Do Dogs Go to Heaven?
I shoveled the frozen dirt into the hole. I scooped it, scraped it, dragged it. I breathed hard, muscles flexed. Tears rolled down, and my chin crinkled between heaving movements, tamping the earth.
I was filling the hole. I struggled to watch the first layer go down over the body — that body in the little bag never to see the sky again, never to feel the sunshine on that red and white coat, eyes squinting as she lay spread out in the warm blanket of summer.
Lady Lucia was dead. The Lady Lucia that inspired these articles: here, here, here, and here. And I covered her with the soil as my wife and son looked on. My wife sharing tears. My 22-month-old son watched, certain of his parents tears, but uncertain of their meaning.
“Lucy is dead,” we said. We didn’t want to say, “Lucy is asleep.” We didn’t want our son to think the next time he sleeps we’ll scoop him up and throw him in the ground.
We walk by that grave daily, topped with a bundle of hay, staked at head and foot in case the melt of spring washes the signs away. “Lucy dead,” my son says, pointing. By now he probably understands since Lucy isn’t at her morning feeding when my son helps me lower the bowls.
The veterinarian made a house call. Lucy’s lung cancer had run its course and she was gasping. Earlier that day I took her on a last Jeep drive. She cocked her head to breathe. The drive was short. I told her stories of our years of adventures.
I hunted for closure. We hear that a lot, “You need to get closure.” It’s a blah word — flat and dumb. Closure is a door shutting, locking. But no shut door will help the heart. No goodbye is big enough. There is no closure in love. Love grieves but stays alive.
I’ll spare details of what happened when the vet arrived. I will never forget holding Lucy’s head as it finally, like prayer, drooped into my hands. The vet said she would be at peace. My wife asked aloud, afterwards, how Lucy could be at peace when she was no more.
A friend texted me, “Run free, Lucy.”
Maybe Lucy is now at peace. Maybe she goes on. Do dogs go to heaven?
What haunted me was Lucy suffering for the sake of humans. Daily her breathing worsened. Her gasping and slow body. Her will to live turning into hours of sitting outside in the snow, alone, communing in her canine way with we don’t know whom.
Lucy suffered for our sake, because we were the ones who brought judgment to the earth. We were the ones to whom God said, “For dust thou art and to dust thou shalt return.” I apologized on behalf of the race of men to her.
She died, age 8, because of us. On the scenic knoll we buried her to return to the dust.
While haunted by Lucy’s suffering, I felt another something rising that we know as hope.
“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies,” said Paul.
Could creation itself be awaiting its redemption like us? In Adam creation was changed. In the Messiah, will creation will be restored? Does the good news cast that wide?
And what part creation are we talking about? Surely not humans alone, for the text says we are also groaning for this redemption with “whole creation.” It is more than humans.
But what parts of creation? Only those bits and pieces that outlast history and make it to the End? That would mean the groaning today would be but the rocks and oceans, for they alone will remain to the end. Living things, all of them, die. But only living things groan. Will God only redeem the last generation of living things so that today’s groaning goes unheard and forgotten?
I am unsure if dogs go to heaven. But perhaps, maybe — here’s to hoping — that one day, the ground in our White Woods will rumble, that the leafy layers of many autumns will shake off, and from the ground, a corgi paw will scratch away the dirt and Lacy Lucia will run free.
Oh that day, may it come quickly, when all doors we thought were closed will fling open. And we will all run free.
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