of the Times article, you will wonder what the heck I am talking about because that part about getting along in heaven has been deleted. I am glad I captured it before the Times got the story straight, because it’s the part that made me think about two pets of mine, Goldie and Queenie, who never got along. Perhaps now that they are in heaven, the story is different. Goldie is a cat; Queenie is a dog. Which reminds me of a Smothers Brothers song.

A bit later that day the sun shone through the slats in the blinds in the living room leaving long bars of sunlight on the rug. Elliott was stretched out, soaking up as much light and warmth as possible. I forget why I came into the room, but Josie followed me, and when I sat on the floor to pet Elliott, Josie sat too and soon he was splayed out, flat on his belly, legs stretched fore and aft. As I stroked Elliott he rolled over, and so then did Josie roll over, too, onto his back, stretching his back legs farther, farther, toward Elliott, who now stretched forward with his front legs, batting lightly with his paws at Josie’s ever-waggin’ tail, as if trying to catch it, and then grabbing playfully at Josie’s back paws.

Elliott and Josie on another day.

These two are getting along fine, and it occurred to me that maybe it is all this sunshine. Maybe they think this is heaven.

Elliott and Josie, again.

Josie’s mouth is too small to fit around a regular-size tennis ball, so a while back I bought him the smaller tennis balls made just for little dogs. Now Elliott plays with these balls, too. Josie shares, seems to shrug his little shoulders as if to say okay, Elliott, now you play with this ball, I’ve got old Chippie over here to worry about and chase and chew on … And Elliott bats the ball around then falls on his side, grabs it with his front paws, pummels it with his back paws. Sometimes Elliott will watch as Josie chases the ball, grabs it in his mouth, makes a joyous leap, runs back to me with the ball held high, and we do it all over again until suddenly Elliott dashes across the room in front of Josie and Josie skitters and changes course, chasing Elliott, and sometimes it ends abruptly and Josie comes running back to me with the ball and sometimes it accelerates and there is mad dashing all around the house, the ball forgotten.

When I sit, Josie sits next to me, and from the start, from way back in June when Josie arrived, this put Elliott off—he no longer sat with me, not with Josie there. Now Elliott is back. He moves in, Josie may have to re-situate a little, and soon I’m covered with dog and cat fur. Sometimes Elliott ends up half sitting on Josie. Sometimes Josie licks Elliott’s ears. Sometimes Elliott lightly touches Josie’s nose and face. I am not sure I completely trust Elliott in this—I remember his expressions of disgust when Josie showed up, his refusal to play, and I remember long before then how he used to plop down on the floor next to Buster and then Buster, at that point rather blind and deaf and often disoriented, would trip over Elliott and Elliott knew this would happen and he seemed to get a good kick out of it.

Now Buster is in heaven. And in the year and then some between Buster and Josie it seemed to me that Elliott was happy to be the only one, to be the only pet, and I told everyone that, but now, stretched out on the floor in bars of sunlight right next to Josie, it seems to me that Elliott is quite happy to be one of two.

Elliott and Josie, still.

Loud booms alerted us to the start of the fireworks. Josie flew to the front window, barking. He continued to bark even as we went outside. He barked and barked until the fireworks stopped.

Fireworks through the front window.

The harbor is having its Christmas party. During the day we walked through the festivities. I always tell people that Josie is a sissy, kind of a momma’s boy, but maybe I am wrong. Josie was not afraid of the whirling, twirling, blinking carnival rides. He was not afraid of the children, the babes in strollers, the adults, the old folks, or even the chihuahua in the Santa suit. He was not afraid of the carolers in Victorian garb or the fake snow, the soap bubbles flying through the air and the kids chasing them.

Later, in the evening, during the parade of boats, when all the boats were lit up and cruising and playing funky music, Josie was not afraid of walking through the crowd of kids and teens and parents and grandparents and little dogs and big dogs all along the sidewalk, along the marina, laughing, playing, drinking, eating, talking; and he was not afraid of the helicopter that flew by with Santa’s red-and-white blinking sleigh right below it. Josie and I walked and walked and got turned around in a dark and quiet boat yard and still he was not afraid.

When I first met Josie, he was afraid to leave the shelter and walk with me. That’s how it seemed. And there are still times when he seems afraid of one particular person or another. But maybe it is something else. I mean, how can a little dog who barks at fireworks and who makes a friend of Elliott be thought of as anything but brave?

Whether dogs go to heaven or not, well, who knows. I’m just glad that Josie is here with me, right now. Heaven can wait.


  1. Love this post. Sigh . . . ~ P

  2. CS Lewis (of Narnia fame) was a big animal rights advocate and talked some about whether animals will be in heaven in "The Problem of Pain". He theorizes that as sentient beings and because of their attachment to us, something of them will be in the afterlife. In other places, he opens the idea of heaven as being a dimension that we cannot imagine. That if we think the world is beautiful and complex, it is only a shadow of what might be waiting. That we are limited in how we can even begin to imagine other worlds, other concepts of time, color, perception, etc.

    In his space trilogy (Perelandra is the first book, the one I remember the title), the hero is a guy named Ransom who is sent to Venus and then Mars in an attempt to prevent those worlds from being infected by Satan, like earth was. The premise is that in it's pure state, Earth's inhabitants communicated with each other: humans, animals, trees, water and all of nature. Then, as sin took hold, a cloud descended over it and over time, the languages were forgotten, the connections broken.

    I really love that idea because it allows us to imagine that the mythology we have, those remnants from the past, might be windows to a past reality where there was more of a connection between all living things. The Bible doesn't really say much about these things, but there are some interesting references. In one instance, Jesus is in a boat with some of his disciples and there is a big storm and he commands the winds and the waters to be still and they listen and obey.

    With animals, CS Lewis says that if they give us so much pleasure and a feeling of wholeness, we will certainly see them again in the after life. Who knows? Like you, I'm just glad to have them in the here and now...

    1. You amaze me, Rachel. I've never read CS Lewis, but Ransom sounds like a great name for a dog. I find it increasingly difficult to believe in any kind of afterlife, which seems to make this life more important, but then again ... who knows? I guess that is where faith comes in.