By the time you read this, I will have taken our dog to put her down. This isn’t like putting a child down for a nap—oh, how I wish it were. No, this is sending our beloved pet to her death.
I’ve had to do this before with our last dog. We were moving from Lancaster County to the Pocono to direct Pinebrook Bible Conference. For quite sometime she had growing tumors around her lungs and belly, plus, if I’m not mistaken, she was having hearing problems. It was time. So she sat in the front seat of the car as I drove her to the vet. Every now and then our eyes would meet. It was as if she was thinking: “Don’t do this to me!” Those sad eyes, characteristic of a cocker spaniel, which is one thing that attracts me to their breed, now were glaring at the very person who had made the decision to end her life. I felt so sad.
The people at the vet were very compassionate. “Do you want to hold your dog while we do this?” they asked. “No way,” as I backed away. I cannot touch a dead animal, I thought, evoking a nonexistent tie with my ministerial brethren, Old Testament priests who would be unclean if they touched anything dead. Even further was my non–relationship with the nazarite vow which forbidden this. As a Bible student I often claim these things, in jest, of course, to weasel out of something I’d rather not do. Just don’t tell Vonnie.
The vet that I went to had a double set of window—long vertical ones overtop of smaller ones which almost hit the ground. The last I saw of Muffy, she was sitting at the smaller window watching me as I got into the car—pleading with her eyes (or maybe not). I shed a tear or two as I drove away and then went to Shady Maple for lunch. One always eats after a funeral, right?
This time will be different. Muffy, the aforementioned dog, did not have the best character. An inside-outside dog, she bit the meter maid, charged after another causing her to sprain her ankle and bit a policeman who wondered on our property looking for our neighbor. Her temperament did not match a pastor’s house. She was relegated to the basement when visitors came.
Tiffy, or, Tiffers, as we like to call her, was fun–loving and loved everyone. So much so, that I had to put her on a leash so that I could hold her back when visitors came. To the end her tail wagged with excitement every time we came home. From the earliest she’d hop up on my lap practically knocking the newspaper out of my hand. Just wanting to lay and sleep after requiring a complete rubdown, especially behind the ears. At mealtimes she’d anxiously sit waiting for any morsel of food discarded her way. And, she followed me everywhere I went in the house even laying down in the bathroom when I had to do my “duty,” I suppose, figuring I watched her do hers.
Twelve years of giving us happiness, being a child to empty nesters, but her tumors have grown—one golf ball size and she has diabetes, a sugar count twice the legal limit. She will not get better. She will only get worse and we don’t want her to suffer.
Now the question is—what happens to her when they put her down? Not her physical body. I suppose we could request to bury her in a pet cemetery (we’re not doing that). I’m quite certain the body is cremated. But do all good dogs go to Heaven?—as the saying goes. Well, does a dog, or, for that matter, any animal, have an eternal soul that lives on? I know they have personality. With the last two dogs I’ve demonstrated this in this little piece. It makes us feel better to say they go to Heaven, but I don’t see anything in Scripture that would indicate them going up or down. From dust they came—to dust they return. I do believe there will be animals in Heaven. Jesus is mounted on a white horse in His return along with the vast armies from Heaven (Rev.19) . . . unless that is figurative language. But, of God’s creation, animals are just under humans and for our delight. Adam named the animals. Author Randy Alcorn noted that despite tending the garden Adam was not tasked in naming vegetation. Although, I’d add, that some ancient trees beg to be named.
Alcorn also wrote: “If the New Earth is all the best of the old earth and more, then we should expect it to contain animals.” Why not? Animals bring great pleasure.
To a child who wrote Billy Graham if her pet would be in Heaven, he responded: “If it would make you any happier, then yes, he will be.” Certainly, God could bring back a favored pet if one needed that in Heaven. I don’t think we will, but that’s my personal opinion.
So, we gave Tiffers several last meals and bones to chew and said our goodbyes as if she understood. It was more for us than her. She was a good dog. A good 12-years.
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